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Macchiato Monsters
by ypikaye y. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/08/2019 03:29:22

Tout simplement excellent ! Les meilleurs concepts des hacks sont rassemblés dans Macchiato Monsters, parfaitement ajustés et bonifiés. Un création de perso ouverte mais cadrée avec des choix forts et la logique de trait permettant tous les styles, combats rapides, l'usage d'un dé de risque (ou d'usure) poussé au max et un bon nombre de tables aléatoires bien pensées. La souplesse et la facilité de prise en main de l'ensemble m'a charmé immédiatement. Le hack "Café Noir" démontre tout le potentiel créatif de MM. Pour le prix c'est un carton plein. Bravo M. Nieudan !



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
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Wonder & Wickedness
by Maria A. S. C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/06/2019 12:00:33

This is just a nearly systemless list of spells, not worth 10$ especially if you already own any book of spells for any game. All the effort to integrate it in your game is yours to make, so I feel it is nearly worthless.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Wonder & Wickedness
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Creator Reply:
Hi! I'm sorry you are disappointed. Can I help you with the integration? If you tell me which system you want to integrate it with we can probably help.
Macchiato Monsters
by Michael D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/16/2019 07:46:45

I bought this on a whim and read through this several times. I really like how simple and flexible the system is. Converting monsters from D&D has proven remarkably easy (and entertaining!) using the 50 Shades of Macchiato Monsters given in the book. I am excited to be running my first adventure with this cool little system tonight!

I would like to to comment on the name - "Macchiato Monsters". I get the cuteness of the story behind the name, but it's taken me weeks to convince my players to take the system seriously enough to even try a session. The name just doesn't inspire respect and this game system deserves more.

Regardless, I anticipate a fun evening of exploration - perhaps many more!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
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Macchiato Monsters
by John D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/01/2019 10:54:57

In many ways, Macchiato Monsters is a periodic table of RPG elements brewed together with a single-minded dedication to randomness infusing the game. You’re going to be rolling a lot of dice. For everything. For the right group that’s going to be a lot of fun.

I would argue that it doesn’t improve on the White or Black Hack or feel as innovative as either of those games, but by taking their best elements and cranking them it carves out a space for itself. If you love usage dice, random tables, and improvisational gaming and co-creation, you’re going to dig it. It doesn’t take itself too seriously, and you shouldn’t take it too seriously either. As an experiment, it’s really interesting and has a marvelous energy. Worth the cost of a latte.

My full review here.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wonder & Wickedness
by Cameron B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/29/2019 18:43:46

I bought the softback. It's extremely disappointing. No way is it worth $20. $5 at most. It purports to be a spell system, but it is far too simplisitc to be incorporated into any game system as is. I'll summarize the entire "rules" system: Start w/ 3 spells. Int check to learn a new spell (one chance ever). Vancian memorization but a wizard can only memorize 1 spell per level. You can expend a memorized spell in order to counterspell. You can expend any spell to have a local area low damage attack. Some spells require you to use a rune, you can only have 1 rune at a time. Crit fails cause spells to backfire. That pretty much summarizes the entire "spell system" THe spells are grouped into schools. You can specialize in one school by forsaking another. The spell descriptions themselves are generally short. Many are only a sentence or 2. They describe general effects, but include no mechanics. On the plus side some of the spell descriptions are pretty interesting and fairly creative. They could serve as good inspiration if you wanted to flesh them out and add custom spells to your game. The print quality of the book is bad. It looks very amateur. The book cover came out a mottled grey instead of black. The pages are all slighty off center top to bottom.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Wonder & Wickedness
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Macchiato Monsters
by Tore N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/04/2019 13:35:42

I've had a tone of fun playing the 'Zeroeth' edition, as a player and a GM. The present edition is even better. Macchiato Monsters sits comfortably between the known (it has D&D's six stats hit dice etc.) and the freeform. As a player you have a lot of choice when it comes to making and defining your character, but you still have to navigate some fruitful limitations created by random stats and rolls on the very creative equipment tables. It is easy to make the game fit your personal idea of fantasyadsventure (or other genres).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
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Macchiato Monsters
by Sensible C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/03/2019 20:46:12

I've been a fan of $10 and under games for the last ten years or so. I liked "Worlds Apart" the most, but this is my new favorite. It's funny, witty, easy, and I love the fluff. It's easily worth the six dollars I paid for it. I laughed the entire time I read it. It's like you're in my head ;) That's fine, I know. I heard everything you said. AAA+++. I'm tired of dice and I'm substituting them for tarot cards and animal spirit cards instead. If you're a rules lawyer instead of a referee, don't buy this product. Nice references to coffee and Leviathan.

Hope that helps any creatures of the night, Sensible Cenobite.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
by Richard R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/27/2019 12:16:29

Fusing together the best parts of Whitehack and The Black Hack, Macchiato Monsters is a wonderful game that can be used for all sorts of fantasy action adventures. The GM resources are especially useful, no matter what system you're using.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
by Timothy B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2019 22:54:36

Macchiato Monsters is a fun, lightweight system that captures the feel of classic D&D in 58 pages – and that includes 14 pages of random tables, 50 monsters, and the OGL! The classless system allows you to build a character that fits your concept, providing they live long enough, of course. Combat tends to be fast, and at low-levels it can be qutie deadly. If you're looking for an OSR game that welcomes players using their creativity rather than what's written on their character sheet, Macchiato Monsters is worth checking out.

