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Stranger Stuff (TinyD6)
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/14/2019 01:07:13

With the new season of Stranger Things out on Netflix, are you looking for a fun, easy-to-learn-and-play RPG system to start diving in to your own stories? Voila. Fat Goblin Games has a lot of experience, and Stranger Stuff doesn't disappoint. .....And that, more than anything else, is what to know about this product. It's intended for a very specific genre of gaming, and it does that genre well. I wouldn't say this is a truly long-term system like, say, D&D games often are, but this product is more than enough to offer a couple of good gaming sessions and it's being sold at a very fair price for the amount of time you can spend with it. Overall, recommended to people who like this genre.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stranger Stuff (TinyD6)
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Wonders of the Cosmos: Fine & Diminutive Starships
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2019 05:09:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with a 1-page explanation of why you may want to include these smallest of size categories within the context of your SFRPG-game; we begin with an expansion of the starship scale, which makes Diminutive ships clock in at 5 – 20 ft, Fine ones at 1 – 5 ft. The table of scales is expanded to include weights for them, and the AC and TL modifiers (at +4 and +8, respectively for the sizes), reflect in a sensible manner the penalties incurred by ginormous space ships.

The ships may be created by taking Tiny size frames and halving HP and cost for each size category below Tiny, rounding down. CT must thus be recalculated, and a pilot must be size Medium or smaller t o pilot the ship at Diminutive ship size. Complaint here: Something seems to have gone haywire with the rules language here when it comes to accounting for pilot sizes in relation to ships, as it refers to numbers, when it should refer to sizes; otherwise, that should refer to the aforementioned values, but then, listing that caveat after pilot sizes just creates unnecessary confusion. That being said, I consider this to be the proper interpretation here, as the follow-up information makes sense in that context. Piloting bonus is increased for each size category smaller than the listed base frame. Basic and XL escape pods and how they interact with these ships are covered, and calculations based on frame size employ the Tiny size, preventing abuse of e.g. armor or similar cost calculations.

6 base frames for Fine and Diminutive ships are provided: Sneakaboard, Stealther and Escape Pod for Fine; Ground Support, XL Escape Pod and Mini Bomber for Diminutive ships, so yeah – this provides a slightly different angle on the escape pod default. The pdf presents a helpful size category to creature equivalency for the new star ships, and it presents easy to implement guidelines for making starships for creatures smaller than Small. Size-wise, as you could glean, this puts the starships at the intersection with regular vehicles and really big critters. The pdf provides easy to implement rules here, and collision damage and its scaling is also covered. Since star ship and regular combat is rather different from another, the pdf provides quick and dirty guidelines for using starships in regular combat – a more differentiated approach would have been nice to see there.

The Ramming rules from the Cosmic Odyssee-installment are reprinted here, with ramming speed table provided, and ramming size modifier table modified to account for the new size categories. Movement by thrusters, with speed in hexes (for starship combat) and as vehicle speeds are provided. Things become more interesting with low-range remote control, and rules that make them more viable – they are harder to detect due to their size, and from Stealth to acting as shielding, there are quite a few nice details included.

The pdf closes with 5 sample starships –all tier 1. Escape pod and boarder would be Fine, while Lifeboat, gunship ad troopcutter are Diminutive.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are generally very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no interior artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its humble size, which is neat.

Kiel Howell’s small expansion to the starship rules is nice – while the use of escape pods as vessels is probably something that won’t be too useful beyond some narrative scenes, the supplement does a solid job providing the necessary tools for the integration of these ships. I couldn’t help but feel that presenting tables that did the calculations required would have made the pdf much more user-friendly, but if the math isn’t daunting for you, this delivers – and it does so for a more than fair price-point. At currently a single buck, this is definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wonders of the Cosmos: Fine & Diminutive Starships
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Privateers: A Shared Storytelling Game Of Piracy & Plunder
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2019 21:09:33

A solid product for the price! This is a 30-page, partially-color (mostly red) product, and as you probably gathered from the descriptive blurb, this is a fairly rules-light game that's very easy to both learn and play. In many ways, Privateers is more of a roleplaying game than a rollplaying one - while the dice are involved, they're not kidding about the focus being on storytelling, which makes this great for creative people and anyone who wants to spend less time staring at their character sheet and more time helping tell a story. You can also use this as an alternative ruleset for games that don't really address piracy - the conversion is easy, and at this price, extremely affordable.

I think my biggest note for this product is that it's good for players who really like to get involved with the game, rather than observing or focusing on mechanics. They're not kidding about the shared storytelling thing. That's not inherently good or bad (different groups like different things, and that's okay), but it is worth keeping in mind. For what it's worth, I like this product myself, and it's worth serious consideration if you enjoy pirate-themed things.

(Also, this game has a fairly sensible outlook - if things are impossible or practically unfailable, it encourages just handwaving it and moving on with the story. Save the rolls for tense moments!)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Privateers: A Shared Storytelling Game Of Piracy & Plunder
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vs. the Wasteland
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/05/2019 06:39:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive VsM-Engine based game clocks in at 110 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a mighty 105 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

It should be noted that the book does feature a location sheet and a character sheet for you to use.

Like the excellent second season of Vs. Stranger Stuff, this game differentiates between Easy, Normal and Hard mode, allowing for pretty solid customization options to modify the game to suit your respective tastes. Player characters are, aptly, called “Survivors” in this game, and the person doing GM duties is the “Dystopian Master” – DM for short. Clever! The book walks you rather well through the process of creating your character. You begin by selecting a name and writing a short biography (a few sentences, tops). Survivors have 5 Attributes: Offense and Defense are self-explanatory. Mental and Physical are the catch-all Attributes used for non-combat skills. Mutations would be number 5, and it is used to account for a wide variety of strange powers.

