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Offworlders
Publisher: Chris Wolf
by Damien L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/27/2020 06:58:03

Finally got around to playing this and the consensus (from 3 players, including my son, and 1 GM (me)) was that our first session was “great”. Given this is a free download with just over 30 pages of content, to the consumer I highly recommend you do just that, download and judge for yourself. To the author I say thankyou for putting so much content into such a tiny package. I mention in the Offworlders products “Discussions” tab that my son wanted to play a “Star Wars” RPG and Offworlders provided everything we needed. Introducing players to the rules, creating characters, and preparing a session were all so easy. The only time-consuming aspect was ensuring I had all the Star Wars lore correct (Ship types, planet names, technology etc.) as I am only a Star Wars fan but no Star Wars Nerd.

The players had had no exposure to the rules before the session and in under 15 minutes the adventure began. Does any of the following sound familiar?

The Death Star has just been destroyed.

Sometime in the past the PCs had run afoul of TEEMO THE HUTT, a crime boss who's palace was located in the tiny spaceport MOS SHUUTA on TATOOINE. Several weeks ago they made their escape from both TEEMO and MOS SHUUTA by steeling the KRAYT FANG, a YT-1300 light freighter from a Trandoshan slaver named Trex.

[All the above “borrowed” from the FFG Star Wars Edge of the Empire starter set].

Since then, finding jobs that pay enough to maintain the freighter has been hard work, to the point the PCs are wondering if it is actually all worth it. However they have recently been contacted by a group of rebels who have a job whose pay will not only cover the past, but also future costs for some time to come.

RING OF KAFRENE ✨ Mining colony and deep-space trading post in the Kafrene asteroid belt of the Thand sector. The PCs are currently located here and their freighter has been impounded until its debts have been paid.

THE WARREN (A Cantina) PCs are approached by a scruffy looking human who somehow knows they owe a lot of money. He can offer to pay for their current debts over the last few weeks as down payment for a snatch and grab job "a lowly armed transport - easy!". If they accept, a bigger payment will be paid upon delivery of a package found on the transport.

Basically steal package and deliver to rebels (Sounds all too familiar).

Did not play the above BTW, it was just for the background material – meet in a bar, etc., etc.

In a 2.5-hour session the players who had never before seen the rules:

• Rolled up PCs (1 Warrior, 1 Geek, 1 Physic)

• Created a starship

• Talked with a rebel sympathiser and accepted a mission

• Intercepted a "TRANSPORT" - Munificent-Class Star Frigate (Clone Wars era) – “lured” form hyperspace by PULSE-MASS generator mines.

• Fought a space battle with a Vulture-class droid STARFIGHTER (after a failed piloting check to approach undetected)

• Entered the transport and searched for the “special cargo”

• Set of a laser trap

• Defended against two Super Battle Droids (where the Wookie warrior self-sacrificed to defeat the last droid [he rolled so badly during the encounter])

• Acquired the cargo – Kyber Crystals and a Night Sister’s Head – still alive but no torso (undead).

• Arrived at Rebel base only to find they have all been killed (combat staged by Empire to look as if a local warlord clan was responsible)

• Met new PC, an outlaw (in shiny Heavy armour) – yep, he’s paranoid about death now.

Pros:

So easy to pick up but has depth, including PCs level up, and so easy for a DM to wing it – little or as much preparation time as you feel necessary.

Being a PbtA based game the advantage of telling/improvising a story based on Full (10+), Partial (7 -9), or No Success (6 or less) as opposed to a binary (Success / Fail system).

Easy character creation (helps given PCs should be considered fragile)

This is not a full PbtA game, so players are not "limited" by set moves and there are no relationship specific rules. This is a Pro for me as I have no PbtA experience so this simplified take made me feel confortablke about running a game.

Cons:

Given my group is an experienced d20 crowd (Currently playing a Starfinder campaign, and prior to that several 5e campaigns) we are PbtA amateurs. This is not really a fault of the rules but rather our experience. For example, in combat we (mostly) decided Success = PCs deal damage, Complication = PC and NPC exchange damage, and Failure = NPC deals damage, which meant after a few bad rolls the Wookie was dead. We also learned that armour plays a big part. Subtracting 2 from a d6 damage is a big factor.