While it's not the first game to use a risk die (roll a die of a certain size, if you roll a 1-3, the die size steps down the next time you use it), I believe it features the most extensive use of this type of die in any game I've come across. Personally, I like this mechanic as it provides for careful resource management without having to individually track every coin, crossbow bolt, and ration.

The spell system reminds me of Vance's Polysyllabic Verbalizations from 13th Age or the ritual system from that game. Players have a lot of leeway in what effects their spells will have. There's a risk to failing to successfully cast a spell, however. It's not quite as gonzo as Dungoen Crawl Classics' consequences, but it adds an element of risk/reward when casting spells.

I'm amazed by how much content is packed into this book. It offers these little rules that are only a paragraph or two in length and cover a broad spectrum of scenarios that come up in a typical fantasy game. Morale, mass combat, random encounters, NPC reactions, chases, wilderness travel, retreating from combat, determining the weather, hirelings, sanity, stamina, and other subsystems are all provided in a consice manner. Often, the rule can be written with few words thanks to the nearly universal use of the risk die.

Even when I run other systems, I like to use Macchiao Monsters as a quick reference for how to handle situations. For example, I wanted to provide a unique magic item to a player recently, and assigned the item a risk die, rather than a set number of charges. Watching him weigh wether or not each use is worthwhile adds an interesting strategic twist that wouldn't be there if charges were simply be deducted from a total.

In a sense, this book is like a minuscule Rule Cyclopedia. It covers a broad range of situations in a small package.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
by Whidou -. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2019 09:35:56

The Black Hack may be the game that popularized the usage dice mechanic, but Macchiato Monsters is the one that made it reach its full potential. It is chock-full of clever uses for it, from magic and morale to weather and chaos. This reduces accounting to the bare minimum, and injects a fair bit of randomness into the game. A bit too much, even: trying to predict the outcome of a situation often becomes so challenging it can hurt serious play. Nothing ever goes as planned, surprising events are legion, the best way to enjoy it is to let go and go with the flow. It's the kind of game you play to have enjoyable light-hearted fun. The one time my group tried playing a grimdark fantasy campaign with it was quickly derailed by the Saturday morning cartoon-like zaniness brought in by the all-encompassing random nature of the game.

I haven't picked Macchiato Monsters as my system of choice because many parts of it do not suit my taste, but it is a great toolbox filled to the brim with good ideas ready to be imported into your home game. Here are some of the things that I did not like, but might not bother you:

  • Roll-under
  • I find usage dice for money awkward to use and more cumbersome than simply counting coins
  • The magic system requires quick an sometimes complex cost estimations on the referee's part, which can lead to frustration on both side of the table if handled poorly. You start getting a feeling for it after a few games, but it can still lead to issues every now and then.
  • A powergaming player will easily bring the game to its knees by abusing the DEX as king stat pitfall and the freeform elements. This can be avoided by picking carefully who you play with and ensuring that everyone is on the same boat as to the table's expectations. But, well, you know, it's always easier said than done.
  • Applying too many of the usage dice-fuelled optional rules makes the game too random for my taste by reducing the impact of player choice.
  • Healing magic is, in my view, handled poorly, but I have yet to see an HP-as-mana system that does it well. I don't have an answer on how to solve that besides forbidding it entirely, which is not satisfactory either.
  • Weak but hard to hit enemies are represented by a high HP count since there is no AC, which if find counter-intuitive.

Aside from those turn-offs, I found in Macchiato Monsters a wealth of well thought-out creative ideas:

  • Its mass-combat rules have become my go-to mechanic to handle these scenes in any game: it's quick and easy to use, delivering the outcome of a battle round in a simple glance at the dice.
  • The chaos table for botched spells is a nice variation on traditional miscast rules and provides incentive for the magic users to take into account the "ambient magic" of the places of adventure.
  • The equipment tables are an endless source of inspiration for new characters.
  • Detailed rules for hirelings and followers that give them both depth and a wide range of uses besides fighting and hauling the loot.
  • Simple and freeform character creation and building, letting imaginative players go wild while providing ideas and prompts to those whose lack ideas on what to play.
  • Goal-based XP for the group and individual characters to promote both team spirit and individual character development.
  • Quick and easy to use wilderness generation tables for on-the-fly exploring
  • And so much more!

Whether you like the game or not, you are sure to find something you like in it. Well worth its price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Macchiato Monsters
by brian A. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2019 07:10:07

Macchiato Monsters is a fun, versatile fantasy adventure game inspired by and compatible with old school Dungeons & Dungeons and many modern OSR and DIY D&D games.

Players are free to construct exactly the character they want to play, down to creating their own abilities and magic. Equipment, resources and money are abstracted through depleting Risk Dice neatly sidestepping most bookkeeping. For referees, combat is mostly resolved through player rolls, monster details are stripped back to just the essentials so combat scenes are easy to run. The book is rounded out with many random generators for creating monsters, locations, people, maps, and plenty besides which will ensure the game keeps flowing.