When creating a new survivor, you assign fixed scores to these Attributes: 5, 3, 3, 2 and 0. A 0 in Mental means you’re braindead, in Phyiscal, it means you’re paralyzed from the neck down – and as such, the 0 should not go there. The book, in a rather neat gesture, does tell novice players. A 0 in Offense or Defense just makes you terrible at that part of combat, while a 0 in Mutation makes you a normal human. This is surprisingly elegant – you pay for strange powers automatically by the distribution of these Attributes. In case you were wondering: Easy Mode has, well, no surprise there, higher Attribute values to distribute, while Hard Mode makes them lower.

All Survivors start the game with the same Health of 10, unless modified by Gimmicks. There are two types of Gimmicks – Good Gimmicks and Bad Gimmicks. You can choose up to 4 Good Gimmicks – but there’s a catch – for each Good Gimmick you choose, you also have to select a Bad Gimmick. In Easy Mode, you btw. get a free Good Gimmick sans the drawback of a Bad Gimmick. These Gimmicks include, to give you a general idea, drawing an additional card for melee or ranged attacks, increases of an Attribute by 1, being capable of operating civilian or military aircrafts (reducing the penalties) – you get the idea. Nice here: Not all Gimmicks are based on numerical advantages regarding the drawing of cards – we can, for example, find the means to get a kind of 6th sense that warns you of impending danger, which can be rather fun indeed. Similarly, having a friendly mutant deus ex machina out there to save your behind? That may very well be worth biting the bullet for a Bad Gimmick. It should also be noted that quite a few of these feature the (Reward) tag – this designates Gimmicks you can attain over the course of playing the game. Similarly, there are Gimmicks for NPCs and e.g. being versed in Sumo Style actually manages to be mechanically interesting, in spite of the rules-lite nature of the game, with the distance you can shove foes contingent on the type of card you draw and its suit.

To give you an idea of what you have to pay for these Good Gimmicks, let us talk about the Bad Gimmicks as well: Here, we can find allergies (and rest assured, I can vouch for allergies being a real detriment in and out game…), being plain annoying (one card less in social interactions), being afraid of flight, being a drunk, reductions of Attributes, reduced melee attack damage and the like. Being afraid of mutants, having a nemesis, missing a limb – you get the idea.

Now, while you do have control over your Gimmicks, the same doesn’t hold true for Mutations – here, you’re at the mercy of the cards, which makes sense. You draw a card and then consult one of the 4 tables, each of which is associated with a given suit. Drawing aces nets you two powers – unless you’re playing in Hard Mode, when you instead get to choose a power within the card’s suit. In Easy Mode, you get to redraw any Spades-card. The Hearts suit includes claws, being able to project illusory copies, having a force field, being able to mind control targets – basically a whole smattering of X-men-ish tricks. Diamonds and Clubs net you slightly less pronounced powers, like Attribute increases, being immortal (but NOT invulnerable!), having an extra arm, etc. Spades, as per VsM tradition, is bad news – here, you can end up with an antagonistic arm, being susceptible to certain types of energy, etc. However, not all of these suck – you can end up being an anthropomorphic animal, and in one of the most curious options, there is one entry that allows you to teleport the contents of your bowels into another target. Being capable of removing limbs or levitating similarly does not constitute a drawback, so yeah – if you do draw Spades, don’t be too bummed.

Cool about the Mutations – where applicable, the Mutation score obviously governs the potency of the respective abilities, governing e.g. potency or number of uses of the abilities. The core mechanic of the VsM-engine remains untouched: You draw your relevant Attribute in cards, and compare the value of the highest card drawn with a TV – the Target Value. If greater or equal the TV, the task succeeds. Res suits are generally “good”, black suits are generally “bad” regarding their associations. If you btw. really don’t want to play with cards, you’re in luck – the book does offer information for using the game in conjunction with your polyhedral friends (read: dice). Teamwork is very important in the game: When multiple Survivors cooperate on a given task, they draw the highest applicable card allotment, and add +1 per assisting Survivor. Example actions and associated TVs help the DM keep tabs on what values are sensible for a given task. Should you require a bit more differentiation, optional rules for varying degrees of success can be found. As an aside: This is, in spite of its theme, not a grimdark supplement: While definitely on the serious side, the example of “Parkour through a settlement to avoid your ex” made me chuckle. This is not a dry read.

As per usual for VsM-games, movement is handled in a narrative manner, using Physical and Mental, if in doubt. Melee attacks let you draw Offense, using the target’s Defense as TV. For ranged attacks, you instead compare Offense to either the Defense-based TV, or a TV based on range: Very long distances (25’ +) require Ace to hit. Yes, this focuses on thrown weapons and handguns. And yep, there are long-barreled rules – e.g. a proper sniper rifle will have a massive multiplier to range. Simple, elegant. Like it. In case you prefer using battle maps and the like, the book has you btw. covered as well.

If a Survivor hits a target, they draw one card for each card that beat the Defense attribute. Compare the value of the card with the attack’s damage cap; each card equal or below this cap deals 1 Health damage. For the purpose of damage, Aces are considered to be a 1 here. Armor reduces the damage cap of a weapon, and a reduction to 0 or fewer makes impervious to attacks from said weapon. You probably won’t punch out the guy in power armor. Some weapons have a minimum damage value. As in other iterations of VsM-games, we have pain thresholds, 50%, 20% and 10% of the Health – for most characters, this will mean 5 Health equals minor pain, 2 Health moderate pain, and 0 Health extreme pain. Each step reduces all Attributes by a progressive -1. The Diehard Good Gimmick btw. also modifies these values, as represented in a handy table. -1 Health means you’re knocked out, at -2 you’re dead – unless you have Diehard, obviously. Hard Mode has an interesting mechanical tweak here – Health in this iteration means physical health, while Pain tracks basically non-lethal damage. It should be noted that Health is not as easy to regenerate – and pain killers etc. are all covered. If you do want fast healing and video game logic, you can very well have that! Highly modular in its design, the game does provide rules for more “casual” experiences.

