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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Character Subscription
by Rafael L. V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/14/2019 17:20:06

Most of the art is good or very good, with a "neutral" style that makes it usable in multiple kinds of publications.

My main criticism is regarding some pieces that display characters with an oversized head. Sometimes it's just a bit, sometimes it's very blatant. I counted around 1 out of 5 images with the problem. I assume it's a conscious stylistic preference on the artist's part. I'd prefer all characters with proportional heads and bodies.

Obviously the subscription lacks updates for a while, which is a shame. Hoping they get back to releasing new stuff. I got this at a discount, which made the deal very attractive to me, at just under 1.5 USD per piece. Sure I can't or won't use all images, but even at full price it's a reasonable deal, provided they live up to the 100 art pieces advertised.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Character Subscription
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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Cast & Crew: Male Dwarves
by Robert G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2019 00:07:04

These are some cool looking dwarves. I Love this style. I really wish there were more like it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Cast & Crew: Male Dwarves
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Tools of the Trade - Volume One
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/29/2019 13:19:18

Tools of the Trade is an art-focused magical item book - by which I mean this was created because the art was there, so each item contained within has a corresponding image that can be shown to players. That's surprisingly rare for magical items, actually, and it helps this 15-page, full-color product set itself apart from others.

This book contains 16 new items (usually 2 per page) of various rarities and styles, with brief flavor descriptions to help give them a little more presence. Some of these items are intended for players, but others are explicitly intended for NPCs and villains instead of the players, and I appreciate giving foes a few more handy tools. $2 is a pretty fair deal for this many unique items (with art!), and I think it's a pretty solid investment if you're looking for some additional magical items with curious effects to surprise your players with.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tools of the Trade - Volume One
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Privateers: A Shared Storytelling Game Of Piracy & Plunder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2019 16:13:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 27 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

So, a rules lite swashbuckling/pirate game? Why not! But before we start, let it be known that this game can be used in pretty much any context – I could see it work for a scifi-game, for example, pretty well. The game requires 2 six-sided dice and begins with the character generation.

You start by choosing a nickname, followed by selecting your attributes. There are three of those, the first being Mental, which denotes your wits, cleverness, will, etc.. Physical describes strength and endurance, agility, etc. and finally, Social, determines the character’s charm, persuasiveness, humor, etc. You assign the values +4, +3 and +2 to these.

After this, you choose one talent and one flaw; talents generally tend to provide a +2 bonus to one type of challenge, while flaws either provide a -2 penalty to all challenges pertaining some broader aspect, or -3 to challenges pertaining a more limited component – enough of those are provided to get a sense of the intended balance and make the notion of designing more of them yourself simple.

Talents and flaws may also influence your Health – the default starting value is 8.

After this, you choose your gear – gear doesn’t give you bonuses (at least usually!), but does allow you to perform certain tasks. All privateers begin with proper clothes, a knife, a blunderbuss and a letter of marquee, and the group shares a ship. Beyond that, you name items, such as a parrot or the like, and perform a simple challenge – if you win, you get the item; if not, then you don’t get it. You get to roll until you lose or have 5 items. A simple challenge is a binary roll of 2d6– you roll against the opponent, and if you win, you win, if you lose, you lose. Ties are rerolled. This is the most simple resolution method herein, but not the only one – I will get to others later.

Finally, you can act traits like age, weight, etc. and other non-.mechanical game data –and bingo. Character creation is very much possible in less than a minute – if you roll for items all at once and use colored dice, you can definitely resolve character creation in even less time.

Progression is wholly in the GM’s hand – Health is the combination of all Attributes; other than health-increases, gaining talents or removing flaws are the suggested means to depict character growth.

The Difference engine’s core resolution mechanic is to roll 2d6 + Bonus versus 2d6 + Bonus. Impossible tasks are not rolled, and easy tasks are resolved as automatic successes. Before dice are rolled, the GM and player agree on Stakes – what happens on a success, and one a failure.

The winner of the challenge is the one with the Higher Result; in case of a tie, Bonuses are compared; if the bonuses are the same as well, the highest rolled result on the dice acts as a tie-breaker – and should this still be tied, the player wins. In the case of challenges between players, neither fails – they can reattempt the check on the next turn.

But why is the engine called “Difference Engine”? Well, to determine your success in a challenge, you can have different successes – there are actually 7 degrees of success; by barely making a challenge with a tied roll of +0, you achieve minimal success, while a Difference of 11+ means an incredible success – fighting and jumping examples allow the GM to easily determine effects for a given result.

Teamwork is very potent – the player with the highest attribute rolls 2d6, and adds +1d6 per additional privateer involved. Only the highest two dice results are calculated.