It's a light, fun, system which can run exactly the fantasy adventure you always wanted to, or generate a new one on the fly if you don't have one ready!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Odd
by Jonathan S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/09/2018 06:11:52

Really quick and easy to run; simple to create monsters and challenges for the players; allows for a lot of imagination, but with some great inspiration in the form of random tables. An excellent game for those looking for something fast, light and fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Odd
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Odditional materials
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/15/2018 07:07:30

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of supplemental materials and hacks for Into the Odd comes as a 39-page pdf, 1 page of which is devoted to the editorial; the rest is content, as the cover and wrap-around cover are presented as .jpgs. The pages, as most of the time for OSR-type supplements, are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), though printing multiple pages on a single sheet of paper is not recommended here: The pages have pretty wide borders for map-excerpts, commentary, supplemental information or the like – or some white space. The exception here would be the final hack within, which is really making use of its allotted space, cramming a TON of information onto the page.

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my leisure.

The first of these hack, “Odd Dungeons”s could be described as a blend of Into the Odd with more traditional OSR-games, such as B/X; Eric Nieudan provides a surprisingly concise and well-thought out tweak that basically replaces arcana with traditional spells, which may be coaxed into new shapes akin to how you can use Willpower to modify arcana effects. Otherwise, each spell may be cast once, which makes this iteration pretty open regarding synergy with Mageblade Zero, Adventure Fantasy Game, or any kind of longform spell you may happen to enjoy. Of course, the inclusion of spells does mean that levels matter more, healing spells and how they interact with Hit Points and Strength damage need to be accounted for – and the supplement does all of that. An alternate background table to account for the different premises is included, and sidebars quickly note the benefits of non-human races – these are kept mostly narrative. A d20-table for replacement PCs/latecomers and a d6 table to learn about what happened to your belongings while out there complements this one. The hack also includes a one-page, rather nice faction generator, where you determine origin, status, means and goals and also get a table for peculiarities. All in all, an interesting hack for the slightly more experienced crowd. Still, enjoyable – but there also is “Maze Rats”…see below.

The second hack, penned by Sean Smith, would be “Cyber:London:Odd:Hack”; in fact, this one is actually two variants of sorts; the first of these would be the default mode, dubbed “Slick Thames”, where you choose a faction (Goths, punks, hoods, corps); the attributes have been reskinned, and Hit Points now are called Nerve; the background table is a bit brief this time around; it’d have been nice to get one for each faction, but that may be me. The hack comes with 12 tactical augments, basically the cybertech equivalent of arcana, minus the coaxing. 12 cosmetic augments are provided, and there are 6 adventure hooks depicting missions; the table here erroneously noted “d12” instead of “d6” as the die to roll. The second playing mode would be the police, whose attributes, oddly, get different names, in spite of otherwise sharing quite a few rules components with the previous one. Low HP may yield psychic powers, low attributes special abilities. A few sample items and notes on advancement for the police are provided, and we get a bit refereeing advice, as well as 4 sample criminals. There is a truth to the cliché that Germans love their cyberpunk – I certainly do as a long-time Shadowrun player. That being said, a lot of cyberpunk’s draw comes from the world, and while I appreciate the Judge Dredd police playstyle, I really found myself wishing that this had more space to develop its ideas. There are quite a few tweaks to the engine that are interesting, while renaming attributes, in comparison, just takes up real estate. I’d enjoy a proper, fully-fleshed out version of this hack. As provided, it leaves something to be desired regarding the fulfillment of its tantalizing ideas and is probably a reskin that most referees could execute themselves.

The, at least to me, most impressive of the hack within, in scope, ambition and execution, would be Ben Milton’s “Maze Rats”; the game is basically a more traditional fantasy tweak of the rules of Into the Odd, supported by TABLES GALORE. I mean it. You immediately see the start of this hack, as suddenly, the pages are CRAMMED full of information, with names, personalities, differentiated weapons, appearance and adventuring gear generators, etc. I really love this hack. It codifies short rests, has a precise initiative, a simple XP-system and 11 classes that are just one sentence and still offer meaningful ability differentiation. The magic system is inspired for a rules lite game: Magic is grouped in 5 circles; these designate damage caused, range, etc. in a precise and helpful manner; oh, and you build spells via 3 100-entry-strong tables; One denotes [effects], one [elements], one [form] – this is absolutely GLORIOUS. It’s a kind of freeform that allows for serious creative freedom, while still providing a solid rules-chassis that makes sure spellcasting does not become competitive BSing. Creatures, items and afflictions and even weird potion effects get their own, massive entries. I ADORE this one. “Maze Rats” cleans up a couple of the issues of “Into the Odd” and does so with panache aplomb. This is a prime example of how damn good a hack can be, and I’d honestly consider this hack to be required reading for Into the Odd referees. Mechanically, this is easily the strongest part of this book and warrants getting it on its own!

Now, this constitutes the hacks that are included within – beyond these, however, we have a couple of “odds and ends,” if you will: Brian Wille presents 4 new arcana for our edification, which include a magnetic, projectile-deflecting chapeau (heck yeah!), a massive plasma gun, a mechanized arachnid (stats included) and a device to animate the dead as a fighting force. Once more, stats are included. Kamil Węgrzynowicz also has a section of such oddities, presenting two genuinely creepy, fully statted monsters: The pretty nasty owlpeople and screaming pyrmaids of pulsating flesh, as well as an ancient sludge that can transform those it touches – I loved these critters! The article also mentions an area of Bastion that phased out of the world, only to randomly reappear…and there is this potentially addictive building. Oh, and oath-enhancing stones? Pretty nasty. Now, I’m not trying to be a dick here, but the editor’s note that claims that not tampering with the text too much was done to retain the author’s voice feels like a bad excuse. I absolutely adore Kamil’s contributions here, but a few editing tweaks versus plural errors and the like would not have compromised the integrity of the awesome concepts and prose, particularly in the adventure.