Situational modifiers for TVs, optional rules for critical hits – you guessed it at this point: Pretty much every different component herein can be combined to generate your own customized version of Vs. The Wasteland. Equipment lists for clothing, living space, work space, transportations, etc. are provided. Want to track fuel because you enjoyed a certain biker-game in a post-apocalyptic environment? There are rules for that in here. Similarly, we can find a ton of different weapons with damage caps and special features – enough to allow you to make informed design decisions regarding your own designs, from railguns to Fat Mans…and yep, from forcefields to The Bomb to Palm Computers, pre-cataclysm tech may be found.

All the information so far can be found at the front of the book – which is nice, as it allows you to tell players to read until the Dystopian Master chapters and stop there. You see, the game comes with quite an array of different pieces of advice for the DM, for example on how to handle unique rewards, bonus draws and the like. Really cool: Bonus draws may be traded in Hard Mode into an experience point-like resource that allows you to buy new Gimmicks, buy off Bad Gimmicks, etc. Advancement in VsM doesn’t always necessarily equate improvement – you can also end up gaining new Bad Gimmicks. Downtime rules for self-improvement, and we get quick and easy means to resolve “sidequests” – basically components of the game that can be glossed over and be resolved quickly, allowing you to streamline the narrative experience.

Of course, the wasteland can be a frightful place: As such, there are rules for fear challenges, broken bones, burns, plagues, wasteland madness and a ton of environmental hazards: These rules include e.g. acid rain, endurance over time, falling, and e.g. easy to recall rules for food, water and air consumption. Light and radiation, drowning, weather – pretty much whatever you’d want handled, you can find here.

Vehicle rules work as follows: You have a Crew, a Handling penalty that reduces your number of cards drawn, movement, Health, Armor (which reduces the Damage Cap of weapons), weapons, etc. A smattering of vehicles from standard bicycles to tanks may be found.

As far as locations are concerned, the game encourages you using the new sheet and writing up the basics of a locale. Different locations have costs (to hang out there) and rules (how order is maintained); akin to Survivors, locations have Features – these are basically the location’s Bad and Good Gimmick-equivalent. A bunch of suggested sample places within the respective locale can be found, and the book features quite an impressive array of sample NPCs…did I btw. mention the fact that this has horde rules? We obviously also have rules for mutants, which are presented in a cool manner – the “Shelter 23 Survivor’s Notebook”, which is basically the GM’s little VsM-Engine Mutant engine, featuring a whole array of unique abilities. From filth fungi to glow moths, to mist-bound souls, there are quite a few inside. Did I mention the Giant Space Gerbil? There. If you haven’t been sold before, now you have, right? Come on! Giant Space Gerbil! I want one as a pet! And yes, there are robots, a “nightmarish cross of a wasp nest and a vulture-headed scorpion” – and more!

Don’t want to spend time making your starting village/location? Fret not, for Rustville is provided – a fully-fleshed out sample settlement, including stats for the major NPCs. Yes, these include…drumroll Raptor Jesus! Told you that this can be genuinely funny! Need more food for your DM-imagination? There are plenty of adventure hooks included, and the book even includes a simple generator to make your own scenarios!

The final 3 pages are devoted to a standard difficulty mode sample scenario that centers on Gravel Road –a work camp, from which your Survivors hopefully manage to escape! Solid, if very narrative-driven introductory scenario, though having a map, patrol routes or the like would have been nice.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with a serious array of nice b/w-artworks. A few pieces may be familiar to some, but I found quite a few cool artworks I hadn’t seen before. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben Dowell, based on designs by Lucus Palosaari and Rick Hershey, delivers big time here – the only VsM-game that imho can stand up to this gem is Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. This massive book allows you to play anything, from Tank Girl to a gritty “The Rain”-like apocalypse sans superpowers to Fallout-like scenarios. No matter what you want to play, be it something akin to The Walking Dead or something goofy, this delivers. The exceedingly modular engine is at one of its strongest iterations ever, allowing for maximum customization of the playing experience. The book sports some genuinely creative ideas, and whether you want to play it for fun, grimdark, or a mixture thereof, this game delivers. It’s also a really fun reading experience that managed to make me chuckle time and again. The addition of mutations also enhances the longevity of the game. What more can you ask for? This is a great little, rules-lite game that delivers what it promises in spades. 5 stars + seal of approval – highly recommended if you’re looking for an easy to grasp, rules-lite RPG that you can teach in minutes!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. the Wasteland
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Wonders of the Cosmos: Strange Plants Under a Red Star
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/27/2019 05:35:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with 3 pages of what amounts to a xenobiologis’s handbook, written in character, as the narrator explores the xenobiome of UX-5396 – canopies of laced leaves, microtrees, pink carpets of mucilage – I was positively surprised to be transported into a strange world here, and as soon as we learn about the rainbow lake, a vast plane of lichen atop a sulfur lake’s crust, I was fully engrossed. As a minor drawback, the boots noted for safe traversal don’t get proper stats.

Dormant and subsisting primarily on lionfrogs and arcobeasts, the pdf contains new hazards – anaphylactic spores (CR 6) and paralytic vines (CR 12), and the means to create botanical stalkers, via a CR +3 subtype graft that is added to the plant type graft, all of which are solid, if not too outré. While subtype grafts usually don’t increase CR, here, the template style nature certainly justifies doing so – though adhering to the template graft standards in presentation might have been prudent, for as written, this does generate some work.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf presents a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity. There are a few glitch bookmarks here, but they don’t impede functionality.

Jeff Collins’ humble little exploration of a strange planet caught me by surprise – I did not expect to like it this much. The flavor really sells what would otherwise just be a few mechanical hazard tidbits. Considering the low price, I’ll rate up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, though it should be noted that, if you’re not interested in flavor, you may want to round down instead, as there isn’t that much going on rules-wise.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wonders of the Cosmos: Strange Plants Under a Red Star
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5th Edition Racial Options - Bugbears!
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2019 23:32:53

Not so great. The descriptive text is less than what's standard for race write-ups. The builds themselves are fine, but not very interesting - again not enough background.

