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High Plains Samurai: Legends
by David G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/26/2018 01:43:35

Played this game with Michael from the RPG Academy as Director and it was a blast. The cinematic drama comes out well whilst still feeling like the tension and risks are real.

It was a one shot and non of us knew the game beforehand and it was easy enough to grasp and get going. Will definitely play again.

The mini session 0 (take a drink) is a nice touch and helps set tone and flavour collectively.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
High Plains Samurai: Legends
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ScreenPlay Presents: Ironbound
by Michael J. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/16/2016 14:24:10

The first half of the item is an almost complete copy pf the rules for Screenplay. I will ignore the rules since I a going to review them seperately. (Psst. I generally like thm.) The second half gets to the Ironbound adventure. Which they suggest is the whole of their fantasy, uh, mini-campaign. In other words a single movie with no sequals. But then suggests your writing sequals. It is an anti-magic crusade lead by a guy who is secretly a magician. Magic is defined as sort of the Cthulhu Mythos type. I.E. it drives both the practitioner and the one putting it down nuts. So everyone has some nuroses and phobias, if not flat out demon possesed or needing a few trips to the rubber room. Even if you don't plan on sequals, you will have a lot of writting a head of you as this is more of an outline than most scenarios. Which can be a good thing, as you and the players flesh it out, or a bad thing if your players aren't very inventive.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
ScreenPlay Presents: Ironbound
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Killshot Files #2: Bad Company
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/16/2013 09:38:01

There's a whole bundle of goodness here (Is 'goodness' the right word for something to do with assassination?) ranging from a discourse on the use of poison to developing specialisms and a complete scenario ready to run.

Delivered in the style of a regular training session (that is, were there an International Training School for the Assassin's Art), the article on poisons covers everything the well-educated killer needs to know about the art and science of ending the target's life through poison. Some can be so subtle that it appears that the target died of natural causes (so, how do you ensure you get paid for your work?) while others leave it perfectly clear what has happened and the trick is to make sure nobody discovers that it was you who administered it. Here you will learn how to select and deliver your noxious brew of choice with nobody being the wiser... and how to treat poisoning, it would be unfortunate to perish from your own poison after all!

For those who wish to develop their skills in this area, there is a new focus, the Toxician. Throughout, it is made clear how the rule mechanics apply to poison use. Note that this includes not just stuff that kills, but that which incapacitates the victim as well.

Next comes an in-depth look at the existing focuses (focii?) as given in An Assassin's Journal, the player's guide for this game. This also includes four new ones (not counting the Toxician above), but possibly more interesting are the thoughts on different variations of those core focii. This section was adapted from posts on the Broken Ruler blog and at times it shows, mentions of 'this week we look at' have been left in which makes reading it in one go as an article a bit odd. The points are good, though, and should enable players to develop their characters in all manner of interesting, not to mention deadly, directions.

This is followed by a new mark, a write-up of one Angela Berkowski. She's a college student, a good looker and a martial arts enthusiast... but comes onto our radar because her Dad is a homicide cop who has annoyed rather too many folks... and at least one is prepared to put the money on the table to see her out of this world to make her Dad suffer. Or maybe kidnap her to manipulate him... Dad's stats are given as well, he is likely to get involved in any attack on a daughter he dotes upon, after all.

Then comes Killer Elite: Specialties. This is for the assassin who is making his name in the trade: they know about you but what is it that makes you stand out from the rest? Again, jam-packed with mechanical advantages built around signature abilities developed as you hone your assassin's skills.

Finally, there's a complete Job to undertake, the titular Bad Company. This pits your crew of assassins against a hacker by the name of Thanatos who has apparently annoyed one big corporation too many with his information leaks to the public or competitors. Everything you'll need to run this Job is provided, with emphasis on putting the mechanics just where you'll need them as the Job progresses... and yet this is no railroad, you are equipped to deal with whatever the inventive assassins at your table propose. It's a tense and exciting job that requires plenty of subtetly to accomplish.