Adventure? Yep, this booklet also contains two adventures/explorable locations, with Kamil Węgrzynowicz’s “In Search Of Samson Aubrey” being the first of these, and it really gets the subtle tone of the industrial-revolution-plus-weird-themes of “into the Odd” and represents a nice little adventure, though, as noted, editing would have made it potentially even great. The second adventure, penned by Eric Nieudan, would be the “Nightlight Circus”, which pits the PCs against a new gang operating a gambling den, one that has a distinct Joker-esque style, though they do seem to be remarkably benign… This one’s another winner. And no, I’m not going into the details here – the pdf is PWYW, after all, so you can read those yourself. Both come with maps, but sans player-friendly versions of the maps.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are one of the weakest parts of this book; a more unified direction would have made sense. Layout adheres either to a one-column or two-column (Maze Rats) standard and is pretty much no-frills b/w. Cartography is b/w and okay. Annoyingly, the electronic version has no bookmarks. The softcover PoD is really inexpensive, though, so getting it may be a smart move if you enjoy the content. I have the PoD and found it easier to navigate than the pdf.

Ben Milton, Kamil Węgrzynowicz, Eric Nieudan, Brian Wille and Sean Smith have created a fun book of bits and pieces that can really enrich your Into the Odd game – mechanically, the Maze Rats hack is super-interesting and inspiring, and the arcana ideas and Kamil’s monsters in particular made me smile. The adventures are a nice plus as well. That being said, don’t expect Lost Pages’ usual level of polish here; this is a bonus booklet of sorts, and while offering it for PWYW certainly makes it worth getting, I do think that, with a bit more attention to detail, this could have been truly great. As written, I consider the totality of this book to be worth a verdict of 3.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Odditional materials
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Into the Odd
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/14/2018 06:08:47

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This roleplaying game/sourcebook clocks in at 50 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 46 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

This review was requested by one of my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

All right, I’ve already referenced this little RPG in quite a few of my reviews of rules lite systems, so it’s high time I covered this one!

Now, the game’s chassis is remarkably simple in its presentation, though the game does indeed work best for roleplaying game veterans. The extremely condensed presentation makes explanation and grasping the basics simple, but total novices may need some guidance. While the game is counted among the OSR-game systems, it significantly deviates from the traditional rules chassis.

Into the Odd knows three attributes: Strength, Dexterity and Willpower. You roll 3d6 for each. Then you roll d6. These final d6 are your starting Hit Points.

The other rules are similarly basic: In order to succeed a save, you roll with a d20 equal to or under your attribute. 1 always succeeds, 20 is always a failure. Combat is divided into Turns. The head of the group makes a Dex save to determine who goes first. This is one of the few instances where the rules are aggravating in their brevity. More precision on how initiative works would have been nice. On the PC’s turn, they can move and perform one action – attacks are an action, and here the game really differentiates itself from other games. You see, when you attack, you ALWAYS HIT. Same goes for enemies. This makes combat fast, but also really, really deadly. Damage depends on the weapon you wield, and two factors: Cover or other problems reduce damage to d4, while epic, dangerous stunts, attacks from behind, etc. increase damage to d12 – these damage de/increases are known as “impaired” and “enhanced”, respectively. Armor reduces damage incurred, but not by much. The system is very offense-heavy.

If a character takes damage, they lose that many Hit Points; once they have no Hit Points left, they instead reduce their Strength by the excess amount. Once you take damage to Strength, you also need to make a Strength save or take critical damage. If you take critical damage, you have 1 hour, during which an ally needs to tend to you – barring that, you die. Additionally, you can’t take anymore actions until you’ve completed a short rest, which is defined as a “a few minutes” – no precise amount is given, and a short rest recovers all hit Points lost. Full Rests take a whole week and also restores damage incurred to all ability scores.

Okay, but what if you rolled really badly on the ability scores and hit points? Well, that’s one of the cooler ideas of the game: The background package. You consult a table and look at your highest Ability Score and your Hit Points: If your highest ability score’s a whopping 18 and you managed to roll 6 Hit Points…you’ll start the game with a mace, a pigeon…and disfigured. If your highest ability score is 3-9 and you only have 1 Hit Point, you get a sword, a pistol, modern armor and the ability to sense nearby unearthly beings. What does that mean? What’s “nearby”?

Well, this is at the very latest where you’ll fall on one side of the spectrum or another. This game very much focuses on one aspect of the ideology associated with the OSR, and that would be “rulings, not rules.” While the book later tells you that the referees task is to maintain consistency throughout campaigns, the matter of fact remains that quite a few of these components could have used some more detailed commentaries, at least some rudimentary guideline. In the example above, stating that the character goes first when encountering such targets sans rolling would not have taken up much real estate. Now, this is my personal opinion, but I have seen more than oen really rules-lite game that is CRISP and PRECISE in its rules, and this book, for the most part, fits into this category. This makes such instances even more glaring, at least for me as a person. But I’ll swallow this for now and revert to my reviewer stance.