Examples on how to interpret the rolls and how to make the eponymous Difference matter are provided, with several simple suggestions illustrating e.g. what happens if both player and GM roll poorly. The system knows critical successes (double 6s) and failures (double 1s), and the pdf even explains what happens on a double 6 opposed by a double 1, walking you through the entire process of using this.

There is one more factor to consider – luck. Each character begins play with 1 point of Luck, and more points are gained whenever a Double is rolled ( i.e. two 2s. two 3s, etc.); if the players use Luck, the GM gains one Luck, mirroring a system I have used with some success for hero points and similar mechanics in more complex systems. Using Luck BEFORE the roll lets you add +1d6 per Luck used, but only the highest two results are used to calculate results; OR, you can add +2 per Luck used. If used AFTER the roll, you get to add +1 per Luck used OR you may reroll one die rolled, but must take the new result.

Combat is classified in turns, which correspond to no set amount of time, allowing you to categorize them anew per frame (so that naval combat might have longer turns); initiative is stacked greatly in the PCs’ favor – you begin left of the GM, round the table, with NPCs etc. acting last. Akin to how VsM-games work, difficult movement may require Mental or Physical tests. Attacking may be resolved by rolling Physical vs. Physical, Physical vs. Mental, mental vs. Mental – it depends on the context. Damage is contingent on the weapon employed and the Difference– simple weapons cause 1 base damage, improved weapons (this includes btw. the starting blunderbuss) 2 damage and advanced weapons cause 3 damage. PCs reaching 0 Health take their negative Health as a penalty to all challenges If negative Health exceeds one of the PC’s attributes, they can’t use challenges in that attribute any more. At -6 Health, a character falls unconscious, at -10, the privateer is dead.

Healing is handled easily: Roll a Mental challenge, and add Health value of target, whether positive or negative, to the result. On a success, the target regains half the Difference (rounded down) Health. On a failure, though, the Difference is taken as damage! So no, Health-scumming is not wise.

Ship to ship combat knows 6 general roles, which all have so-called techniques – specialized challenges that e.g. allow a surgeon to heal the crew, potentially reviving crew; master gunners may initiate broadsides – you get the idea. Creation of new roles and techniques is a simple process as well. Ship to ship combat is structured in three stages – sighting distance, shooting distance and boarding distance, with all three stages properly explained.

Ships have simple stats – they have a base damage for cannons, a maximum Hull (the corresponding term for a ship’s Health), a maximum and minimum crew rating – the crew rating is an abstraction and may be jury-rigged for your purposes.

The GM section provides advice and also sample bonuses that may be applied to roles to simulate 6 different difficulties – an easy task may only have a +1 bonus, a nigh impossible one +11. We also get a couple of sample stats and a nice little character sheet.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a rules-language and formal level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with red highlights, and the pdf features thematically-fitting and modified public domain art. The pdf features bookmarks for easy navigation.

Lucus Palosaari’s work on VsM-engine products has informed a few of the components herein, but personally, I was also reminded of Into the Odd – both good things, since these are two of my favorite rules lite roleplaying game systems. With a focus on narratives, the system has one task it needs to handle well: The storytelling should not amount wholly to competitive BSing, and it is my pleasure to report that, simple though the game may be, it has a surprising depth to it. The techniques and how they work, the weapons – this book presents a great chassis and explains it in a way that is supremely easy to expand upon. I could e.g. see myself grafting the excellent VsM-magic system or a kind of arcana-system or starting packages from into the Odd onto this one. The one weakness of this game would be the lack of options regarding gear – sample options and prices and guidelines on how much loot to award would make sense and have further added value to this neat book. That being said, do you know how much this is? $1.95. I kid you not. You can’t even get a cup of joe for that around here, and I consider this to be, frankly, a steal – the system is so easy to adapt and graft that a good GM can create complex tales, devise progression reward mechanics (another aspect that could use some expansion) – but more importantly, the system, as presented, can be arguably run without the pdf. The beauty of the system lies in the fact that, once understood (which will take a maximum of reading the pdf and playing perhaps twice), it can be run spontaneously. This is a pretty big deal.

Now, for the future, I’d love to see books that expand talents, present gear, perhaps magic, more ship-options and the like – but right now, for the purpose of this review, I’ll remain with a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down by a margin. This is a great system with promise galore and the potential for staying power, but right now, the pdf presents the core and relies on the Gm to expand upon that. Consider me excited to see more, and if you’re looking for a great game to teach new players the joys of roleplaying, you’ll find very few as beginner-friendly as this one!! (As an aside – The Difference engine also can help kids improve their math and hone their sensibilities regarding stochastics, but that as an aside.)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Privateers: A Shared Storytelling Game Of Piracy & Plunder
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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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