Cracking stuff here, whether for developing your Assassins or providing them a suitable Job to exercise their talents!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot Files #2: Bad Company
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Killshot Files #0: Retribution
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/31/2013 12:01:06

This tasty package provides a free introduction to Killshot. It's packed with information and background, an adventure, pre-generated characters and enough of the game mechanics to give the system a good test-drive. Written in a conversational, slightly breathless style, it is addressed to Directors (i.e. GMs) - so if you want to play, don't read this but give it to whoever you can persuade to run the game for you. Or bite the bullet, and run it for your friends. Your chance to play will come soon enough if you get enough people enthused about this game.

After some brief introductory remarks it launches into a swift, concise yet clear summary of how the rules work. The full rules, of course, contain a lot more (and examples of how each rule functions) but you will be able to get by with this, at least for an introductory game.

Next comes the pre-generated characters, five of them. Although they are pretty much playable straight off, some bits have been left blank to enable the players to customise them a little. Other bits are blank because they refer to rules that have not yet been discussed. The good thing is, most are covered in Killshot: An Assassin's Journal (the player rulebook) which is another free download, so once you get hooked you can grab a copy and add these bits in. There are also handy comments to guide players in the use and effects of various elements.

Finally, there's the actual adventure, or Job in game parlance. Everything is laid out clearly, with copious notes and sidebars explaining just what is going on and precisely how the game mechanics can be used to move things forward. It's an elegant example of a 'teaching game' in that by the time you have played through it, both Director and players should have a sound basic understanding of how to play Killshot... as well as a good idea of whether or not this game is for them, so that they can decide if they want to get hold of the full ruleset.

Yet even though it is a reasonably simple Job and pains have been taken to spell everything out, it is actually a good adventure in its own right with enough going on to keep you interested in the outcome of events, not just in understanding the processes involved in playing the game.

This one of the best examples of a "Quick Start" game I have seen in a long time. It's a good introduction to the concept and flavour of the game combined with an excellent tutorial in how to play it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot Files #0: Retribution
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Killshot: The Director's Cut
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/29/2013 12:15:54

After an introduction in which the author speaks of how a car wreck gave him the time and focus to create this wholly-new game system, channelling all the frustrations of recovery into writing, we find that the book is divided into two distinct parts: An Assassin's Journal, aimed at players, and Direction, aimed at GMs (or Directors as they are termed here). These are also available separately, with the player section available as a free download - a neat idea for those setting up a group as only the GM needs spend any money at the outset.

The player section begins with a mostly in-character essay, You're Hired. This talks about the gritty and unglamourous world of the contemporary hired killer, the 'professional' who takes lives for no other reason than someone wants the target dead bad enough to pay. Leave morality outside: this is business, pure and simple, and to be played to the full, the game needs to be approached in a similar cold manner of doing a task, accomplishing set objectives and getting away with it. A liberating concept, but one where it's very important to remind yourself that you are playing a game and must put it away at the end of the session! Back to the game, it is not just the client who has to be satisfied if the assassin is to be paid, he also has to avoid the long arm of the law. Each kill will open an investigation, after all, so attention must be paid to ensuring that nothing can be traced back to you, the killer.

Stepping out of character the discussion moves on to look at how the game actually works, from the role of the Director to actual game mechanics. Pay attention because this is a novel mechanic and like any such, is more complex on paper than it is once you start to play with it. In short when attempting something for which you need to roll (a Dice Option), you roll a handfull of dice of different numbers of sides selected according to the skills, training, equipment and other circumstances that you bring to the party; and you are aiming to beat either a similar roll made by an opponent or a Director-set target. There are also Automatic Options (no die roll needed) and Defensive Options (declared in advance against something happening, e.g. an opponent attacking you). Each time you succeed, you get a Bonus Option and continue to do so until a roll fails. In a Series (sequence of events) one side has the Edge (takes the initiative and starts doing its thing) to begin with, but there are Triggers (preset events) that can flip the advantage of the Edge to the other side. There's a bit more detail, but that's the bare bones. If you are by now getting confused, there is an example of play complete with illustrations of the Tracker, a visual system using poker chips or similar markers to, well, keep track of everything. Whilst this can be a bit mechanical and detract from the flow of play, it's a good idea at least until the mechanics become intuitive.

