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A Faceless Enemy
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/11/2020 07:40:19

An review

This module clocks in at 33 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of one of my supporters, who also donated the softcover to me.

DON’T SHOW THE COVER TO YOUR PLAYERS. This is one of the modules that has a SPOILER on the cover. -.-

This module is nominally intended for 4—8 characters of 5th level for DCC, and it takes place in the “Tales from the Fallen Empire”-setting. …yeah, if you’ve read my review of that campaign setting, you might realize that this isn’t exactly good news as far as I’m concerned. HOWEVER, it should be noted that this module, while indeed placed in the somewhat unfocused campaign setting, actually doesn’t really integrate MECHANICALLY with the systems presented in “Tales from the Fallen Empire”: Neither the sanity mechanics, nor those for magic item creation or ritual casting are actually used herein, which struck me as somewhat puzzling. Indeed, when compared to other 5th-level DCC adventures, this yarn is positively tame in quite a few instances, so if you expect world-shattering, save for the final confrontation. That being said, when compared to “Colossus, Arise!” or similar high-level DCC yarns, the module is definitely less challenging. It also focuses more on rollplaying than quite a few DCC modules, with player-skill being slightly less important.

Genre-wise, we have a sword & sorcery yarn here, and one that can be converted to other campaign settings with relative ease; I’ll go into that aspect below, in the SPOILER section. The module comes with a nice b/w-map of the region it takes place in, which annoyingly lacks a scale, making distances just as difficult to determine as in the campaign setting. The other two maps deserve both being cheered for and booed: They get cheers for the fact that we actually get player-friendly versions sans SPOILERS. They get boos for their actual utility, for they depict, in scope and function, essentially a corridor and a boss-arena; overarching regions/complexes are not included. While aesthetically pleasing due to the artworks included on the maps, I couldn’t help but wish that the budget for these useless ornaments had instead be spent on actually useful maps.

Okay, this out of the way, let use dive into the SPOILER-section. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only judges around? Great! So, the knights of Tal Abastion are essentially an order of austere knights that looks after the ruins of the fabled city-state of Uruk, pretty much the magical ground zero of the setting when it comes to dark magics; as such, the knights are financed by other nations and states, and behave in a way like a foreign legion of sorts, where the stalwart, those that wish to escape, or that have a higher calling, can attempt to get away, start anew, and guard the realms. If you can insert a kind of super-deadly and dangerous ruined city in your game, and justify an order of people guarding it, then you can run this module.

This guardian army is facing a serious issue: their fortress of Harkanis Bek has been systematically deprived of the supplies they need in the wastelands surrounding Uruk by the brigand band known as the Red Scarves. The modules begins in the city of Tasagaroth, where Shou Shen hires the party to deliver an important magical item to Harkanis Bek, the Heart of Yan Shia, which can generate water and once per lifetime, heal a wounded person of their injuries. Unlike what you’d expect, this item is not properly statted, nor are its weight or dimensions ever properly defined, which is somewhat weird, considering that a local thieves’ guild, in a meaningless throwaway encounter, might well attempt to steal it.

The first grand decision the party needs to make, would actually be the caravan to join, which guide to hire, or if they want to set out on foot. This differentiation actually might well be meaningful on a micro-level, and I enjoyed the differentiation. While traveling durations are provided, the lack of an actual hex-map or overland map with any kind of grid somewhat disappointed me: The option for the players to actually plan their independent trip seems to have somewhat fallen by the wayside, with the caravan/guide options clearly the intended path.

That being said, once in the Dol Minor Wastes, the module manages to achieve something few published scenarios achieve – a genuinely branched pathway in a pretty story-driven adventure. You see, there obviously will be encounters with local fauna and random encounters, sure – but, no surprise, sooner or later, the party will happen upon the Red Scarves…and battle is very likely. Here’s the rather impressive thing: The module walks the judge through the army’s responses to the no doubt formidable resistance the party provided, as well as through negotiations and an invitation to the Red Scarves’ camp. And in a nice twist, NOT fighting through an obviously impossible force to beat is the better choice. (Which is also why I think this’d have worked better at lower levels…level 5 DCC characters may well wish to keep fighting…) Anyhow, this is one of the better instances of the “negotiate/capture”-angle I’ve seen modules in the Sword & Sorcery genre pull off.