So there is no real Con to the system other than to say that adding some complication examples would make this game even greater. An example (taken from a forum) is a complication may mean the PC is simply pinned down and another PC must intervene rather than straight out damage. We did use “gun over heats” and “gun jams” but a list of suggested complications for various activities in the rules would be a massive boon.

So if you like the idea of easy to grasp rules that take the backstage, quick PC generation, simple character advancement, and a system that encourages the DM to improvised based on what the PCs do, I can highly recommend giving Offworlders a try.

Next week the PCs will:

• Deal with an Empire’s spy droid currently spying on the rebel base

• Deal with a bounty hunter who has been paid to retrieve the outlaws heavy armour

• Discover the Night Sister’s head can teach the Physic some Light Sabre and Force knowledge

• Fly to the original cargo’s destination and deal with a minor undead bug investigation at the local temple if the PCs want to be rid of "The Witches Head".

All in a days (session) work.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Offworlders
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The North Sea Epilogues
Publisher: Dice Up Games
by Damien L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/28/2018 06:44:45

I don’t own any of their boardgames nor did I back this RPG on KS (alas). Rather I brought this from RPGNow based on the expected great artwork (expectations met) and pre-gen character sheets (that you can download from the games KS page – the 27th Sep update) that left me wanting to know more. In an initial flip through I wasn’t sure if this game was for me but now that I have read the rules properly (1st pass) I quite like what I see. Mind I have not read the campaign and only skimed through one adventure at this stage.

We are told it is a narrative game but given it uses a d20 I thought it would be closer to the RPGs I am used to (D&D, AD&D, 3e, 4E, 5E, and Starfinder). It is indeed a narrative game but one that I think I would enjoy playing. The rules (including a page of typical male/female Viking Names) is less than forty pages. The rest of the book is a campaign and 16 adventure modules! If each module takes one (two to four hour) session I think I got my monies worth. Oh, and when it says it’s not the final print version, it looks pretty complete to me.

It starts with one page on introducing RPGs and this games game flow. Next two page sets the scene – briefly introducing the Viking world. One page covers questions the GM/Players should answer to create their clan. The next ten pages cover Hero creation. Players assign points to the four attributes (Mind, Will, Body, and Combat), assign points to the twenty skills (five per attribute), pick a Quality from a suggested list of eleven (reduce Difficulty Level (DL) of relevant challenges), write some traits/flaws (be creative), choose one specialised skill (grants advantage to skill roll), and choose one of ten Viking Themed paths (e.g. The Skald). Each path has a one paragraph description of the path (what they typically do), something particular (special) to the path, the starting gear for that path, and a list of questions to help flesh out the character.

An example scenario can be downloaded (again from the KS page) which gives a good overview of what a GM needs to do when writing an adventure, provide: a summary, an opening, a description of the setting the heroes are in, list some questions for the heroes, another list of likely scenes, a series of challenges, a list of complications, some hooks, and some paragraphs describing “Other Considerations”. Now if you look at an example character sheet it has the Game Flow depicted on it: the GM presents the situation, the player states their Goal and their Approach, the GM sets the DL and Target Number (described later), adjustments are made (traits, situation, etc.), the player rolls a d20 and the outcome is determined. All of this, adventure creation, setting challenges, and game flow are described very well in only a few pages. These days I like games that are brief and NSE nails it.

I was reminded of Apocalypse World (which I have not played) in that rather than Pass/Fail, there are degrees of success/failure. The GM summarises the result but (the part I like) it is the player who describes exactly what happens. A challenge may be a simple one roll affair, but complicated tasks may take several rolls. This is where the Target Number comes in. TN three means three successes are required (but a player may gain three successes in single roll if they roll high enough). If they roll badly they take Strain (which again the player describes the form of strain) and once enough strain is accumulated an injury results (making skill checks with the related stat harder, or even impossible).

