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Madhouse: A Lockwood's Asylum RPG
Publisher: Blackout Games, LLC
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/07/2020 23:58:26

Holy Moses this is offensive. I mean come on. This isn't "eldritch horror in the shadow of a 1920s madhouse," this is a modern day mental hospital full of abuse and murder and trauma. The representation of insanity, cheerfully sorted into five nearly distinct "disorders," is both downright facile and hugely insulting. And don't think that just because they put in a 1/6th page sidebar saying "hm, mental health is actually much more complex than this" they're magically off the hook for the absolutely reprehensible way they present the lives and sickness of people who aren't "technically" real but absolutely resemble the public's fevered imaginings of actual mental patients.

Let me be clear, I am not saying "oh this might hurt someone's feelings." I am saying that I, as a bog-standard psychiatric patient, am actively offended by this. I am aghast at its existence, embarrassed by its presence on this website, and furious that real life trauma could be so readily commodified into a spinoff of a card game. This roleplaying game does a hateful disservice to the one in four people in this country that have experienced or will some day experience mental illness. Such willful misrepresentation of real-life trauma and suffering can only be described as mean-spirited, and I wish upon the creators nothing but the obvious repercussions of the energy they've chosen to put into the world.

I am repulsed.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Madhouse: A Lockwood's Asylum RPG
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City of Mist Case: Killing Her Softly
Publisher: Son of Oak Game Studio
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/07/2020 14:55:25

Excellent! Complex, plenty of red herrings, some good places for the PCs to screw up and shut off leads without shutting out the rest of the story. Shame the title of the piece is basically a dead giveaway of the plot, but that's hardly the end of the world. Also the absolute randomness of the Rifts in this is hilarious, in my opinion.

Oh! And disability representation! Man, everything about that character was great. Well done.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
City of Mist Case: Killing Her Softly
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City of Mist Case: Demons in Cross End
Publisher: Son of Oak Game Studio
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/07/2020 14:51:28

Good stuff! Good Halloween themed case. It's worth noting that if the players go at things in a certain order, one has to awkwardly withhold certain characters until later. That said, I don't know how you'd build around that, considering the incredibly obvious nature of the action ... eh. Either way, four stars. Good stuff.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City of Mist Case: Demons in Cross End
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City of Mist Case: V is for Going Viral
Publisher: Son of Oak Game Studio
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/07/2020 14:49:03

A good case, although some elements are easy to overlook. I had to wing it as far as the behavior of teenagers who were already involved, because there's no real guidance to exactly what that's about. But it's good.

STG, I'm taking off an entire star for that title. V is not, in fact, for Going anything. G is for Going something, V is for Viral. GTFO.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
City of Mist Case: V is for Going Viral
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City of Mist: Player's Guide
Publisher: Son of Oak Game Studio
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/28/2020 00:54:04

This is a really great game. It's the one good part of Fate grafted onto the PBtA system and it works perfectly. Honestly this might be my new model for future games, too. It will accommodate any setting that involves magic with basically no changes.

As for the setting, I love the glitzy surface level of it but I'm actually reluctant to dig any deeper. There's a lot going on in the lore expansion books but ... I just don't care? I don't actually want to know, and I say that as a Forever GM. We just play in a Dark City-style Quantum 80s where the cars have fins, everyone wears a trenchcoat, and there's Facebook, but no cell phones. The city is all there is and who cares about the rest?

Really, though, this book is all you need to play the game. There may be good stuff in the others, but they are optional. I recommend trying this out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
City of Mist: Player's Guide
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Dino-Wars: DUOLOGY (bundle)
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/22/2020 16:22:46

I wanted to love this. Dinosaurs? Riding dinosaurs? Awesome! But the books are a mess. The order of information is nonsensical, the PDF ToC is incorrectly tiered in the second book and just not present in the first, the text makes reference to appendicies that aren't there ("See Gold-Tusk’s Unfinished Map (Appendix C)"--Appendix C is Monsters and NPCs), and this has obviously never been spellchecked. It also suffers from Quantum McGuffin; if the players don't happen to retrieve a powerful but unmentioned item on their way, the person who needs it just has it. Plus, there are a dozen-odd places on this island described in detail that your players will never get to--I guess that's not that bad, but it feels pretty pointless. This whole thing could be tightened considerably.