All in all, this is fine for the price.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Racial Options - Bugbears!
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - Urban Legends of Crestview Hills: Lover's Lane
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/21/2019 07:12:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover (including relevant text) and ½ a page SRD, leaving us with slightly almost two pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters as a prioritized review.

This is an installment of the “Urban Legends of Crestview Hills”-series of small pdfs that provide brief adventures/hooks (HAHA!) for use with Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s default setting of Crestview Hills, though adaption to another setting is simple enough.

It should be noted that the supplement differentiates between the different play-modes for Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, which is a neat plus.

The following contains SPOILERS, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Lover’s Lane is a staple of Americana – a dirt road where you can look upon small-town America, where teens go for some alone time. Recently, though, tales of a hook-handed madman abound!

The easy mode version takes a cue from classic Scooby Doo – here, the true culprits are masked (and potentially insane) white men, with the best aspect here being a conflict between “old” and “new money” suggested – this conflict in the American class system has always been interesting to me.

The normal mode suggestion provides stats for a new creature – the hook-handed horror cryptid – sneaky, with wings that reminded me of classic Jeepers Creepers and chitinous armor, the monster is pretty tough and cicada-like, making for a creative twist here.

The hard mode suggestion for this hook is really cool as well, as it takes the easy mode angle and one-ups it – it makes mortals responsible, but adds a sprinkling of supernatural horror, making the true culprit a living idea!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout is great and b/w, adhering to a two-column standard. It utilizes public domain art to great effect. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Lucus Palosaari managed to cram quite a lot of cool ideas with different angles and themes into this hook; from the potentially child-friendly easy mode to the more dangerous and challenging harder modes, this does a really good job providing some diverse angles for you to employ. All in all, very much worth the very fair and low asking price, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - Urban Legends of Crestview Hills: Lover's Lane
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - Urban Legends of Crestview Hills: The Hanging Tree
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/21/2019 07:11:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover (including relevant text) and 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with slightly more than a page of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters as a prioritized review.

This is an installment of the “Urban Legends of Crestview Hills”-series of small pdfs that provide brief adventures and hooks for use with Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s default setting of Crestview Hills, though adaption to another setting is simple enough.

It should be noted that the supplement differentiates between the different play-modes for Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, which is a neat plus.

The following contains SPOILERS, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the hanging tree is a kind of macabre cultural icon, and as such, declaring a tree as the proper hanging tree should not be hard; depending on the mode chosen, the angle differs, with different degrees of closeness to the triggering incident, which is the death of someone, found hanging from the tree.

In the easy mode scenario, the solution is rather simple – a vengeful spirit is responsible, and we receive some guidance on making one.

In normal mode, hungry tree spirits are responsible, and we get full and proper stats for the spirits – and, in a nice angle, a tie-in to the Krampusnacht adventure. Hard to injury and with noose-like vines, these will probably require some serious investigation to put to rest!

The hard mode option is one I really liked, as it throws a wrench in preconceived notions – here, the culprits are assumed to be terrible, but thoroughly mundane people.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout is great and b/w, adhering to a two-column standard. It utilizes public domain art to great effect. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Lucus Palosaari’s Hanging Tree offers a surprising amount of material for you to develop into an adventure; it may be a hook, but it is a nice one that offers some neat angles. My final verdict will hence be 4 stars – well worth getting for the low price point!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - Urban Legends of Crestview Hills: The Hanging Tree
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Behind the Spells: Fireball
by Itai G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/07/2019 17:25:22

Having an option to detonate a fireball in flight is pretty cool; my players rely on fireball to much, so having an option for even non-spell casters to cancel it could be pretty awesome. This product is for 3.5 though, I wish there was a conversion to 5e.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Behind the Spells: Fireball
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Publisher's Choice: Goblin Mini-Subscription
by Richard W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/30/2019 04:30:24

I'm a big fan of Rick's original goblin mega pack, but these illustrations are much better and even more horrifying. The Gobtaur and Spider Goblin are my favorites so far, and I can't wait to see what comes next!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice: Goblin Mini-Subscription
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - So You’re a Teenage Witch
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/25/2019 05:03:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement for the excellent season 2 of Vs. Stranger Stuff clocks in at 23 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, leaving us with 23 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

So, first things first: Yeah, gender is a hot-button issue, so the book starts explicitly stating that, while the book is written with tropes associated with women in mind, it is explicitly not intended to lock out other genders. Beyond that, and this is probably more useful to bear in mind, the supplement is written from a Western perspective, and creeds of witches or traditions can vary, obviously, greatly.

As far as rules are concerned, the booklet takes the notion of witchcraft and portrays it in a simple to grasp method that seamlessly integrates with VsM-engine-based games: The “You’re a Teenage Witch” good gimmick. This is basically one of the several options that serve as an “unlock” function. The Initiated good gimmick represents when a witch has performed a special rite that initiates you into the coven, allowing you to aid witchcraft. NPCs initiating you double as trusted tutor. The notion of Covens (deliberately spelled with capital “C”) also bears mentioning. Coven spells draw an additional card as long as at least 3 members cooperate in the witchcraft. (Yep, there is a reason that “Charmed”, alongside the more obvious “Chilling Tales of Sabrina” or “Salem” are included in the suggested media list…) This also makes clever use of Easy Mode and Hard Mode gimmicks, allowing you to easily generate gradients of power.

In Easy Mode, we have the assumption of the 90’s era Sabrina sitcom, with asy and reliable magic that can be performed alone without complications. Everyone can use witchcraft (no need for the gimmicks) and the TVs are reduced. More importantly, magic is per default White Magic, unless explicitly stated otherwise.

There are three bad gimmicks included as well – there is one that makes you require a Talisman to cast spells, and is not Stuff, but other witches with your Talisman can draw one additional card. The Talisman can always be your Focus. Complaint here: If a ton of witches have this one, they can just hand all Talismans to one witch for insane amounts of cards – this should probably have a hard limit or a negative repercussion for the person losing their Talisman. As written, it can actually make the group stronger, which is probably not what was intended. Coven dependent Witchcraft is pretty self-explanatory. Tainted Magic locks you into Black Magic, either preventing you from casting White Magic, or making White Magic spells count as Black Magic, but we’ll get to that in a bit.