Characters advance after completed expeditions – the game, as a default, knows basically 5 levels. On a survived expedition, you gain d6 hit points and roll d20 for each ability score. If you roll higher than the score, you increase it by 1. Kudos: There are quick and dirty rules for running businesses, organizations and the like; these fit on a single page.

The background packages also ties in with equipment: Coinage is pennies (p), shillings (s) and guilder (g); 100 pennies make a shilling, 100 shillings make a guilder. The equipment comes with sample prices, with aforementioned super-powers one exception of unpriced components. Similarly, the “penalties” for good rolls are not really priced. You may end up as mute, for example. This isn’t that bad (unless it annoys you while roleplaying), as there is no spellcasting in the traditional sense. Instead, PCs that rolled badly can get a so-called “Arcanum.”

Arcana are the main source of magic here – they basically are magic/super-science items that everyone covets, and chances are, you’ll have a few of them in your starting group. Arcana are grouped in three categories: 20 regular arcana are provided and allow you to seal doors, windows, etc. fold space between flat surfaces, speak with other beings, blind targets, etc. The ideas here are great, and same holds true for greater and legendary arcana, though these can only be gotten by adventuring. A page is devoted to sample ideas for them as well, and the GM-section does provide a few more ideas for arcana. It is a bit puzzling to me that the GM-section arcana differentiates between one-use/consumables and weapons, but does not employ the same clarification for the arcana presented. I adore the concepts here, though I don’t fully grasp why particularly unlucky characters can’t have more potent arcana. The background table, as cool as it is, does not always feel even it its reward-ratios.

If you want an example on how opaque an Arcanum can be, let me quote the Pressure Needle’s, a greater arcanum’s, entire text: “If the target takes critical damage today, they explode in a bloody mess.” Okay, so is this a weapon? Does it require that you see the target? Just know it? How often can it be used? If you don’t care about ANY of these questions, then you’ll absolutely adore the rules presented here. If you do, however, then this will prove to e somewhat frustrating for you. Needlessly so, I might add – establishing one set of brief global rules for arcana use could have preempted a lot of the confusion these may cause. And it’s not like the book doesn’t have the space. And, even if you prefer the purely narrative ruling component – the book does already have that! By using Willpower, you can coax arcana to do things that are not their usual function! (As an aside: I really love this wide-open means of using arcana in creative ways, and we even get an example; I’m not against the like – but it’d be better and cooler if the base functions, you know, where precise…)

The referee section is similarly quick, painless and to the point: We get some general advice on how to describe the game; that, if luck’s called for, you roll a d6, with a high result favoring players. We get simple, global rules for monsters, a couple of actually pretty cool sample creatures and a page of hazards. Creatures and hazards tie in what, to me, makes the main selling point of this game, namely the setting constantly implied through the rules and Arcanum-based operations: That would be the “Odd World”, where Bastion, the Bas-Lag-ish hub of mankind serves as the massive heart of civilization in a dangerous world.

14 pages of this book are devoted to the Oddpendium, basically a massive array of generators found in the back, which partially is intended to help you make Bastion come alive. It allows for quick name generation. Beyond that, the generators provide occupations and capabilities, manners exhibited and connections, things that may have befallen the NPCs, and more. Generators to establish the feeling of streets, whether there are means to access the honeycomb-like underground and sample businesses can be found. Oh, and there is a table that features “Insane Council Decisions”, including a public response chart. I really smiled when reading that “War with all other cities” is deemed just as insane as “outlawing same-sex marriage.” The Oddpendium also features two pages of tables for creature inspirations and two that let you determine what’s in the darkness beyond. This is btw. a good place to note that “darkvision”, while mentioned, isn’t codified at all in the book, so yeah – you’re probably getting a good picture of whether this is for you or not. From a layout point of view, the Oddpendium, while really helpful, does feel like page-bloat: Its tables only cover about 2/3rds of the page, leaving a lot of white space in an already slim booklet. Space that could have been filled with more entries per table. I strongly suggest implementing the citycrawl-tricks from Vornheim when running Bastion – the tables alone will not suffice to make it come alive, as information is a bit sparse. While I did enjoy the 3 pages of playing examples, I honestly would have preferred the space used otherwise.

The final 9 pages of this booklet I need to talk about would present basically an introductory adventure. These pages are actually placed before the Oddpendium in the booklet (makes sense, since you’ll be using the generators more often) and include a brief settlement write-up, as well as a mini-hexcrawl and a dungeon – oddly, the dungeon is depicted before the mini hexcrawl that leads to it. There are no player-friendly versions of the maps includes for VTT-play or the like. However, random encounter tables very much are included in the module, and the wilderness section even gets a weather table. Nice!