Significantly worse than any of that, in my opinion, is the characterization of the Paku in the first half. Please take note:

  • You can see that one man sits in a throne made from what looks to be the bones of some large creature. He wears tribal warpaint, a sharp claw from some long dead dinosaur is pierced below his bottom lip, and long, heavy dreadlocks fall around his muscular shoulders and bare chest. He raises his fist and the room becomes quiet.
  • He begins to talk in broken common ‘Tribesmen, family. Me Chief Cargoth call you here with regret. Terror comes Paku’s way from east! Evil strangers from distant land come to take our home! New friend here...’ at this he motions to the slender form in the shadowy corner ‘...comes to warn Paku tribe. Paku hunters must prepare to defend Paku Village by manning Nula Ruin, enemy comes by way of Three Horn Valley tonight!’

Yikes. Yiiiiiiiiiiikes. At least that doesn't continue into the second half, but still. Yikes.

Overall, it's not worth the price, nor is it worth the hassle of running it.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Dino-Wars: DUOLOGY (bundle)
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The Interview
Publisher: Glass-Free* Games
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/07/2020 18:13:09

This is cute! To picture the setting, just see Foster & Digby talking trash in Stranger in a Strange Land. I will say that it's a little difficult to maintain the positive outlook this calls for in this year of our lord 2020, but hey.

One tweak I'd make is that the Executive makes a resume of their greatest accomplishments/disappointments, then notes a few things about their reactions to same. You're meant to share that with the Spirit so they can steer towards them, but I think if I were to do it again I'd keep the reactions to myself, and only inform them of the events, so the reactions can come out in play. Otherwise a nice simple game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Interview
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Taverns, Inns, and Taprooms: In Hell
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/25/2020 13:53:39

Good content, bad PDF. I like two of the three Inns here (the other is a Guy Fieri joke that doesn't do it for me, but YMMV). I really dislike the fact that PDF navigation is broken, the text is a jumble when you copy & paste out of it, and that things aren't labeled properly. (Like "glass of reverals" is in the items as "revisal hourglass" and for some reason searing "hourglass" only turns up the text in the appendix and not the part of the text where it talks about how you get the hourglass and basically the whole thing is just a mess.)

I love the ideas, but I'd be better off printing it out and flipping.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Taverns, Inns, and Taprooms: In Hell
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Creator Reply:
Very strange - I've not heard any other complaints about the text search functionality of the PDF. I'll have to look into that when I do the update for this PDF - but I can't seem to recreate the issue on my end. How often acrobat updates and uploads cause issues, it's sad that it's not a huge shock to me. Hopefully I can find what's causing the problem and sort it out for the next version.
OH HEY, if you're having trouble copy/pasting from the PDF - try the Printer Friendly version. I tested both and printer friendly version seems to hold the formatting much better since the background is a non-issue (white). Depending on a NUMBER of factors, that might be easier to navigate on your machine! Happy hunting in hell.
Songs of Aedragard
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/31/2020 19:55:30

There's good components here, but I don't feel that it actually comes together in a coherent way. On the way in, you're menaced by wolves that work for a dragon, but there's no indication of the dragon itself unless you suddenly find yourself fighting it. When you get to the keep you've got dead folks in their bed, despite the fact that they were supposedly killed by a dragon attack. When you get to the basement, you've got ghosts (no mention of their remains) and if you manage to appease the ghosts, everything is fine and you can go home and no further mention is made of the dragon. Oh, and the ghosts are because of an artifact with with the players never interact. What?

I like the notion here; the framework is solid and I like that there are characters with wants and needs and that you can do the whole thing on "pacficist" (if you don't mind running from wolves) but otherwise it's kind of incoherent. Also it's rife with typographical issues, the organization can get blown out the window if your players do anything other than walk in a straight line, and the map numbers don't correspond to the scene numbers.

tl;dr: Neat idea; needs work.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Songs of Aedragard
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Fortune's Childe
Publisher: Hawvermale Paper & Pen
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/29/2020 19:11:21

This game has an interesting idea but the execution is pointlessly complex. I get almost an old-school vibe from the way skills and checks fit together, except it feels like this hasn't been playtested at all.