Powerful Witch is a good gimmick that allows you to draw two cards instead of one when performing witchcraft, and mentions interaction with Covens properly. In Hard Mode, one character should have the You’re a Teenage Witch good gimmick. Additionally, in Hard Mode, this may require a bad gimmick, or an increase in TVs. An important narrative option that hearkens closer to the current iteration of Sabrina would be the requirement for a pact with a powerful entity – that doesn’t have to be the devil – it can be a ghost, a manifestation of nature, fey – you get the idea. This option is represented by the Pact Witch bad gimmick, which punishes violations of the agenda of the supernatural patron via either the loss of Toughness or all-out loss of spellcasting abilities.

Now, obviously, all of these can be mixed and matched pretty easily to create a representation of your custom vision, but you didn’t need me to tell you that, right? ;)

Now, as for White vs. Black magic – Black magic basically causes some sort of harm; it’s basically “bad”; in the absence of a proper alignment system, the fluid shades of grey distinction between White and Black Magic and the things between makes for something I very much enjoy seeing. The pdf introduces some interesting questions regarding the subjectivity and fluidity of these, and also presents rules to determine the general nature of the magic type involved.

All right, the basics of access out of the way, how does witchcraft work? The book establishes witchcraft as something being based on Intention (capital I, is, wait…intentional…I’m so sorry. I just can’t stop.) –the witch determines what the spell is supposed to achieve. You need to think of the implications and make sure the spell is specific…open-ended Intentions are dangerous. As the pdf astutely warns witches-to-be: Dead folks have no problems anymore, so phrasing is of tantamount importance. Ultimately, the main challenge of presenting this is one of roleplaying, which is something I very much applaud. Very detailed examples are provided to help you get an idea of this process. A repeatable verse, for example, is something that represents the magic – and yes, the players should write that down! (Aren’t you folks in the US thankful that the age of satanic panic is over?)

After you determined this aspect, you choose and gather ingredients – and the concept of correspondence, is explained – there is a 1:1 correspondence between emotion, value, etc.; thus, a spell dealing with happiness might require ingredients associated with that. There are three ingredients: The Focus, which is the target or catalyst of the spell; the Actor is something that usually changes or affects the Focus, often destroying the third component, the Sacrifice. Cool here: If you prefer light-hearted Easy Mode games, suggestions for e.g. meat from the butcher etc. are provided. You can play this as really dark, or as super light-hearted for-all-ages feel-good. The important thing about the Sacrifice component is, that it goes away; it’s the price you pay for magic. And if you want a bit more complexity, the pdf does offer rules for rare and dangerous ingredients as well. Beyond that, we have an optional rule that allows for powerful sacrifices, implementing a gradient of sorts.

To cast a spell, you draw a single card per witch participating in the witchcraft, compare it to the TV, and there you go! Variable success variant rules and a handy table to sample TVs/durations and example spells and effects helps the GM to judge the impact of these without any hassle. There also are optional rules for the cards being drawn face-down (GM only knows!), and one that makes an effect on Aces permanent – which can be potentially hilarious.

Here’s a pretty big thing: Cards used for magic are NOT reshuffled into the deck, unless you’re playing in Easy Mode/in a setting where magic is intended to be common. Magic is also unreliable: When a card to cast a spell successfully is a Heart, the spell has beneficial side-effects; the inverse happens when a Spade beats the TV. If no successes occur, spades can also cause feedback. Once more, plenty of examples are included. Speaking of witch (I just…can’t stop…the..groan-worthy…pseudo-jokes…) – nine sample spells are provided, and we get a really gorgeous full-color two-page cheat-sheet for spellcrafting that summarized all components. This sheet is laid out as though it was a page from an ancient grimoires. Nice touch! The pdf closes with a Vs. Stranger Stuff 2 character sheet.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly two-column b/w-standard, with comic-style full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari, with additional content by Rick Hershey, provides something that may look deceptively simple, but really isn’t: We get a properly functional magic engine for VsM-Engine-based games, one that does a great job of depicting occult/folklore style magic. Not the flinging of colored balls of death, but the magic that we know from lore, that feels mysterious and primal.

Now, I get the obvious Sabrina-angle here, but rest assured that this pdf is not simply content trying to duplicate the series; instead, its usefulness goes far beyond the tropes of the Teenage witch – in all but the names employed for the gimmicks, this is a full-fledged magic system that focuses, much to my delight, on the roleplaying, while not neglecting the mechanical components. What really impressed me, though, would be the vast modularity of the system: You can cobble together a ton of different variations of how magic operates and build from there. This modularity ensures that you’ll time and again return to this humble little booklet. I am more than positively surprised by the depth this offers. I consider this to be an absolute must-own supplement for Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this gets a nomination as a candidate for my Top ten of 2018, as well as the EZG Essentials-tag for VsM Engine-based games. If your game has magic, then you need this, plain and simple.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - So You’re a Teenage Witch
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Southern Cross Trading Company: Catalog Vol.1
by Rush W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/22/2019 22:36:01

Very good reference book. Nearly 50 pages, with non wasted. I would definitlely consider it a must have for people that enjoy the Tiny Dungeon system. Items are thought out well, and the power levels of the items are very in line with the spirit of the game. Very well done!!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Southern Cross Trading Company: Catalog Vol.1
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vs. Moon Men Adventure: Santa Claus is Coming to Anytown
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/29/2019 07:12:11

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure for Vs. Moon men clocks in at 11 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