The Red Scarves are led by the horribly disfigured Flayed Man, who, in conversation with the party, claims to be none other than the presumably dead Jannik Bel’Tarul, direct descendent of Tal Abastion, and former commander of the knights. This is a mind-blowing twist…that really needed to be set up. I strongly suggest judges who wish to play this module to mention the order and explain its history well in advance, establishing the significance of this revelation, because the module doesn’t do that, and it’d be a shame to have this revelation fall flat. Essentially, Jannik was captured by the demon Prince Mozarak, who flayed him and wears his skin; Jannik was rescued by his children, but the demons, with a copy of Jannik’s form and memories, has assumed control over the stalwart order of the knights of Tal Abastion – thus the guerrilla warfare of the Red Scarves. Jannik also confides in the party: He is dying, and he doesn’t want to leave this conflict to his kids, so he asks for help to destroy the demon prince in command of the mighty army. The depiction of the important NPCs and complex negotiations here is rather neat and enjoyable.

On the other hand, if the party managed to avoid the Red Scarves, the module may well end with the delivery of the artifact to the fortress of Harkanis Bek (which is also (briefly) touched upon; I kinda wished the module had more room to develop this strand. Either via a condemned man looking for his family, or in league with the Red Scarves – the party needs to navigate a secret tunnel (one of the small battle-maps noted) …and it sucks. It’s a twisting tunnel, where multiple “invisible-line” traps are included. You know, the sucky “walk somewhere, take damage because you didn’t guess correctly”-kind; one of the worst 3.X-design paradigms on full display.

Thus, they enter the ruins of Uruk! The fabled city! Do we get a map of it? Nope, need the campaign setting for that (back cover provides an excerpt of it…but only that); and no, the awesome, ultra-creepy, magically polluted ruins? The end of an Age in the setting? It’s so disappointing. Some random encounters, and then pretty directly the boss arena. No exploration. No actual roleplaying of skill involved in finding the antagonist…one of the most iconic environments in the entire campaign setting, relegated to window-dressing. That hurt my soul. Similarly, we get another battle-map of a ritual room, where the demon disguised as Jannik is scripted to complete the ritual. No use of the ritual rules from the book. No player skill involved. Just a hard railroad, which sucks big time as far as I’m concerned. It’s also super-obvious to all but the most inexperienced players. Making ritual-completion timer-based and actually having a developed Uruk, where actions and consequences influence the timer…well, that’d have made the actions of the party actually…you know. Matter.

Anyhow, there is one thing the module does rather well, and I get why it’s scripted this way: A gate opens, ritual complete, and the demon slips through the gate with the party in hot pursuit…only to emerge in Uruk, right in the midst of its demonic cataclysm! This is where the party can use those 5 levels, as they need to fight through demonic strike-forces and defeat the (rather mechanically bland) type IV demon prince while the city burns around them. Once more, it’d have been awesome to actually spend TIME here and have RELEVANT CHOICES. But at least the “time-travel to prevent the undoing of history” and cataclysm angles are compelling enough to make it easier for the judge to paint over the lack of depth regarding the module.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the setting’s two-column b/w-standard, and artworks employed are a combination of neat stock art (I think?) and original pieces – the b/w-art is consistently nice. The b/w-cartography being present in player-friendly versions is nice, but the absence of a grid or the like for the overland map and the lack of a map for the final areas hurt the module in this department. I have no complaints regarding the PoD-softcover; the pdf, though, commits a cardinal sin: It has bookmark. No, that was no typo. It has a grand total of ONE bookmark, making navigation a massive pain.

After the atrociously bad modules included in the back of the campaign setting book, Oscar Rios delivers a definite and HUGE improvement here. This module has several things I genuinely enjoy about it: For one, it manages to capture that elusive feeling of a Sword & Sorcery yarn, which so many published modules miss. This feels gritty and yet heroic and reminded me of one of the longer good old Savage Sword of Conan storylines, actually managing higher level gameplay without losing the feeling of the genre. The set-pieces provided are great, and the characters presented actually manage to acquire a modicum of depth, something I did not expect.