So whilst a d20 is used, this is not D&D. There are no turns, grids, movement speed, hit points, magic or monsters (no kick down the door so you can then kill them and take their stuff). Foes in this game are challenges with DLs and TNs assigned by the GM. Other additional stuff are some rules on reputation (heroes’ and clans’), economy and gear (equipment, plunder, expenses). All these are briefly described over half a dozen pages (some might say slightly hand wavy, but that would be a harsh statement). For this sort of game you don’t need anything more. The rules get the job done and do it well.

I am used to playing “save the world” epic campaigns so I am not sure how I would go about coming up with my own adventures initially, but with a campaign and sixteen adventures in the book I have plenty to feed my imagination. Initially I wasn’t sure if I had spent wisely adding this game to my vast collection, but after reading the rules I am pretty sure it was money well spent. If it does see the table it will be a nice change of pace from our usual affair. Finally, the game fits the theme very well Vikings, longships, and reputations but there would be no reason you couldn’t take the rules and use in another setting. The rules are simple enough you could add/take as you see fit. If you think a narrative game that uses the fickle d20 is up you alley, I think you could do much worse. I will give it an unplayed five stars. It is one of very few narrative games I think could work at our old school table.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The North Sea Epilogues
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Dark Deeds in Last Hope (Starting)
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Damien L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/04/2018 08:24:45

This was the first time we played SotDL (been playing RPGs since 1979) and Dark Deeds in Last Hope (DDiLH) was the perfect choice for SotDL noobs like us. Not only because there is a lot of suggestions on how you might run things, but the adventure itself is very enjoyable and easy to run. Although the page count of DDiLH is a "whopping" (when compared with other SotDL published adventures) 15 pages! this is simply because it provides a lot of advice useful to both new players and new game masters. Within these pages you get:

  • Art filled cover and adventure premise snippet.
  • Suggestions how different ancestries fit into the community of Last Hope (the town where the adventure starts).
  • List of equipment that PCs may find over the course of the adventure (in addition to rewards at specific locations).
  • Six clues, each one handed to a PC based on their profession type.
  • Optional Path Point System aimed at assisting which Novice path a player should choose at the end of the adventure based on the actions of their PC during the adventure.
  • Suggestions for replacing PCs who die with randomly rolled townsfolk (names & professions) together with a “Local” (townsfolk) stat block.
  • Rules for “creating” Last Hope where you drop dice on the supplied empty map of the town and buildings are assigned based on where the dice fall.
  • Descriptions of the people/places of interest in town – A priest, temple (with cemetery), tavern, abandoned workshop, and constables’ office.
  • Two of the main characters (and their stat blocks).
  • Five pages of story dived into scenes with each scene containing suggestions on which scene to do next based on the players actions.

Good:

  • The story itself was quite good and had some unexpected twist and turns. It’s also worth noting that the adventure isn’t as dark/horrific as some of the other SotDL adventures.
  • The suggestions for what scene comes next were handy (even more so for novice GMs).
  • The clue handouts were a nice touch – who doesn’t like a handout?
  • The town creation rules were simple but added some Player/GM ownership and depth.

Bad:

  • Nothing really but if I had to pick on something some might say the scene descriptions are unnecessarily long (but given its usefulness to a novice GM I disagree) and given all up its 12 pages of adventure (including the cover) it’s still not a lot to read for one night of adventure.
  • I also didn’t care for the Path Point System myself as it seemed extra book work for little gain but others might like having such decisions based on in game actions which is definitely in the spirit of SotDL.

In Play (Potential Spoilers)

We are a small group of three RPG players and with one player “on leave” for two weeks, the rest of us (two) decided to try SotDL having never played it before. That said we are quite familiar with d20 based systems (Basic D&D, AD&D, 3.0, 3.5, 4.0, 5E, and PF) and it was pleasing to find during play the rules were never an issue. I made my own 6 pages of “cheat sheets” which pretty much covered everything one would require in play without opening the rulebook just in case and that should indicate how simple the game is to run.

Given we had only 3 hours I had my friend roll up 4 Staring PCs, a dwarf acolyte, a human, a clockwork, and a goblin, beforehand. So already the acolyte and clockwork fitted into the story well.