This is an adventure review, so the following does contain SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only Moon Masters around? Great! So, it’s been 5 months since the moonie invasion, and for quite a bunch of years, Frank, the kindly old veteran, has been the town’s Santa Claus. While life has returned mostly to normalcy, with a collaborator local government, there is a curfew in place; a PC gets to argue why they would have a job in town that warrants a card to get past curfew, and Hearts nets you one, while Spade nets you a Demerit; townsfolk with two Demerits are sent off to “re-education;” Frank had such a card, granted on a secular basis, but when the pastor (named Kringle) also applied for one, Franks’ card was cancelled. Frank is not going to give up. Frank is not amused, and is raising a ruckus in town. A special Christmas Parade just before curfew has been allowed, but now, is suddenly canceled. The PCs can see a moon man next to the councilman announcing this, and may realize that the councilman’s speech pattern is off. Frank in full attire (think off classic Coca Cola Santa Claus, just with military dufflebag) and some folks will cause a scene, so de-escalation may be in order – unless they want to see a flying saucer’s power in action…

Depending on how the previous scene ends, the PCs will find themselves in some way at church, and Pastor Kringle, wracked with guilt, is trying to help Frank organize his rounds, enlisting the PCs for some runs. These include easy runs, but the PCs will nonetheless have to contend with deputizes lunie (local parlance for the invaders) supporters. In case combat breaks out, the PCs will have to be quick – it won’t take long before the alien cavalry comes and hopelessly outclasses them. Ofd course, sufficiently pissing off the Moon Men may result in PCs being re-educated, vaporized, and/or Christmas being canceled…but how this plays out is pretty much up to the PCs. The pdf closes with a good gimmick that you can earn, which nets you one redraw per session after a failure.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the nice two-column full-color standard of vs. Moon Men, and the pdf comes with the nice photography-ish artworks that made the main book work. The pdf comes bookmarked, in spite of its brevity, which is nice to see.

Lucus Palosaari’s module here is pretty cool in its premise; it has an occupied nation/Christmas miracle vibe that encapsulates the Christmas spirit angle rather well. At the same time, it really does feel like a vignette, a sketch; the scenes and how they can play out would usually point towards diverging paths, and I genuinely believe that you can get a lot of playtime out of this, if you expand it. Indeed, it does feel like it could have carried a more diverse and nuanced narrative. As presented, the adventure is pretty brief and doesn’t have too much meat on its bones – it pretty much is as brief as most VsM-based scenarios, and this time around, the scope feels like it would have deserved more. This isn’t bad, mind you; in fact, I really enjoyed it – and for a paltry $1.50, it sure as heck is worth checking out. But I couldn’t help but wish this had the ambition of being a bigger scenario instead of a vignette. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Moon Men Adventure: Santa Claus is Coming to Anytown
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vs. Moon Men
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/26/2019 14:02:53

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game based on the VsM Engine clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 51 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

Okay, so, as far as the tone is concerned, Vs. Moon Men taps into a genre I absolutely adore – early silver screen alien panic classic cinema and science-fiction; you know it – the classic 50s, 60s and, to an extent, 70s-aesthetic, still deeply infused with a sense of optimism and naïveté, where good and evil were distinct and clear; of course, chances are that you may be more familiar with e.g. the contemporary games like XCOM, movies like Mars Attacks! (which heavily quotes the tropes of the classics), series like Futurama and the like; if you haven’t seen Ed Wood’s cult classic “Plan 9 from Outer Space”, I wholeheartedly suggest you do so at your earliest convenience. Same goes if you haven’t read or listened to “War of the Worlds.” (And yes, we get a slew of suggestions regarding themes in the beginning!)

You see, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin were captured by the Moonies – and Collins’ warnings feel on deaf ears. And now, we have a full-blown invasion on our hands! By golly, it’s time to show those aliens what a good ole’ hot-blooded American (or human of another nation) is capable of!

To play, you just need at least 2 decks of card, pencils, and the character sheet included in the download. You choose a name, a biography, and you have 4 attributes: Offense, Defense, Metal, Physical and Social. Offense and Defense are for defending and attacking in combat. The other three attributes are used for all other types of situation resolutions that might crop up. At the start of the game, you get a pool of 5 values to assign to these attributes: 6, 4, 4, 3, 3. You also tick off a role of 4 – brains, face, heart and muscle are suggested, though it should be noted that these are explicitly NOT tied to the attributes. As for customization, you can choose up to 4 good gimmicks, but you have to take a bad gimmick for every good gimmick you take. Want to play a veteran of the war in Korea? Take the appropriate gimmick, but giving the character some sort of PTSD-ish bad gimmick might make sense. Some gimmicks are role-exclusives and denote as such in the name, though, provided the Moon Master (the term used for the GM) allows it, they may be taken by other characters. Being a mechanic, having medical training, being athletic, etc. – quite an array of stuff. On the bad gimmick side, we have allergies, being pretty ugly, haunted by bad luck, being a coward or obsessed about a keepsake, etc.

After choosing your gimmicks, you put down your Health – unless modified by a gimmick, your starting Health is 10. The core mechanic will be familiar to veterans of VsM: You draw a number of cards equal to the related attribute (so, if you have a Social score of just 3 and attempt to sweet-talk someone, 3 cards) and compare the value of the highest card with the TV (target Value) of the challenge. If it’s of equal or greater value, you succeed. The supplement does offer variant rules here: A critical failure/success via two jokers, and a suggestion of using a Tarot deck. (Minor nitpick: I noticed typos in that box.) Yes, you can card-count the game. It’s intended that way. But if your game consists of serious card-sharks, there is a die-based variant noted as well. Jacks are 11, Queens 12, Kings 13. Aces are 14, but for damage purposes, Aces count as 1.

The game differentiates between 5 standard TVs, ranging from easy (TV 4) to impossible (TV 14/Aces); when two or more characters cooperate on an action, the character who draws the highest amount of cards draws their allotment, + 1 per assisting character. Opposed actions are resolved by comparing who draws the higher card; if that ties, the base attribute determines the victor; if that also is tied, initiative order wins; if the contest is between players, the one closest to the Moon Master’s left wins, and ties between PC and NPC in such an extreme case? They’re resolved in the PC’s favor. There is a variant rule I’d highly recommend: Variable successes. If you beat a TV with more than one card, you beat it in a better way; and yes, the game provides feedback and guidance to resolve this. As an aside, this base engine also allows the Moon master to set up complex challenges that require a sequence of successful draws over the course of multiple turns, etc. But you’ll find that out sooner rather than later.