The following paragraphs will contain SPOILERS, as I’ll discuss briefly the adventure included in the book. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great! So yeah, this adventure is an exercise in extremely concise writing, as you can see in the wilderness of the Fallen Marsh:

“House (sinking into marsh, cleared out, broken crockery, furniture smashed and burned); Woodshed (sinking into marsh, tools, dead horse).” This is minimalist, yes, but it manages to actually evoke atmosphere, with critters barely taking up more room than that and coming with unique tricks. Balck coral’s cold and extinguishes flame; anemones attempt to create drones, bunkers hide critters that can instantly kill you with critical damage in a manner befitting of horror games… This is inspired. Same goes for the dungeon, which is an exploration of an Iron Coral that has recently grown. It includes new arcana, cool critters and hazards and makes, combined with the wilderness, for one of the best introductory modules I’ve read in quite a while. Big kudos, for this really left me craving for more in this weird world!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are either nigh perfect or barely good, depending on how you look at it; on a formal level, there is nothing to complain about, but whether or not you’ll enjoy the rules depends wholly on whether you can tolerate the unnecessary amount of rulings you’ll need to make. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard. The artworks in b/w throughout deserve special mention – they are weird, inspiring and neat indeed; the pdf has a full-color illustration on the inside of the front cover, which, alas, is just b/w in the PoD booklet. Big downside for the pdf: The electronic version has NO BOOKMARKS. In this day and age, this is a HUGE bummer and comfort detriment, particularly for a core book. I strongly suggest getting print here; for the electronic version, detract a whole star from my final verdict.

Reading the above and really analyzing this book made me more critical of Chris McDowall’s “Into the Odd” than I was going into this review. You see, the game succeeds at many of its tasks in admirable ways; it presents a fast-paced, deadly and fun game that is PERFECT for convention games, long train rides and similar occasions. It’s easy to grasp, fast to learn and precise in its presentation regarding its core functionality. Ultimately, the book, though, tries to have its cake and eat it, too. On the one hand, it’s really rules-lite and easy to grasp, but on the other hand, it offers a lot of exceptions and small tidbits that require some GM-experience and a continuously building amount of rulings that need to be kept consistent, when a single paragraph of super-basic global rules, when a single explanatory line, would have sufficed to exterminate this vagueness and made things more comfortable for the referee. This is NOT a question of rules lite vs. rules heavy, mind you – it’s just a matter of precision in the details, and this is where the system struggles. The precision only extends to the big picture, when it’s obvious that this pretty thin booklet could have easily fitted the required rules inside. Cut down on the blank space, on the needlessly extensive playing example…just to name two options. I am harping on this to the extent I am, because Into the Odd is so damn close to being a 5 star + seal of approval masterpiece, only to struggle in these unnecessary instances.

That being said, I still very much found myself liking this book, mainly due to the amazing and compelling implied setting that made me really wish there had been more space devoted to it, that there’d have been more detail for Bastion etc. This is truly atmospheric and the setting and rules generate this weird union that keeps this book compelling and a good reading experience.

So, how to rate this? Well, I won’t lie, there are few systems that have made me grit my teeth to this extent; Into the Odd is frankly genius in its simplicity when it does things right; and this extends to the rules, their presentation and the setting. However, it suddenly becomes inconsistent in its details, and this is, in a book of this quality, just frustrating to witness. Without adding much in the way of complexity, with but a few paragraphs, this could have been something truly special and my favorite rules lite game out there. As presented, it is a game that you’ll love if you don’t mind the inconsistencies in the details and requirements for quite a lot of rulings; for those who want precision, I can only tentatively recommend this, though the implicit setting and the module do make this worth checking out. My final verdict, much to my chagrin, can thus not exceed 4 stars. I sincerely hope that there’ll be a second version some day – the engine and setting deserve as much, deserve this added notch that will make them phenomenal.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Odd
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Mageblade! Zero
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/24/2018 13:38:04

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game system clocks in at 32 pages, with the wrap-around cover provided as its own .png. If you take playtest thanks and editorial together, they’ll take up about half a page, and the character sheet provided similarly clocks in at about ½ a page. As a whole, one can claim that this has about 31 pages of content, which are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5)-size, meaning you can fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper when printing this.

This review was requested by my patreons, to be undertaken at my convenience.

Now, Mageblade Zero is a rules-lite system that could roughly be associated with the OSR games out there, but it deviates pretty far from retro-clone territory, being its own system. The core mechanics of the system would be to roll under attributes, but there is an interesting twist here: If you roll equal or under the value of the attribute with a d20, you succeed – so far, so common. However, where things become interesting, is when there is a competition or contested action. Here, the victor is NOT, as you might have expected, who rolls further below the target value of the attribute, but who gets closer to the target value; the less you manage to roll under the target value, the better. Now, one oversight here would be how stalemates are handled: I assume just rerolling, but alcrification would have been nice.

The game knows a total of 4 classes, and hits (hit points) are governed by these classes. Every character begins with a Mana value of 0.

The game also knows a kind of proficiency bonus – here, this is the Focus modifier, which starts at +3 and improves by +1 at 3rd, 6th, 9th and 12th level. As you can glean from that progression, Mageblade! Zero scales up to 12 levels of character progression. The values to which Focus is added depends on the character class chosen.

All characters start with one Perk. Here, nomenclature is inconsistent – “Focus” is always capitalized, while “Perk” is not consistently – I’ll stick with the capitalized version for the purpose of this review. A second Perk is gained at 2nd level, and then once more at 3rd level and every 3 levels thereafter.