…but on a design side of things, this module also has serious issues. While it has all the set up and markings of a modular sandbox, these branching paths and options tend to fall by the wayside, which smells like a serious amount of cut content to me. And indeed, the module’s biggest weakness is that it provides an illusion of modularity, when its story, set-up, premise…all look like the material of a 64-or 128-page sandbox. And it could have been excellent: Present starting area, with map, and options; present overland travel with actual meaningful routes and choices, perhaps a fleshed-out caravan or two. Then present the warring factions, and have MEANINGFUL timelines for the plans of both, and how they respond to the actions of the players. Then, actually have the final, epic region be, you know, game-relevant and not just pretty window-dressing. This module has a set-up for a fantastic sandbox and manages to severely tarnish it by jamming it into a story-driven railroad that will have the judge scrambling to keep the party on the tracks.

Moreover, the actual design of the combat encounters and the (thankfully brief) tunnel-exploration are really…lame. Nothing of DCC’s usually high interaction-density can be found here, and these regions reminded me of 3.X-modules of yore, with “invisible line crossed, take damage”-traps and consequences scripted in a way that was somewhat hard to stomach for me.

You might not realize these shortcomings when you read the module; it reads like a neat yarn; but contact with actual play will require some serious work on behalf of the judge. Now, even though this might sound awfully negative, I actually do think that this is a yarn worth checking out for fans of the genre; I strongly suggest expanding whole sections, and personally, I’d divorce this module from its setting, foreshadow its lore, etc. – if you do that, then you may well have a truly epic, awesome experience. In contrast to the modules in the setting book, I actually enjoyed this one, and it’s worth running if you’re willing to rewrite parts and expand upon its ideas. … I can’t rate it for that now, can I? I can only rate what’s here, and what’s here is a deeply-flawed adventure. One I somewhat like and consider worth potentially salvaging, yes…but not something I’d consider to be operational for most groups as written. As such, my final verdict can’t exceed 2.5 stars, rounded up only due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.

[3 of 5 Stars!]
A Faceless Enemy
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Tales From the Fallen Empire
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/16/2020 09:37:10

An review

This massive campaign setting clocks in at 216 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 3 pages editorial/KS-backer thanks, 2 pages of ToC, 3 pages of advertisements, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 204 pages of content.

These do include two pages devoted to a character sheet, and 4 pages of helpful index. Interesting choice: The book doesn’t begin with editorial/ToC, instead front-loading the legend of the setting, by providing an excerpt from the scrolls of Tian of Zhou. This prologue really manages to set up a great basic premise that managed to resound with the tone one associated with the excerpts from the Nemedian Scrolls.

It should be noted that my review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review by one of my readers, who also sent me the softcover copy of this book. My review is primarily based on that version, and I have also consulted the pdf.

Anyway, the expectations set by the prologue are promising indeed: We learn that the world is essentially the remains of Leviathan, the grand dragon, slain by his rebellious offspring, with connections to other worlds/planes remaining; this simple planar geography lets you add different tones with relative ease, as the dragon’s portals lead to other places. So yeah, you can add a neat array of hodgepodge races here, though the world generally is assumed to be human-centric. Since back then, we had a sorcerer-king era, and said era ended around 100 years ago with the fall of the city-state of Uruk, initiating the Third Age. This premise is pretty much awesome – if you go with the classic heroes, it’d be situated somewhere between the age of Kull and that of Conan. This is a good premise. Alas, much to my chagrin, the book doesn’t really do much with the cool dragon-corpse angle. Sure, sun = heart, sea = blood, etc. may be nice – but the sea isn’t really blood (unlike in the Scarred Lands, for example), and apart from a great little line about things below keeping the corpse-world alive, there isn’t much going on here.

Now, don’t get me wrong: I love the Philipp Mainländer-ish take on living on the corpse of a deity; but the premise doesn’t really have consequences regarding weather, regarding seasons, regarding anything – as written, this could be any old planetoid world, and that frankly bugs me to no end. Okay. Maybe, I am overinterpreting things. If the creation myth is supposed to be allegorical, the world a regular planetoid, that’d be an explanation…but it’d be one that underwhelms me slightly. Why am I bringing it up, then? Well, because there are two more instances wherein you get to learn about the world, and there are discrepancies in these sections. These may or may not be intentional, since the book does drop a TON of lore upon the judge, and the information does seem to come from both authoritative and in-game sources.