Opening scene sees a panicking NPC running from the temple towards the players who grab him and manage to calm him down. The acolyte was immediately concerned for the priest so after some quick questioning sent the stranger on his way without escort to the tavern – whoops! They also failed to notice a bulge in his pants that certainly was no squirrel!

At the temple they took in the scene, discovered a relic was missing, and decided to split the party – yay! Two went towards the woods where they thought they saw some movement deeper in the trees. One stayed in the temple to read the priests letters. The fourth went to talk with the constable. All the while they wondered where the priest, Father Solomon, might be.

The goons in the prison cell were none too pleased to hear a description of their leader being sent to the tavern for a stiff drink as the fourth PC described the nights events to the constable. The PC made a mental note of their reaction but failed to notice the state of the cells lock. The party regrouped and went to see how the guy from the temple was fairing only to discover he was a no show at the tavern. “What the ?”

The party then decided to venture into the woods and came upon a woodman’s body, stripped of clothing. Pressing on they came upon a camp where the same woodsman, now apparently alive, ran from a tent straight towards then as an animated corpse stumbled towards him. The “What the?” moment here was really cool. Dispatching the corpse was not an issue and after questing the woodsman's double they realised they had a changeling on their hands.

They ignored her pleas to look for the mayor’s son (and her friend/lover) and took her back to town only to discover a jailbreak had occurred and a break in of a nearby house by the 4 goons was currently underway. They of course went to the occupant’s rescue and after a slightly protracted battle, where despite the acolyte’s crap armour not a single blow could a goon lay on him the goons were dispatched. Surely evidence of the New God ability to protect their own? The goons boss also tried to sneak up on the PCs goblin archer but failed and was quickly set upon in turn and died when he decided things weren’t looking good and tried to run.

With the goons and their leader dispatched and the relic recovered, they got the bad-tempered tavern owner to clean up the mess and returned to the camp in the woods. From here they followed another trail to a small clearing where the mayor’s son whimpered and spat at the “witch hunters” to stay back. A short fight broke out but the necromancer in the making soon surrendered just as three ‘goat’ headed Beastmen investigating the sounds of combat gate crashed the scene. Alas for them the PCs again quickly dispatched their new opponents and returned to town with mayor’s son in toe.

Conclusion

We easily wrapped up the adventure in the short time frame which given we had never played before was really cool. I was quite surprised not a single PC went down. My friend and I both really enjoyed the adventure and look forward to next week when we will try a Novice adventure. So that’s a thumb up from both of us for the adventure and another thumb for SotDL itself.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dark Deeds in Last Hope (Starting)
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INDEX CARD RPG Core 2E
Publisher: RUNEHAMMER GAMES
by Damien L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/31/2017 08:35:38

The Index Card RPG Core rulebook – An “I haven’t played it yet” review.

For an excellent overview of what you are getting you could do worse than watching this video from the creator:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mzKxWoADJfs

and this one on character creation:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uh2B5eWsNPo&t=414s

and for session reports try here:

https://youtu.be/uf5-l_pGUyI

But if you don’t have the spare 4 hours up your sleave or have been banned from youtube for one reason or another, here is my take on what you are getting.

Whilst it is based on a familiar d20 system with six character attributes it puts a whole new spin on almost everything.

The how to play and getting started sections which includes character creation comes in at just under 30 pages which I find comparable to many other “OSR” rulesets, be they original or new, but with all the new twists this is no OSR. But it certainly is simple and open for home brew modifications like any good OSR/clone.

I’ll start with Character creation:

Choose an image (hero card or miniature) and based on that choose a name and background story. Then assign six points to any one of the six standard STATS (Strength, Dexterity, Constitution, Intelligence, Wisdom, or charisma) OR the ARMOUR slot, or any one of the EFFORT slots (Basic Work, Weapons Damage, Magic Effect, or Ultimate) and I’ll explain EFFORT in a moment. Whilst I’ll miss the roll 3d6 in order this does mean you can play that characters image/miniature you had in mind from the get go. Each point in a slot adds that number to the relevant roll. Again I’ll will explain on how rolls are judged as success or failure in a bit but for now it’s a d20 roll over system.