Perks can be exchanged to either gain 2 Skills, or a class-specific ability. The game knows two skills based on Strength (Climbing and Feat of Strength), 2 based on Wisdom (Surgery, Mind over Body), 2 based on Constitution (Swim and Stamina) and the remaining attributes have 3 skills each: Intelligence governs Lockpick, Engineering and Research; Dexterity encapsulates Sneak, Acrobatics and Sneak Attack, and Charisma nets Bullshit, Gather Information and Diplomacy. Foreign, Dead or Esoteric languages are skills not associated with a given attribute. Dexterity-based skills are penalized by armor: -2 for medium, -4 for heavy armor. If you don’t have a skill, common tasks can be accomplished by rolling under 1/3 of the relevant stat. The GM is the final arbiter of what can or can’t be done via a Skill. Sneak Attack is remarkable, in that attacking a target unaware of you lets you roll both attack and the Sneak Attack skill roll. Even if you miss one of these, you still hit and do damage if you make one roll. If you make both, you roll damage twice and add the results together. This is elegant and rather cool. Like it! The other skills are pretty self-explanatory, but some guidance is still provided.

Now, each character also has a Melee and Missile rating. These determine how good you are at hurting people and begin at 12. Fighters add Focus to both. Both are sometimes collectively referred to as “attack” in rules-language – spelling that out explicitly would have made sense from a didactic perspective.

Each character also has a Defence value that begins at 0. Light armor and shields net Defence 2 each, medium armor Defence 4, heavy armor Defence 6.

Now, as pretty much always, you roll attributes, which are known as Stats in Mageblade! Zero. You roll 3d6 and assign the values. If you favor a tad bit more complexity, there is an optional rule, which makes the values here matter more: Values of 7 or less impose a -1 penalty, 13 – 15 net +1, and anything higher +2. Note that this means different things for all attributes and is NOT applied to skill checks! If you’re coming from a PF or 5e background to this game, then this is something to bear in mind. Strength modifies Melee and Missile damage, Dexterity Missile, “Defense” (inconsistent here, since the version with a “c” is what the pdf usually refers to) and Initiative. Intelligence modifies perks and spells gained. Wisdom modifies the Mana point total. Constitution governs Hits. Charisma governs Luck. (More on Luck later.)

Fighters get d10 and may use all armors; they increase the damage die size of any weapon they wield by one step. Weird: Other classes explicitly specify when they can use shields (see mageblade), but the fighter RAW does not say so, which RAW means that they may not. Really odd oversight. They may spend Perks to learn a wide variety of combat stances, which may be combined, at the GM’s discretion. The class-write-up provides quite a few of interesting combat stances that allow for meaningful differentiation between fighters: Take, for example, -5 to attack for 1 extra attack. As a minor nitpick, I do think that specifying that the penalty applies to the extra attack as well might make sense – it’s clear from context, but it may be read otherwise. There are a few such instances throughout the book, where being slightly more explicit in the precise details may make sense and improve readability of the book.

Rogues get d6 for hits and have a daily allocation of Luck equal to their Focus and may spend Luck on any roll affecting them, including enemy’s rolls. Luck and Mana are, in some ways, similar. While nominally, the rogue has 0 Mana. Mana and Luck replenish at sunset and one may spend a Mana or Luck to reroll a Save you failed or force other rerolls, if the referee deems that applicable. Luck, however, cannot be used to power spells. Rogues get a free Skill and get three Skills per Perk spent. Additionally, they can use a Perk to become masters in a respective skill, spending half cost in Luck or Mana for the Skill chosen. This means that the first reroll is free, with subsequent rerolls costing 1 (2nd and 3rd reroll) or 2 mana (4th and 5th reroll), respectively. This increased cost for subsequent rerolls is only ever noted in this particular Perk, when it should be explicitly stated in the general rules for pushing your luck. Rogues may use all weapons and armor.

Casters get d6 hits, and targets of the caster’s spells take a penalty equal to the spells known by the caster of a single discipline, rewarding specialization. This penalty cannot exceed the caster’s Focus. Now, as you could glean, each spell is associated with a so-called discipline, basically the mage’s school. It takes a Perk to learn a new discipline. Casters begin play with 3 spells, and each spell may be cast exactly once per day. To cast a spell, the caster must spend 1 mana point and make strange noises and gestures. Casters get +2 spells chosen from the disciplines known or scrolls and grimoires on every level. Casters start with a mana value of 1, and when meditating on an item, they understand its magics. Casters may channel mana into a magical attack. This does not necessitate mana expenditure, and deals 1d6 damage (explodes on a 6) + Focus. Now, veterans will know what “explodes on a 6” means, but the pdf fails to explain what exploding dice are. (If you’re puzzled: If you roll the maximum on the die, you roll again and add the results together.) In any way, the notion of exploding dice should be explained here. Victims of such an attack may save on constitution or dexterity to halve the damage. The caster may also spend 1 mana if close to an ally to shield one target per level from spell effects. Okay, can this be done when it’s not the caster’s turn? How close does the ally have to be? This is pretty opaque. Casters may use all weapons, but not any armor.

We get 3 sample disciplines with short spell write-ups for each – in case you were wondering: Yep, the spellcasting engine is pretty similar to that of Adventure Fantasy Game. The level of precision of the spells, however, does oscillate and vary rather greatly. The Æther Path’s kataplasm spell, for example, greases a tightly-defined area with precise borders, while Psychomancy’s dust of the sandman spell covers “a small area” – whatever that’s supposed to mean in game terms. Before you’re asking – no, this does not concisely define what’s “nearby” etc. Regarding rules-precision, there are quite a few instances where some more stringent and tighter codifications would have made sense, even for a rules-lite game. The fourth discipline, surprisingly, does not grant spells per se; instead the Jevnacack Praxis basically provides a Vancian tweak to overcome the 1/day spell limit and the requirement to know a discipline. I like this example of how the concept can tweak the playing experience.