Next comes a far more detailed analysis of the Optional System (the name for the game mechanic), which contains everything that you need to know to play to full effect. It's worth getting your head around this even as a player, else play will get bogged down as you attempt to succeed at the task in hand... and due to the nature of the game, you really do want to do not just your best but an exceptionally good job every time! Throughout, each chunk of rules information is illustrated with an example, which makes it relatively easy to absorb... but there is a lot to absorb. It's the very nature of this game that technical mastery of the rules will be key to success, an intriguing mirror of the way in which mastery of his trade is the key to an assassin's success... Interestingly, unlike many rules-heavy systems, this one complements role-play rather than detracting from it.

Character generation of itself is not detailed separately, it is woven seamlessly into the rules exposition. This gives you an intimate understanding of how each choice that goes into designing your character contributes to his ability to succeed... but does make it quite a slow process. To summarise, each character has abilities of Body, Sense and Mind. Then he has a Focus - Bomber, Burglar, Driver, Enforcer, Grifter, Hunter, Sniper, or Tech - the focus of his particular skillset and training. Then there options and reactions. These are not skills, they are broader concepts. Think of them as tradecraft, a term from the world of espionage which describes the range of tactics a trained spy brings to bear on the operation in progress. Options are the active things you do, reactions are the things you do in response to circumstances. Again, reading them through makes far more sense than a bare explanation of what they are. These are followed by the skills themselves. Finally there are traits (best considered once you have a few jobs under your belt and are beginning to understand how you operate) and gear: specialist kit, the right tools whatever the job.

That's the player section done. It's divided from the Director bit by a Tracker card and character sheet to print out.

Direction is all about how to make the game come to life. Not just to work mechanically, but to be enjoyable and challenging and exciting... It begins by attempting to define just what Killshot is - and is not. At core it is a very tactical game, player-characters will succeed best if they plan very carefully and then follow that plan (whilst of course retaining sufficient flexibility and the ability to think on their feet to cope with everything the Director throws at them!). But it can also be story-telling, role-playing... or a pure die-rolling contest where characters maximise their chances of success in a cold mechanical way. Or both. The aim of a player is clear, the aim of the Director is more nebulous, depending on the sort of game you want to run and to play... and, of course, depending on what YOUR players want out of it, but you know what they like better than any book author does. Here are the tools to help you provide a game all of you will enjoy.

These tools are provided in four main sections. First is about understanding the mechanics even better than players need to. Then there is the art and craft of creating the jobs, the assassinations that will be the focus of the game. Next comes everything else story-related that many characters won't even be aware of, but which enhance the game. Finally, there are three full-blown jobs to get you going.

The first part, Understanding Killshot, really lifts the lid on the hows and whys of the game mechanics that have already been introduced in the players' section. This understanding will help you internalise the mechanics, enable you to sit back and let them flow naturally as the game plays out. It's necessary in a game of this complexity, but making the effort will enhance play no end - without it, this ruleset could easily degenerate into a die-rolling festival with little role-playing go along. Whereas there are systems out there for which the same thing could be said, it is rare to see it addressed head-on along with the necessary tools and information to get past the issue and get back to it being a role-playing game with a task resolution system framework underlying everything. Just as the mechanics were introduced to players in an organic manner, so is this discourse presented in terms of what is going on at the gaming table, showing you how it all hangs together. Study it well. It's impressively well-done!

Next comes Building and Running Jobs. This looks at the underpinning structure of a job, to empower you to understand a pre-written one or create your own from scratch. It can be a mechanical process, the Director's job is to make it all come together as a coherent script that moreover doesn't appear to be scripted! Here your storytelling abilities come in to play, yet without a sound underlying structure it would be all too easy for the whole thing to go awry. All the nuts and bolts are here, though.

This is followed by Beyond the Job, which looks at the wider ramifications, the rest of the game. Anything from tracking what law enforcement agencies are doing about this spate of murders to the contacts the characters make, the scars they are left with or the tales that are told about them.