The problematic aspect with the per-se solid lore, is that the book takes a few odd stances: On one hand, we learn that there are no proper gods, and hence no clerics in the setting. On the other, we get a massive pantheon of deities, some being the great dragons, some deities from other worlds. It should be noted that I am one of the judges who enjoy reading a lot of lore, but this book did make things a bit hard for me, as said discrepancies also apply to the general tone of the setting.

What do I mean by this? Essentially, this setting assumes a higher power-level than default DCC games – the variant character creation rules presented for playing in the world of Urd seem to champion significantly higher power-levels than DCC’s default. If there was no magical healing, this’d make sense to a degree, but turns out there is – the witch-class, one of the new classes herein, essentially takes the cleric’s role. The classes presented are barbarian, marauder, sentinel, sorcerer (wizard variant) and witch; beyond these, we have the man-ape and drake race-classes.

Since in-depth analysis of these classes would bloat the review, in all brevity; Barbarians gain a scaling Savage Ferocity Die, and in combat, can roll it, taking the rolled result, or any result below that. This is per se an interesting idea, but the effects are pretty diverse: As a result, it sometimes makes sense to roll the die and hope for a high result – and then not getting it. To give you an example: Entry 2 nets you an addition 30 ft. running jump movement for -2 to the AC. Okay, cool. But why can the barbarian execute that only in combat? Since you can always roll a 1, you can end up not getting this result…and e.g. fall to your death, when you could have escaped with this ability. The problem here is focus: The abilities should be attack-based, with the utility-based tricks relegated to another suite array. I like the idea here, but the execution can be potentially annoying. Man-apes are essentially brutes with deed die and a berserk rage. Marauders are pirates with black market connections, sentinels are sacred guardians in the Dol Minor wastes, somewhere between paladin, rangers and rogue. Yes, I meant rogue, not thief. More on that later. Draki are repitile people who are particularly good at using magic items. Sorcerers use ritual magic, and have been stolen from Dark Sun, in that their magics have defiler-like effects, drawing upon the life energies of those nearby. Witches get a custom spell list, are better at casting divination-like spells, and can Make Potions at first level and, as noted before, heal.

Regarding ethnicities, the book presents a whole array, including idiosyncrasies – when negative aspects are roleplayed, the player gets a coin that can be sued for rerolls, having the proper item on hand, etc. – the idea here is cool. The book also presents an interesting mechanic that ties a die of forbidden lore to lucidity – essentially a madness system applied to DCC, in aesthetics based on Call of Cthulhu. The system is relatively simple and easy to adapt, making use of DCC’s die-chain mechanics, and is rules-wise perhaps one of my favorite aspect herein. The book also presents an engine for ritual magic and magic item crafting. The ritual engine is per se mechanically-solid, but leaves one thing up to the judge that I really look for in ritual engines: An actual description of the actions performed. You know, some sequence, perhaps even a quick “ritual-step generator” so one can actually roleplay the ritual, instead of just having a spell with a long casting time and cost.

The crafting magic items sections deserves special mention, as it assumes that magic items are (usually!) the result of demons being bound in the item! As such, a variant rule is provided for obedience of the respective item. I like these. However, I might note that these are pretty. The book also provides a massive chapter of new spells and patrons, though the latter only have Invoke Patron and Spellburn tables, no individual corruptions – bummer. The spells include calling e.g. waste tigers to serve, a spell to kill off plant life, a spell to make a target a servant for a limited duration, a spell that causes harm by striking the shadow of the target, fire beams, insect infestation, making a massive tower of sand – these are classic visuals here. I generally like this, though the entire chapter also failed to introduce me to anything I haven’t seen before. It is very much a selection of magics as expected for the genre.

The book also features a total of 4 pages that provide basic naval combat rules. These are per se serviceable, but its presentation is really confused. I’m familiar with plenty of complex systems, and it took me a few rereads to get how the system works. It’s also very much contingent on having a marauder. If you are a marauder, you’ll be better at naval combat than anyone else, and to my significant chagrin, now much in the way of magic/ship interaction, or unique abilities based on class, are provided. My impression was that the system would be very boring and uneven to actually play, and said impression proved to be correct. I strongly suggest steering clear of the naval combat rules.

On the plus-side, the actual description of the world and its regions once more manages to capture the spirit of the prologue, and the cartography (by Alyssa Faden, I think) provided for the cities is AWESOME. B/w city shaped as a scarab? Heck yeah! Downside: All maps consistently lack a scale, which makes the world feel somewhat opaque regarding its scale. Still, the part of the book that depicts the world has some neat parts.