You then choose one piece of starting gear from a list of 13 items but nothing stops you from coming up with something and getting your Dungeon Master’s (DM) agreement. Each adds that bonus to a relevant roll or slot, e.g. Meditation Beads (+1 WIS); Weapon Kit (+2 Weapon Effort – Effort? – I’m getting there). You then choose 3 other items to round out your starting equipment from a list 10 items (which can easily be expanded upon). Items include common weapons (player chooses what and a list is provided after the classes), and things like Miner’s Gear, a Shield, or a simple pouch of 50 coin.

On coins, it is a single currency type (be they silver, gold, paper, whatever) and there are no lists of equipment, no prices, to get the good stuff such as armour, weapons, magic, players must find it in their adventures (the loot) – guess what? I’ll tell you about loot in a second too. So what do you do with coins? That’s totally up to you as a player and/or DM. Get a job, get paid 1 coin a day. Bribe the guard – Maybe that’s a week’s wage? (It’s all up to you and your DM).

Each character starts with 1 HEART where a HEART represents 10 points, call them hit points if you will, and a bit later we’ll see how they work.

Finally you get to choose a class and “bio-form”. Within the book there are two world options, a fantasy world and a sci-fi world. Each world offers 9 classes to choose from so that’s 18 classes (Fantasy examples include Blade, Shadow, Mage). But these classes are not what one might expect. Rather a class consists of a 2 to 3 sentence description, a short list of recommended gear, and a starter reward (a nice fancy item that adds a benefit appropriate to that class). But there are no experience points here and no levels. Rather, each class gets a short list of 5 to 7 “milestones” appropriate to that class and these add something special to your abilities. It might be Masterwork boots (+1 Dex), a Heart Stone (add one HEART to your PC), etc. The DM awards PCs Milestones when whenever they feel the time is right.

There are Fantasy Bio-Forms (Elf, Dwarf, Small Folk, Humans, Hill Folk) and Sci-Fi Bio-Forms (Reptoid, Psker, Geno, Xill, even Mecha) and you are encouraged to create your own. Each basically gives a modifier to one of your ‘slots’, e.g. Elf is +1 Dex and +1 Int.

I described character creation before “How to play” because this game is all about choosing something that sounds fun and fits your image/miniature/description. Does it matter what you choose? Hell no! – Just choose what fells right. Now that you have chosen, what does it mean?

The system has a suggested initiative system, roll to see who starts (or don’t roll its always your choice) and then simply go in clockwise order. It like everything else is so simple. It even suggests sitting in the following order after the DM: ‘Tank’, ‘Rogue’, ‘Mage’, and ‘Healer’ with a brief one liner why this might be a good idea. So it’s your turn, now what?

Well you can stay put and take an action, move NEAR and take an action, or move FAR. If you hadn’t guess movement and range is abstract CLOSE, NEAR, and FAR (with FAR being approximately the length of a banana if your using miniatures be they paper or otherwise). The banana reference is straight from the book and demonstrates precisely the object of this game have fun and apply the KISS principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). So Rules As Written (RAW) has range as abstract.

How do I take an action? Roll that d20 of course and beat the current TARGET number. The TARGET number is set by the DM and a suggestion is to set it for the encounter at hand and wack (display) that number in the players faces.

Example: The PC’s having set off a trap are in a room that’s slowly filling with water, several undead skeletons have risen up and are attacking the PCs, the only exit is a locked door and the DM has set the encounter TARGET number to 12. If the Blade (fighter) wants to swing his sword at a skeleton rolls d20 adds the appropriate stat (e.g. STR which might be +2), and maybe something else (magical sword maybe?) and needs a 12 to hit. The Shadow (thief) meanwhile is madly trying to pick the locked door before they all drown! On his turn he too rolls a d20, adds an appropriate stat (DEX) and he needs to beat? You guessed it 12, the current encounters pre-set TARGET.