Finally, there are three whole jobs to try this all out on. You ought to be itching to round up some players by now, it is that compelling a concept with a ruleset honed to make it work. It's one of the best balances between mechanic and story concept I have seen for a long time.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot: The Director's Cut
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Combat Advantage #1: Power Knowledge
by David D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/09/2013 04:28:11

Does ONE feat need his own 500 kb PDF ? That's just ridiculous.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Combat Advantage #1: Power Knowledge
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Killshot: The Director's Cut
by Nenad R. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/11/2012 09:00:27

One of the thing I like about this game is its modern day setting, with no superpowers, psychic abilities, or supernatural critters.

The characters are all assassins, and play consists in trying to eliminate marks, normally for pay. The setting is not very detailed, but it seems to be in a modern large city, and the players are encouraged to set it near to where they live.

The system involves different types of dice, which are all rolled together, and added (there are dice for skills, equipment, focuse, etc...) Every roll is opposed by another , and the highest roll wins.

The system seems like it could get a bit confusing, especially as the amounts of dice grow.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Killshot: The Director's Cut
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Battlemaps: The Key of the Fey
by Christopher H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/13/2012 11:52:21

I bought this product solely for the battlemaps; I know nothing about the “Key of the Fey” adventure. It’s hard to argue with 21 miniatures-scale battlemaps for a dollar. These maps depict various indoor and outdoor locations, most of which are generic fantasy-type settings. A few of the maps would probably make better sense if I knew the storyline. My favorite maps are the two campsite maps (one daytime, one nighttime). These maps were created by Todd Crapper using Dundjinni, so they feel a little bit more “generic” than maps drawn by individuals; they lack the signature style of, say, a Jason Engle (WotC Dungeon Tiles), Jonathan Roberts (Fantastic Maps for Rite Publishing), or Ed Bourelle (SkeletonKey Games). But then again, you’re only paying a dollar for 21 maps. My only real complaint is that Emerald Press didn’t bother to tile the maps for users; you have to do that yourself. It’s not a difficult job if you’re using Adobe Reader, but it’s still something customers expect from products like this one.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemaps: The Key of the Fey
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Break & Enter Book I: Stealth Encounters
by NB N. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/18/2011 20:13:08

For those rogues and thieves in the party, Break & Enter: Book 1 presents some options for finally showcasing your stealth. No longer do you have to just sneak by a guard or hide in a box while waiting for that patrol to pass. You can just kill the guy and get on with the adventure.

The premise of this supplement is to add a new mechanic called Stealth Encounters to your D&D 4E game. The gist is that characters who remain hidden (a new condition defined in the book) can attack and kill an unaware opponent (also defined in the book) with relative easy. The HP of unaware opponents is disturbingly low, but represents a well placed attack on a completely unsuspecting foe. It also seems incredibly fun and rewarding when it works. I’m not sure how it will play out when it doesn’t.

The book gives you all the rules you need to understand, create, and run Stealth Encounters. I won’t go into detail on all the mechanics here as that would spoil the book. Needless to say, groups may find themselves sneaking around alarms, hazards, guards, and traps to reach a destination and if that doesn’t work, quickly eliminating the threat. The only drawback I can see right now is that the guardian NPCs you face also have reduced HP even when they realize you are sneaking up on them. I don’t quite understand why that is the case other than it does reduce the combat time if you do fail those stealth rolls. Who doesn’t every once in a while?

The book provides a number of examples of alarms, guardians, traps, etc. and also a handy and relatively painless conversion chart so you can roll up any threat you want out of the hundreds of dangers available in the D&D Compendium. I like this premise and hope to implement it in my campaign as the sneakier people tend to have a hard time using the stealth rules to really shine. This should add some balance, but could also become very unbalanced if all combat is soon resolved in two or three rounds. We’ll see how it goes. As with most things, moderation and proper implementation will likely be the key.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Break & Enter Book I: Stealth Encounters
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Battlemaps: Nevermore Manor
by Keith (. T. A. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/16/2011 13:27:24

This is a nice map for your fantasy campaign to use as the home of a well-to-do wizard on the outskirts of town. The manor house has three levels complete with libraries, wizardly laboratories, and secret chambers. It's missing some detail that would be in an actual manor but that's easy to overlook since this is, after all, fantasy.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemaps: Nevermore Manor
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Battlemaps: Nevermore Manor
by Billiam B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/11/2011 17:39:56