This cannot be said about the bestiary. The bestiary section of this book is easily one of the worst I have seen in a setting for quite a while. For one, the respective creatures are not that interesting mechanically. And there’s this other, nagging feeling. When we get that list of golem traits, and it doesn’t line up with any of the golems herein, when a will-o’-wisp-like creature is described as harmless, but have a frickin’ +14 attack for 2d8 electricity damage. We have instances where the Act die line isn’t properly bullet pointed (the raptor has the die and MV listed in the HD-line) – or the value missing. This is a weak, boring section. And it is here, finally, that I realized what irked me about this book.

This reads like a D&D 3.X campaign setting. It claims, time and again, that it’s gritty, but it really…isn’t. You see, it has all the dressing of a sword & sorcery setting; it has this notion of being a high-powered one, yeah, but the trappings are here. Ape-men? Check. A few b/w-drawings with exposed breasts? Check. Ritual magic etc.? Check. But it never feels like all of that is an integral part of the setting. It tries to accommodate for so much, it loses its footing. Magic’s supposed to be rare, yet we have magic creation rules. We have essentially Dark Sun’s defiler-magic, but no individual corruptions. We don’t have magical drugs or the like, no strange savage alchemy, but we do get a whole system of new coins to convert to (starting wealth table is btw. missing which coins it uses); we have golems galore, extraplanar guys, plant-zombies – you know, the usual D&D-ish array. Heck, same goes for the wraiths. We have no deities and clerics, but witches. In many ways, this feels cobbled together, and as though it had been originally written for D&D 3.X before being changed to DCC. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part, the rules are solid and do a decent job at what they want to achieve. But they never come together in a concise manner. The individual systems just float around, and quite a bit of the content feels like it’s there simply for filling page-count. Neither drake nor ape-man are interesting, and the other classes are also very cookie-cutter…or somewhat problematic in how they play.

Speaking of “problematic in how they play”: The book has two sample adventures, one 0-level funnel, and a module for levels 3-5. The former is missing any read-aloud text, while the latter has some.

Spoilers for the modules below. Potential players beware and jump to the conclusion.

… .. .

Okay, module #1, the funnel, is an “escape the slave pens scenario”; it opens, among other things, with this set-up:

“[…]These chains limit base speed to 20’ (DC 25 Reflex to either pick the lock or otherwise remove them). […]The gate on the bars of the pen is a DC 25 Strength check to break, or a DC 20 Reflex check to pick the lock.[…]”

…nobody can tell me that this was playtested properly. Later, we have a bear, skeletons and a water spirit. This is literally the most boring, uninspired jailbreak module I’ve ever read. And I’ve read a lot.

The Horrors of Hod, unfortunately, doesn’t fare much better: It feels like on of the really bad Lovecraft sword & sorcery pastiches that jam something ostensibly frightening into the context of the setting. It features spore zombies, but also a hell hound, darkmantles and similar D&D-ish critters. It feels like a regular fantasy dungeon with a few tangentially creepy critters thrown in. This module’s hook also has some tribal warfare angle that makes it seem like the world’s really small, but I’m not sure in that regard, since the book never specifies, you know, a scale. On the plus-side, saving a damsel from supernatural enemies is as classic as it gets, but the execution is so laughable. Since the dungeon itself lacks any real distinguishing features on a dressing or rules-level, the whole “turned into spore zombie” threat is lost. Even if you manage to evoke a sense of horror, that’ll be gone when you run into a bog-standard (haha) gray ooze. Oh, also always fun: Invisible line of death traps. You know, the “you walk there, take damage”-type. Also: Guess what? The lucidity rules the book introduces? Not used here. -.- Oh, and the boss? Same stats as standard critter, can only be killed by mcguffin. Why? No clue. This is super-sucky railroading and has logic bugs. I hated this adventure.

Conclusion: Editing is, formally, decent. On a rules-language level, and regarding lore consistency, it is rather uneven. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, with a blend of original and stock b/w-artworks. Aesthetically, the cartography of the cities is the undisputed highlight of this book. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks. The softcover is a solid book, with title etc. on the spine, though the front cover of my copy seems slightly blurred. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the hardcover.