OK so I succeeded, how much damage did the Blade do? Did the thief pick the lock? That’s when EFFORT and HEARTS come into play. Told you I would get there and describe these game descriptors. Effort comes in 4 forms: BASIC (using your hands a d4), using WEAPONS (a d6), using MAGIC (a d8), and ULTIMATE (a d12 and occurs when you roll 20, a critical when trying to succeed). OK so how many Hit Points does the skeleton have and is that damn door open? Well the skeleton might have 1 HEART (10 Points) which means if that Blade is using a weapon he rolls d6 worth of damage “effort”. He’ll definitely need to swing again before the skeleton is down.

A neat feature of the system is the locked door uses the same rules. Say the DM is being nasty and made the lock a “Tinklerson Special Mk II” of Gnomish manufacture and given it 2 HEARTS (20 points). That means the thief need to do 20 points of “effort” before he has succeeded. If he is using BASIC effort he rolls d4 and has several “turns” to go – how fast is that water coming in? Oh but he rolled a 20 – that’s a critical in other systems, but here it’s an ULIMATE, meaning he gets to roll a d12 and maybe that lock won’t take so long after all? What, he used a spell and rolled a 13? Well roll d8 then …

So now rather than a binary pass/fail system each action will take a numbers of turns before the number of HEARTS (determined by the DM) has been reduced to zero and the obstacle overcome. I’ll leave it to you to see the possibilities such a system opens up. The static TARGET number right there in front of the PCs leaves noting to doubt either – don’t like that? Don’t use it, but I thinks it’s neat.

It doesn’t end there as we have EASY and HARD TARGET numbers. If the DM says the ‘static’ TARGET number should be easier, maybe this is the second time in a row the PC is trying the exact same action, well he subtracts 3 from the TARGET because it’s EASY(er). Alternatively maybe the thief has a broken arm so the DM says it’s HARD and the PC must add three to the TARGET. Crap! maybe he should fight the skeleton and the Blade should just smash the !3@$ing door down! If you are familiar with advantage and disadvantage in 5E and other systems this is similar. Simple and elegant means for fast and furious fun.

Oh and how does the skeleton hit the Blade? DM rolls d20 vs PC’s ARMOUR as the target. ARMOUR starts at 10 and can increase from milestones (level ups) for certain classes, and/or equipment (loot). An equipped shield adds 2 for example, and you can have a maximum of 10 armour (TRAGET = 20). It’s a bit abstract but the goal is not to get bogged down in details.

Spells? They are basically character milestones (that they may start with or acquire later) and can also be found in loot (I’ll get there). Take a look at the Mage class. His suggested starter reward is “Arcane Missile” where he tests his INT (roll d20 vs current TARGET) on an enemy in sight and rolls d8 EFFECT if successful. This means a spell caster can cast whatever spells he knows all day and all night. There is an optional rule to limit this where basically after so many multiple castings you have to take a break for a few turns whilst you cool down. As written I like it as it is but need to see it in play before I commit.

This does mean starting spell casters will have just one spell at the start. Well they can have armour and be just as effective with weapons as any other class so it’s not a biggie. So how do they get more? Loot, the reason the players take the adventurers life in the first place! It is suggested when, but always at the DMs discretion, the players find loot. Often it will be in a locked chest, which has x number of HEARTS (effort) before it is opened. When loot is found there are a couple of d100 tables to roll on to determine what they have found. A “Common” Loot Table where they might find (roll) some coins, or a ferry pole (just like a 10’ pole only shorter); and a “Starter” Loot Table where they might find (roll) some armour, food (that heals), or a new spell. Does that mean my Blade can learn a spell? Yep – he just needs to make an INT roll (WIS if clerical), but once a PC learns a spell from a loot item it stays with that PC and effectively the item is consumed – no one else will be able to learn that spell unless they find it again later. I love random loot tables so this is right up my ally and the creator (Hank) is working on more tables.

Seems like I just used 30 pages to describe 30 pages of rules. But honestly, the system is very simple and flexible. If you like the sound of what I have described above you can’t go wrong with the Index Card RPG. On top of the cool system you get around 7 pages briefly describing a fantasy setting and another 7 describing the sci-fi setting (world primers) each with dozens of adventure seeds descriptions. You then get over 20 pages of DM advice, how to get your ideas on paper, when to make rolls EASY or HARD, using HEARTS, PC rewards (coins, loot, milestones), optional rules, session planning, story and encounter architecture suggestions, additional ideas on how to challenge PCs, and 10 encounter (room) design foundations. Then comes 23 mostly unique monsters including some standards (such as goblins, ogres, and skeletons) with each monster gets a 1 page spread. There are suggestions on creating you own which boils down to “power” descriptors but using the existing content I had documented (and posted) the stats for a mimic based on the AD&D entry – it was so simple!