For a moment I thought this might be a setting fantasy role-playing, but the presence of a piano reminds us that this is suitable for gothic horror (... quoth the Raven?). This is a fine showcase example of the Dunjinni Map editor, but for those not wishing to purchase the editor, or those in a rush, it's a bumper bargain battlemat. :)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Battlemaps: Nevermore Manor
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/04/2011 13:47:43

Nevermore Manor is the battlemap designed with Emerald Press' EONS adventure The Endless Vault. It's a great looking battlemap with plenty of detail and options, and the overall design is quite good. However, it is not packaged with The Endless Vault adventure and requires a separate purchase to be made.

The overall design of the house is good including the small amount concerning the yard. Each room's use is given in full detail within the adventure, but it shouldn't be too difficult to create those details when used for other purposes. It is a fairly simple manor setup and even includes its nasty little secret in the basement. There are definitely many possibilities for use outside of The Endless Vault adventure. With the overview page being sectioned and the detailed pages including those section references, the PDF is quite easy to navigate.

This is a good battlemap and a great enhancement to The Endless Vault adventure. It would be better to package it with the adventure along with selling it as a stand-alone, but that's a fairly minor detail. It does have many great uses and could make a great scene for a horror adventure, not just fantasy.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
EONS #1: The Endless Vault
by Aaron H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/31/2011 22:32:06

The Endless Vault is a flexible location-based adventure for Dungeons & Dragons. It is published as a multi-layer PDF and contains stats that can be used for characters of 6th, 11th, or 16th Level. All you have to do is click the desired stat-level and the PDF automatically updates. Also, it is not your standard questing adventure as the PCs take on the roles of mercenaries instead of adventurers.

The first module of the EONS series of adventures, The Endless Vault is designed to be played in a single gaming session and can be placed within an existing campaign, run as a one-shot, or even used for conventions. The module contains a great amount of gaming fun without bogging down the GM with required preparation. And it should be noted that Emerald Press does a fantastic job at creating PDF-based products utilizing a landscape format for easy on-screen reading and a layout that makes it easy to use.

Not only is The Endless Vault a well-done adventure module, but this new EONS series of modules from Emerald Press are a great value. With a low price and loads of prep-work already taken care of, they make a great module for any GM to drop within their ongoing campaign or use as a way to step out of the current campaign and run a one-shot scenario. The module is designed for the purpose of being used as a PDF with a very PC-friendly layout and a clean presentation. The storyline is interesting and the rewards are worth it!

The Endless Vault is a very well-written adventure for Dungeons & Dragons and brings in new ideas for how a group could role-play. The idea of working as mercenaries is different than the typical adventurers quest and is meant to keep the players thinking about methods other than bursting in with weapons ready. The high-quality of the PDF along with its designed flexibility is a great motivational tool to convince GMs to bring this module to the table. It’s easy to read, easy to follow and is filled with plenty of gaming potential. And the rewards… your players will not be let down.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
EONS #1: The Endless Vault
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Combat Advantage #18
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/14/2010 22:26:34

Worth the recent struggle to download, with some impressive class variants (still needing a small amount of clean-up for a few powers) and short adventures.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Combat Advantage #18
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Risen (EPIC Edition)
by Michael E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/26/2009 06:23:05

RISEN (The Guide to Resurrected Characters) is a Player-Character supplement detailing seven new Paragon Paths usable with any D&D 4e Campaign Setting. The Paragon Paths in the supplement come complete with Path Features and Powers conforming to the standard set in Official WotC D&D products. In addition, each Path is given 5 to 12 new Paragon Feats based upon their Resurrected identities. There are also 4 new magic items that are used to exemplify the “relics” that might be attributed to a Resurrected Character as his legend grows.

The seven Paragon Paths detailed in this e-book are based upon the simple criteria that the Character died, and then the circumstances of how the Character died. The Author does provide rules that would allow a Heroic Tier adventurer to begin showing attributes of their eventual RISEN Paragon Path, which could provide some very good role-playing elements as strange signs began to manifest.

Please Check out More of this review at http://www.neuroglyphgames.com/?p=721



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Risen (EPIC Edition)
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