Take "Dark Fhama." All checks in this game involve drawing a Major Arcana card. If that card is inverted (meaning upside-down), the character earns 2DF. This happens frequently--about every other draw, because the game stresses that you should shuffle the deck on both orientations, which means that at any given time about half the cards will be inverted. So every two checks, you wind up adding 2DF--or if you prefer, an average of one for every single check you make.

The thing is, Dark Fhama is also a penalty to your checks. After eight checks or so, you will likely have 8DF. Dark Fhama can only be discharged under certain circumstances, and only once a day, and most importantly, your Dark Fhama score is a penalty on every single check you make. Speaking of which, discharging Dark Fhama is accomplished via a skill check, and it's a skill that is rated 8+level. Which means that at first level--sorry, 0th level, because of course--the only way to pass a check to clear 8 Dark Fhama is by drawing the Fool. If you get 10 Dark Fhama--if you have a busy day, in other words--you literally cannot discharge it until you level up twice.

Speaking of levels, let's talk crunch. We're looking at weapon proficiencies, folks, one per 3 levels, for a single weapon at a time. Each level also gives you one "skill point" which applies to what is basically the list of non-weapon proficiency list from AD&D2e. And the game has an XP system, with no mention of milestone progression, which is a weird choice for 2016.

It's like ... here's this idea of a fey child prancing merrily through the world, carefree and enjoying adventures alone. Now here's an iron grate of punishing rules to squish down over that concept! It's just such a bizarre a tonal mismatch.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Fortune's Childe
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Adventure Sidekicks: Descent into Avernus
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/09/2020 23:26:57

For a small group, sometimes you need a hireling or two. Using leveled NPC blocks is way easier than trying to maintain extra characters, especially if you want to avoid the temptation to DMPC. There are some good options in here, too. Highly recommend.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Adventure Sidekicks: Descent into Avernus
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Encounters in Avernus
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/09/2020 23:24:01

Really great encounters and plenty of them. Many will be random seeds that definitely come back later. Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Encounters in Avernus
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No Country For Old Kobolds
Publisher: Steve Wallace Art
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/02/2020 23:45:42

I really wanted to like this game. I really tried to like this game. I love games with incompetent disposable characters because they're a lot of fun. Or at least I love them when they're a lot of fun.

My core complaint is that almost everything is handled by the "Duck, Cover, and Squirm" move, which results in a d6 of damage even on a partial success. The thing is, PCs have 1d6 hit points. So that means almost every check has about an 80% chance of dealing potentially lethal damage to the person making it. We played for two sessions and I think we had exactly one kobold survive two consecutive dice rolls. (They died on the third.) So instead of making "incompetent and disposable" fun, it's just kind of punishing. Players were afraid to roll the dice, and tried to weasel around moves. It's just not a good time. We went through several missions, a few village advancements, several variations of ability combinations ... it just didn't work for us.

The PDF also merits consideration. It's cute, certainly, but it's big and clunky; flipping through it to run the game involved a lot of sitting around waiting for it to load. Which is unfortunate, because you're constantly referring back and forth to different parts of it. The ToC isn't bad, but it's not quite great, either. Very frustrating experience all around.

I feel like I should end on a "no country" pun, but I'm honestly too disappointed. If you want kobold shenanigans, play Kobolds Ate My Baby. This game is a good idea, but the execution just doesn't work.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
No Country For Old Kobolds
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Exilium Core Rules
Publisher: Fire Ruby Designs
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/17/2017 22:12:12

I'll be honest, I don't even remember backing this Kickstarter, but I am so glad that I did. This is like Nephilim in space. Or you could run a government campaign and it would be like Kult in space. Either way, it's a glorious combination of tropes. It's written for D6, which is a perfectly functional system, or you can convert it into just about anything, because the concepts that make it so brilliant aren't system-dependent at all. Highly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Exilium Core Rules
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Nightmares of the Dead Dreamers (Digital Early Release)
Publisher: Atramentis Games
by Patrick H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/05/2017 19:20:46

By all the gods! A game more pretentious than Immortal: The Invisible War!



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Nightmares of the Dead Dreamers (Digital Early Release)
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