As for combat, turns have not fixed duration and may range from seconds to hours, depending on the requirements of the scene(s) in question; initiative is resolved by drawing cards, and a surprise is resolved as a free attack. Movement can be, depending on circumstances, be handled in a purely narrative manner (perhaps, supplemented by checks?) or on a map, where the attribute related denotes the number of units (like 5 ft.-squares, or 30 ft.-squares, or hexes…) your character can traverse per round. The default would be 6 feet (~2 meters) per unit, which is actually a pretty realistic measurement for quick gun fights and the like.

Attacks are resolved in two ways: In melee, you draw Offense number of cards, using the enemy’s Defense attribute as the TV; in ranged combat, you compare Offense with either the target’s Defense, or with the range value – vs. Moon Men knows 5 ranges, and over 24 ft./8m away requires an ace to hit, which is very punitive and obviously does not represent ranged combat expertise, though it does fit with the aesthetic, where someone punches out an alien with bare hands, while they manage to miss a barn door at nigh point-blank range. This is easy enough to modify, but it’s something to bear in mind.

If you managed to hit the target, you draw one card for each attack card that managed to get past the target’s Defense attribute as the TV. The card you draw is then compared to the “damage cap” of the attack. Each card that has a value equal or less than the damage cap deals 1 Health point damage. (This is the reason aces count as 1s for damage!) Some weapons do have a base damage, which means they always do the base damage, at the very least. Once you reach 50% Health, you take -1 to all attributes; -2 at 1 point of Health remaining, and at 0 or fewer? Sorry, you’re dead. The game does have an optional rule for death at -1 Health or below. A full night of uninterrupted rest (8+ hours) lets you regain 1 Health; if a medical professional tends to the wounds, the medic may draw a card. If it’s a Hearts card, the patient regains an additional Health. Painkillers, First Aid equipment and the like further helps.

Environments can also impose complicating modifiers, which apply to the number of cards you may draw: These range from -3 to +3.

As for equipment: Mechanically, there may not be much difference between second-hand clothes and a dapper suit, but the game does caution that folks are bound to react differently to how you, for example, look. Sample values for clothes, living space, transportation, weapons, etc. is provided; weapons and the like note their damage caps, whether they are two-handed, range multipliers, etc. The engine manages to coax out a surprising amount of differentiation out of the rules light game. We account, for example, for concealable and breaking weapons, and moonie weaponry does offer special rules: Electrode guns knock out targets and only can be fired at point-blank range, for example.

The book also does note means to advance characters, roughly presented in order of hierarchy: Bonus cards, good gimmicks, attribute improvement, removing bad gimmicks – you get the idea. Fear checks are resolved by using mental to compare it to a combined Offense and Defense of the triggering adversary. As far as NPCs are concerned, the system notes the concepts of Nemesis enemies and hordes; we also get a few good and bad gimmicks for NPCs, and some sample NPC stats that you can use for common roles.

Now, since vs. Moon Men has a slightly more action-driven slant than other VsM-games, we do get vehicle rules: Vehicles have a crew value (number of characters required to operate); Handling comes usually as a penalty ranging from -1 to -4, which denotes the penalty for actions that the vehicle is not designed to do. Movement denotes the units it can move in one turn; Health specifies how much damage it can withstand, and Armor reduces the damage cap of a weapon – if it reduces a damage cap to 0, the weapon can’t hurt the vehicle. The use of vehicles is simple and codified properly, and we do get TVs for vehicle repair. A diverse array of vehicles are provided, ranging from horses to tanks, planes, flying saucers, commercial pleasurecrafts (speedboats etc.) – you get the idea.

After this, Moon Masters get some insight into the invaders from the moon – good moon men gimmicks (and a bad one), and we do get 6 sample moon man stats for various rules. After this, we take a look at the assumptions of the game, which is, per default, that of terrestrial freedom fighters, though the system certainly can account for other modes of play. The default starting point would be Anytown, USA, which notes e.g. “The Bar”, “The University”, etc. – it is, basically, a means for the Moon master to think of the standard small town USA backdrop that we’ve come to expect from the genre. We conclude this pdf with 2 pages of different adventure hooks, some of which are truly and genuinely interesting.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a rules-language level, good on a formal level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, mirroring classified files, with a type-writer like font and a blend of old-timey photography and artworks that have been modified to elicit the illusion of a concise whole. This is an aesthetically-pleasing pdf. The pdf comes with a ton of nested bookmarks that render navigation comfortable and painless.

I really liked Jason Owen Black’s “Vs. Moon Men.” While I do maintain that it isn’t as encompassing as the supremely impressive Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, currently my favorite VsM Engine game, it does offer quite a few components that allow for some depth in the system. Now, granted, mathematically, not all of them always make sense, as some players will point out, but that frankly isn’t the point of the engine in the first place. The benefit of the VsM Engine has always been that you can explain it to non-gamers in less than a minute, and start playing after less than 5 minutes; and indeed, character generation is quick and painless. Vehicle rules add some depth, and while I would have loved to see a bit more regarding alien vessels and adversaries, this remains a fun and easy to pick up game. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Moon Men
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vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Krampusnacht
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/15/2019 11:24:54

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module-compilation/series of connected vignettes/deluxe-sized adventure clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 29 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

Originally, this was intended to hit sites in time for Christmas, but due to my injury, the review fell by the wayside. Since then, I’ve been asked by one of my patreon supporters to move this up in my reviewing queue, so there we go – a holiday module! (As an aside, I like to plan ahead, so yeah, reviews are, in a way timeless, right?)