James Carpio, with contributions from Michael Curtis, Chris Lites, Colin Chapman, Mary Lindholm, Michael R. Smith, Walter Andrew Rinehart and Matthew Millman, has written a massive setting that has so much potential.

Potential that never came together. I never felt like this world came together. Goodman Games’ Punjar-modules do Lankhmar-ish sword & sorcery on the upper weirdness/power-levels better. (Same obviously goes for Goodman games’ Lankhmar…) And if I want to play in a low-powered sword & sorcery world, ironically the World of Xoth by Morten Braten does an infinitely better job for DCC, even though it was written originally for D&D 3.X. What sets this campaign setting apart, its unique world, is unfortunately just a backdrop that might as well not exist. The entire unfocused presentation breaks this setting for me. The book introduces a ton of stuff that is not crucial to the setting, but leaves us without things that truly distinguish it from comparable settings.

This setting feels like it’s suffering from a constant identity crisis: Does it want to be a dark, gritty tale in a savage world of gray moralities? Or does it want to be a goofy D&D hodgepodge of genres and planar themes? If you want to be gritty, then you also have to be somewhat outré, somewhat grimy. And ironically, the core modules released for DCC actually do a better job at conveying the vibe of sword and sorcery than this setting, much less the horrible modules included in this book. This setting lacks all grit and grime, and may be the most PG-13, playing-it-safe take on Sword & Sorcery I’ve seen. Unless you’re offended by (very few) artworks of female characters with exposed breasts (none exploitative, mind you), it’ll be hard to find anything to be offended by.

…yep. I actually think that quite a few default fantasy settings are grimier and grittier than this sword & sorcery setting.

Suffice to say, this is easily the most pronounced example of squandered potential I have ever seen. The lore started off so well, but at once point, it all started to blur together, with the discrepancies between sources managing to erode all of my desire to truly grasp all the nuances of the setting’s history. If I wasn’t a reviewer, I’d have shelved this book right then and there.

I wish I did. At that point, I was still rather ambivalent about the book, but as I progressed to the atrociously-bad adventures and the lackluster bestiary, this remainder of goodwill also started to evaporate.

I dove into this book wanting to love it; I took a look at the Appendix N provided herein, and started smiling. And it started so well. But…well. At this point, you probably guess that I can’t recommend this setting. In many ways, this feels like it’s either 100 pages to short, or 100 pages too long. The respective subsystems needed full integration or proper space to shine, and the world really needed some rules for things that set it apart, to develop its dragon-angle.

Don’t get me wrong, this is not a super-bad book; but in many ways, it’s painfully vanilla and boring, and it has issues with its consistence and focus. I definitely hope that the module “A Faceless Enemy”, set in this world, fares better than the modules herein. Anyhow, rating.

I don’t enjoy bashing this work, but frankly, I’d recommend every sword & sorcery setting in my library over this one. For some idea-scavenging, this may be worth checking out. If you’re relatively inexperienced when it comes to the genre, that is. My final verdict can’t exceed 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
Tales From the Fallen Empire
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Tales From the Fallen Empire
by Angela W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/20/2015 22:01:30

I was looking for a good Swords and Sorcery DCCRPG and boy did I get it! Fantastic setting! I liked the pdf so well I finally got off my duff a few weeks ago and bought the hardback version. Well worth it.

My only complaint (and it is slight) is that the setting doesn't make room for Dwarves, Elves and Halflings but it's pretty up front about those not being included and also adds in more Sword and sorcery type races and class's to give you more choices. Also it wasn't hard for me to include those races and put a S&S spin on them to fit the setting.

The best thing about the setting is simply the great swords and sorcery vibe that oozes from every corner of the world.

Very well done.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales From the Fallen Empire
by Karl H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2014 15:54:32

I normally don't write reviews because i'm busy with other stuff, but I decided to do this one, because I'm very pleased with it. This was my test of the POD on RPGNOW, and I couldn't be happier. The printed book is excellent with no errors that I could find. I received it in 6 days after my order. I don't like reading PDFs on a screen all that much and usually print it. I ordered the Soft-cover POD and PDF for this book and both are very nice. The world of Tales from the Fallen Empire is very grim and really has a old Conan feel to it. I own a bunch of DCC material and really like the game. Tales from the Fallen Empire is just the type of setting I want to run. It adds 7 classes to the game if that is what you want, but if your using the setting it adds 9 races/cultures to run as 0-level characters ( 5 of which are separate non-human races). It also has cool seafaring rules! It also has a CoC type rule set for forbidden knowledge (called Lore) which makes magic more sinister/forbidden in keeping with a sword and sorcery setting. New patrons/monsters, and two adventures a funnel and one for 3rd-4th level characters. I gave it 5/5 because I really like the setting. The material from Goodman games is excellent, but I like this grimmer setting more.