Finally, there would be the eponymous mageblade class, which receives d8 for hits and gains Focus on all saves. Additionally, they can spend 1 Mana to add Focus to the athame’s melee attacks. The athame would be the bound ritual blade of the class, with damage depending on size. Athames also store the mageblade’s mana, and if lost, bonding to a new one takes a month. The blademagic Perk allows the mageblade to 1/round when wielding the athame, spend one mana to activate a variety of benefits, which include adding Focus, attacking 3 enemies or make the athame take flight. This does not specify how far it can float per round. Doubling damage based on type is also available, but it’s weird: This one implies that the banes need to learned separately, when the blademagic Perk does not specify as such. So, is only one blademagic gained per taking of the Perk, or does the mageblade get all of them? Each order has a list of available banes, but since the Perk lists the option for additional ones, does this mean you could spend a Perk to gain another order’s bane? Or does this mean that these are the sole banes available for taking via Perks? No idea. Mageblades may also cast devotions, their spell equivalent. They begin play with one devotion, but additional devotions require taking a Perk. These devotions are granted by membership in an order – the class does not classify whether membership in an order locks the mageblade out of other orders or not. I assume so, based on the rules material present (or lack thereof), but the similarity of orders and caster disciplines means that this may not be intended. Mageblades may use weapons, armor and shields. 2 sample orders are presented alongside their respective devotions. These, once more, are sometimes rather lacking in precision. A coiled snake will coil around the mageblade, and attack anyone attacking the mageblade in melee. Okay. How? How much damage? Why not at-range? Can it be killed?

Beyond basic starting equipment, 5 starting packages of equipment are provided, as are guidelines for mundane equipment, and the pdf provides a couple of equipment pieces regarding arms and armor – enough to extrapolate new equipment and price it. Another inconsistency here is that the equipment implies differentiation between damage types, which is something I do enjoy; however, the remainder of the pdf does not make this distinction. Similarly, the pdf is inconsistent with damage notation, sometimes just providing a damage value, sometimes referencing wounds, which implies a difference between them or individual injury tracking, which the rules RAW do not support.

Okay, so how does combat work? For initiative, roll 1d6, with rogues getting +1. Combatants act from highest to lowest value, with ties decided by level first, then, if still tied, the PC goes first. PCs may delay their action, acting at a lower initiative number. Since this RAW does not change initiative, you could act twice in a short time. Not a fan there.

During a round, a character gets one action: Move closer to the enemy (by how much?), attack, retreat (how far), cast a spell, etc. Hitting an enemy requires a roll under Melee or Missile, and this roll must also exceed the target’s Defence value. This is pretty interesting and something I enjoy. Damage ranges from d4 to d8 in base damage, with the fighter increasing damage by one step, up to d10 for two-handed weapons. The game does not specify what happens if a target gets to 0 hits, leaving that up to the referee. Saves are pretty basic and explained in a tight manner. Apart from the movement ambiguity, this section is solid.

The pdf also includes a couple of adventure locales with abbreviated stats for targets, and there is a quick table to generate NPCs etc. on the fly. 6 sample magic items are provided. A night of rest regains Focus hits, +1 if a character with Surgery is available. The pdf does note overland movement, traps and secret doors, and no, magic bonuses do not stack. The pdf concludes with some nice notes to hack the engine for your own games, which was something I very much enjoyed seeing.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting on a formal language are good – I did notice a couple of inconsistencies and typos, though. On a rules-language level, Mageblade! Zero has some ways to go. Its precision oscillates greatly, and rules-concepts are not always where they should be. A general rule should not require extrapolation from a class feature, and terminology should be concisely explained in a consistent manner. If you’re not a veteran or require precise rules, then be warned. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard without interior artworks. Utterly no-frills and decent, but not exactly aesthetically pleasing. Utterly annoying: The pdf does not have bookmarks, which is, particularly for a rules-booklet, a pretty big comfort detriment these days.

Paolo Greco’s “Mgeablade Zero!” is an interesting game that offers quite a few really cool ideas in how they gel together; the core mechanic is intriguing, and there are quite a few decisions in the class design and the Perk/Skill-system I very much enjoy. Mageblade Zero! manages to create a rules-lite game with meaningful differentiations between characters of one class, and even offers a degree of meaningful tactics and some player agenda during character growth. I really, really enjoy this, and there is a LOT about this game that I really love.

HOWEVER, this is the ZERO-edition, and more so than e.g. Macchiato Monsters , it really feels like a ZERO-version, a playable BETA-version. There are a lot of minor hiccups and gratingly byzantine decisions regarding the presentation sequence of rules, and their precision, something just as important for rules-lite games as for more rules-heavy ones, still leaves quite a lot to be desired, including some core aspects of the game.

Don’t get me wrong, though: You can use this system if you have some gaming experience and you can have fun with it. In fact, I think Mageblade’s ZERO-edition is already more rewarding and fun than either of the playstyles supported by Adventure Fantasy Game. It’s elegant and simply more fun. In fact, Mageblade! has the potential to evolve into my favorite rules-lite game; it offers simplicity and choice, and it may be taught within minutes. This game has the potential to become a 5 star + seal of approval game, but as written, in its current iteration, I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars, rounded down, for this game.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mageblade! Zero
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