Presentation is awesome – 121 pages of clear often humorous text with many, many illustrations (Black & White). Perhaps a bit shy on examples, but this is Version 1.1, Version 2 is on the way, and there is a Google+ community where the creator is an active (currently daily) participant. So there is plenty of support and plans for future upgrades and expansions are apparently in the works.

I bet you wish you watched those reviews now hey?

The creator suggests using his Index cards (also available on RPGNow) but by no means do you have to. I have Vol 1 myself and will definitely get Vol 2 soon as I personally love the art style and they will be great for planning stories, encounters, and even presentation to the players to get them immersed. My understanding is he is currently creating Vol 3 specifically for the sci-fi setting given the first two are fantasy themed. What more can I say? I have possibly said too much already but hopefully given you a good perspective of what you are getting. Definitely worth the price of admission to use the system as written (as I plan too) or simply pick ideas from it for your favourite system as others have suggested. This is not DnD or Savage Worlds as we know it but it’s definitely a Fast, Furious, and Fun game on paper and I’m very confident it will remain so in play.

Why not 5 stars? In my mind there is never a perfect game and I haven’t played this one yet – It might be a 4 and a half when I do – only time will tell – but it’s certainly up there in my top ten.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
INDEX CARD RPG Core 2E
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Bloody Harvest
Publisher: Mithrilpunk Press
by Damien L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/25/2017 02:29:30

Bloody Harvest – Playtest review with one DM (me) and one player controlling four PCs.

A neat little adventure that a party of four third level characters should have no trouble reaching its conclusion within three or so hours. The story itself was interesting, different from a run of the mill, and the player got quite into it which is a good sign. I was probably too easy on my player but he had no trouble getting through to the end.

With the 14 pages you get some nice consistent artwork, eight pages (two column format) that detail the adventure, a map of the warehouse where the bulk of the adventure takes place, a one page “bestiary” detailing the stats for three denizens in standard format (a spellcaster, goblin guards, and a unique beast), and one page of player handouts (six NPC descriptions used in the beginning “Cut Scene”). Given its free you might as well download it and review it yourself but I can highlight the following aspects:

The adventure introduces some unique mechanics that I quite liked. The first is a “Cut Scene” where the players learn some of the background story not by hearing it directly from the DM, but by acting it out using the NPCs involved. The second was a Suspense Level” mechanism that started at zero and could rise to five based on the time the PCs take to investigate each area and if they take actions that are likely to alert someone. The higher the suspense the harder for the PCs as events unfold. The third is a method to get all PCs involved in a search/investigation to take part, skilled or unskilled, rather than leaving it to the most skilled PC. The last was a “Heroic Inspiration” that saw the effects of a short rest just as the “Boss” battle commenced.

These “Unique Mechanics” are clearly highlighted in the text (using a green background colour) so the DM if necessary can quickly find what he is looking for. There are other highlighted text blocks (blue background) “Capturing the Feel” that describe what the authors were going for and how a DM may wish to describe or roleplay a scene. Experienced DMs may wish to ignore these completely but I found it useful to have such insight that fed my own ideas.

The Good:

  • The excellent story which was very suitable for a one shot that left you wanting more;

  • The unique mechanics introduced, especially the Cut Scene at the beginning;

  • The clues left for the PCs to piece things together, although it’s possible for the PCs to go directly to the end (my player didn’t), I felt the clues were useful, realistic story wise, and added some humour (like a good TV show).

  • The balance of both the encounters and the pace, was spot on as the PCs were challenged but never overwhelmed.

  • A couple of unique magical items that fitted into the story nicely and potentially in the future with the Legacy’s Wake Adventure Path.