Anyhow, this compilation takes place in the meta setting of Crestview Hill, and a player-friendly map has been included in the pdf. A sample character sheet is also part of the deal, and we get a charming, hand-drawn map of a sample default house of the town. This pencil-drawn map, while sans scale or the like, doesn’t require them either, courtesy of the VsM Engine’s relative simplicity and focus on narratives. Anyway, it should be noted that this was released for the first season of Vs. Stranger Stuff, which means that it may end being somewhat easy when employed in conjunction with the second season’s rules. These rules are btw. included in the download, though personally, I’d very much recommend getting the excellent second season.

This book contains a series of 6 brief “adventures”, which you generally can complete in a single session of playing each, potentially even within an hour in some cases – these should be considered to be more akin to encounters; fast groups may even tackle more than one in a protracted gaming session. I will continue to refrain to them as “Adventures”, since that is the nomenclature employed within. The adventures can also theoretically be taken out of sequence and played as stand-alone modules/encounters/expansions for your scenarios with a bit of work, should you choose to – module #1 and #6, though, are pretty obviously ones that should be run in their intended spot when using this as a mini-campaign of sorts. I should mention, though, that these respective adventures behave more like chapters of a unified narrative, so basically, you should consider them part of a bigger adventure. It should also be noted that this does have an optional connection you could develop to Vs. Stranger Stuff: Send in the Clowns.

All right, got all of that? Great! So, in order to discuss these, I will have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great!

As for the flavor of the backdrop: Crestview Hill is suffering from the dwindling logging industry and, apart from a small plant, it’s pretty much a piece of rural Americana in decline. A recent focus of general anxiety on the youth of the town for petty crimes has blown up to a “crime wave” (Too soon for a “war on crime”, though…), and when a pentagram was spray-painted on a back wall, a healthy slice of satanic panic entered the fray. The leader of this outrage mob would be Montgomery Batefield, member of a wealthy local family.

We start these events as the adults are living it up at the Community Center, while the well-liked Jenny Winslow, a teen, does the babysitting for a lot of the neighborhood families – the PCs are thus gathered, watching some cool late night movie, when Jenny comes in bearing popcorn and pizza. The idyllic evening is interrupted by a phonecall, and Jenny seems to be agitated – she seems to be fighting with her boyfriend, her parents don’t approve of him, and since the town is considering a curfew, he tries to convince Jenny to run off with him. Visibly rattled, jenny will leave the PCs to the tender screen, to wrap some presents – and after a while, the PCs can hear thumping upstairs…and a cold breeze will be blowing from upstairs.

Investigating will yield a present, crudely-wrapped, with oozing liquid seeping from it and leaving a trail behind. Approaching the grisly package will see it develop stubby limbs that will carry it back into the room – where they’ll see the Krampus. He pronounces a sentence (Big kudos for getting the German right!), leaps from the window…and the present attacks! It btw., obviously contains the dismembered bodyparts of poor Jenny, animated as a corpse puppet. Phones are dead…and what to do now??

Well, module #2 sees the PCs trying to get to their parents – as they pass the department store, they witness little elf-like creatures vandalizing the Department Store; the PCs follow them, probably, but ultimately will have to best them in the manager’s office, where they show that they are grotesque imps – killing the weak and annoying critters sees them burst into flames…but on the plus side, the PCs can restock here!

Entering Maple Street will have the PCs witness Krampus dragging away 3 kids in chains – kids the PCs go to school with! Seeing the PCs, he’ll fling his chain up a tree and face the PCs! But before he can reach them, he mysteriously bursts into an icy, snowy flurry – from here on out, the freezing wind will act as a global penalty to PC draws, and when the PCs dislodge the chain to free the PCs, they’ll witness the chains animating as pretty tough adversaries.

Continuing, the PCs can see that there’s a power outage in the cold – all save the blaringly-lit house of Mr. Stern, which features the excess of blinking and flashing lights. Passing near, the strange lights will start to color themselves a wicked red, bathing the streets in a putrid, pinkish-red glow, as the plastic decorations are filled with unearthly life and attack – including reindeer and a snowman…and once these have been taken care of, plastic Santa will come as a pretty tough boss.

While the others are site-based, the 5th sequence is not – Cruel Christmas has the PCs see ominous signs of violence – blood splotches on snow banks, hoof prints in the snow, a car with holes punched in…with piles of crashed cars as strange barriers…and when the PCs hear a gunshot ringing, they will witness deputy Dewey bleeding out, skewered by a zombie reindeer! Powerful and deadly, there are plenty of them…and they’ll herd the PCs towards the Community Center. It is here that Batefield used his occult knowledge to dupe the townsfolk into contributing their energies to the subtle summoning of Krampus. The smartest PCs get to engage in a Brains challenge to come up with a couple of deductions that may or may not be true, depending on the GM: Depending on how complex you’d like to make the showdown, you can use multiple components of the potential Krampus-binding to modify the showdown, for the adults have been drugged. It’s up to the Kids to stop the cultist and Krampus – both of which are potent foes…nice angle, btw.: Particularly good children may be invulnerable regarding Krampus, for he can, after all, only hurt naughty children. (And yep, going outside is a convenient justification to declare PCs naughty if you have a group of goody-two-shoes.)

The pdf closes with notes on how to handle longer adventures such as this, as well as suggested rewards.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice one-column or two-column full-color standard with a nice mix of photography-style b/w and full-color artwork. The cartography is nice and full color. Downside: The pdf is not properly bookmarked, which constitutes a comfort detriment.

Lucus Palosaari and Rick Hershey provide a nice Christmas mini-campaign for the Vs. Stranger Stuff game. The series ticks off all the different takes and takes on a particularly apocalyptic tone that I didn’t expect here; not content with a series of standard vignettes, this goes one step further, and is better off for it. Global effects and pretty tough challenges that can be customized, particularly in the ends, represent pretty cool components. I kinda wished that the connective tissues here had been a bit more pronounced, that there had been a bit more interconnectedness and consequence between and within the sections of the module, but this is me complaining at a high level – the finale and start and overall atmosphere make up for being mechanically somewhat straight. All in all, I do consider this to be a fun, well-wrought mini-campaign. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff Adventure: Krampusnacht
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