My wish is that more of the PDFs from other companies will have a POD option.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales From the Fallen Empire Judges Screen
by Zachary Z. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/19/2013 14:34:28

Pretty disappointed in this screen. For it to be useful it would require a lot more tables. Having all the different player Crit Tables is kinda a waste of space. This is a GM screen and in need info for rulings that a GM makes. No Monster Crit Matrix, no Condition Healing, No XP Rewards, no Common Skill Checks, no Moral stuff, and no Luck stuff. Also player stuff useful for GMs... no Lay on Hand, no Two Weapon Attacks,

Art looks nice, but that is about it. I believe that there are much better free fan created products out there.

Not worth the 5 bucks.

[2 of 5 Stars!]
Tales From the Fallen Empire Judges Screen
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by Michael T. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/27/2012 19:58:34

When the Vampire role-playing game first debuted, goth culture had a grim and gritty approach to role-playing. Horror was no longer defined by Call of Cthulhu's battle against the unknown and unknowable, but rather the corruption was within vampires, werewolves, wraiths, and every other supernatural creature that is now common fodder for "urban fantasy" authors. These games were struggling to gain a foothold and demanded to be taken seriously. But goth gaming has mellowed over time, led in no small part by Tim Burton, who always brings a playful if twisted approach to horror. And thus we have the ENnie-nominated Spookybeans. As Serena Valentino explains:

Spookybeans takes a cheeky jab at ‘90s Goth culture, and though you can play whomever your devious little minds dream up, I fancy the idea of various incarnations of goth stereotypes running around The Hollow’s landscape on their misadventures often leading them to a disastrous and hilarious effect. As the creators point out: success almost never comes without a price, and whatever your characters achieve will usually be tarnished by some undesirable effect that will usually come back to haunt you.

The mechanics are simple. The game moderator (GM) rolls Adversity dice, the player rolls his or her Stash dice. Even rolls are Bones, odd rolls are Skulls. Because this is a goth game, Skulls are good, Bones are bad. It also means that so long as you use some sort of even-numbered randomizing tool (coins, spinners, cards, etc.) you can play the game.

If you win a Conflict (die roll between the player and GM you get a point towards your Yo, the happy ending and if you lose a Conflict you get a point towards your Woe, the bad ending. That's right, Spookybeans actually has narrative conclusions for each session. Also, your Woe is defined by another player, not you, which makes for some interesting role-playing interaction amongst players. Thingies are self-defined abilities of your character that can gain the player a mechanical advantage during the game. Thingies can be left undefined to be used during role-play at an opportune moment.

Spookybeans isn't about winning outcomes so much as it is about narrating them. Your character's Thingies can actually be flaws – winning a Conflict means the player gets to narrate how the circumstances affect the character, even if he's having a really bad day.

Additionally, Spookybeans is mechanically geared towards cooperative storytelling. To gain dice for Thingies, players need to convince the other players to contribute dice from their own Stash. There's just one catch: whatever dice are used to help the player go to the GM in the next Conflict roll.

Spookybeans actually reminds me a lot of game I played in high school, Teenagers from Outer Space. Spookybeans has a "They Came From Outer Spaaaaaaaaaaaaace" setting variant so the parallel is apt. The spirit is the same, although Spookybeans has shed much of TFOS' mechanical design to focus on telling a good game.

Spookybeans isn't just a smart role-playing game, it's also charmingly illustrated with undeniably dark characters peppered throughout. There's better maps in this game than I've seen in the majority of most PDF products. The entire PDF is generously illustrated with big, colorful pictures that make you want to read more.

With its offbeat humor, quirky characters, great art, and tightly focused game design, Spookybeans does an excellent job at an important but modest goal of reproducing the feel of goth toons. Its nomination for Best Electronic Book ENnie is well-deserved. I voted for it.

[5 of 5 Stars!]
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