The Bad:

(Bad seems too strong a word but here are some niggling elements you might whine about if you paid a lot of money – but you didn’t did you …)

  • In the beginning it encourages you to read the Travellers Guide to Skyfall on the MithrilPunk website but it isn’t there. I emailed them and they very quickly responded stating they hoped the website would be updated and they might add the Guide to the module. I hope they do as I now have a pdf copy of “Heroes of Skyfall” which contains the Guide and it does leave you with a good impression of Skyfall. So much so that I ordered the Legacy’s Wake Adventure Path from an online bookseller and said book happened to turn up yesterday.

  • There are some typos that normally don’t overly concern me but a couple of these threw me such that I wasn’t too sure of what I would present/describe to the PC until I read it a couple more times.

  • The description of the warehouse doesn’t quite match the map provided but the reply from one of the authors explained it was out of date and needed an update but there is no real impact. Just be aware and some forwarded planning/thinking would be a good idea so there is no pause in the action.

  • At the end the PC is betrayed. My player absolutely hated this. It obviously leads to future job opportunities if the PC “plays along” but I was a bit surprised by his savage reaction. It’s not a Bad thing at all really, just be aware a lot of PCs may not like how it ends. In my case the initial bad reaction led to future story possibilities – the player wants to return to Skyfall with the same PCs and seek revenge – so quite cool actually …

  • A rough map of the ship where the final encounter takes place would have been nice.

What I as DM did wrong:

  • I told the PCs the background story – why they were here – then did the Cut Scene. I should have done the Cut Scene first and then told them why they were here.

  • In the module in mentions “Search and Investigation” skills can be used so I took that as Perception. Who doesn’t have Perception? The result was that every Investigation in the warehouse was a doddle using the “Unique Mechanism” rules as they rolled 4d20 in every attempt. I should have been harder on him and made it investigation skill only so they didn’t get all the clues so easily. Overall it didn’t matter (and they did actually miss one or two).

  • OK we had one player and the Cut Scene is design for several players. So I made some adjustments that were OK but this would have been so much better with more players – at least three but four to six would have been ideal.

As I mentioned earlier, I was so impressed with the modules unique setting and features and then the “Heroes of Skyfall” content that I bought the Adventure Path “Legacy’s Wake”. Now I just need so time to digest that … Bloody Harvest in my opinion is well worth your investment, at least a look if nothing else …



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bloody Harvest
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Polyhedral Dungeon
Publisher: InfiniBadger Press
by Damien L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/02/2016 09:37:10

This review consists of the following parts – feel free to skip to the part that you feel interests you the most as I do tend to ramble: Part 1 – Ramble On Part 2 – PDs Social (What it looks like) Part 3 – PDs Mind (The rules) Part 4 – PDs Body (How it plays – 1 playtest under my belt) Part 5 – PDs Soul (Conclusion) Part 1 – “Gonna ramble on, sing my song. Gotta keep-a-searchin' for my baby...” I picked up Polyhedral Dungeon (PD) at RPGNow purely by chance. As it happens I visit the site once a day to see what’s new in the world of RPGs and pick up the odd game if its premise takes my fancy. Alas these days that often means it has to be cheap (not always but I do have strict instructions from she who must be obeyed to reign in my spending habits). I’m an old school gamer (been playing since 1980) who grew up with Basic (Blue Box) followed closely by AD&D (Looking back not bad for an Australia – maybe not such a backwater place now but it sure felt like it then). But I digress (as usual). So I am naturally attracted to games that state or imply they have that old school feel. So I saw PD and thought to myself nice premise, great cover, um …. Nah – I have bought a few (OK all) lately that won’t see the table I hold back on this one. But then my regular (and only) gaming group (all 3 of us; me and 2 “not my” brothers) had one guy going to the states for 3 weeks so the other brother asked if I wanted to try one of the many new rule sets (a running joke now how many games I buy). Initially I offered him 5E (our current system) with Dungeon Delves “No Laughing Matter” (I had heard good things) or maybe a new one I had my eye on. Surprisingly (to me) he choose the new one so I bought PD and I’m so glad I did. I have physical copies of Dungeon World, 13th Age, Torchbearer (3 copies) and many, many pdf’s of various osr clones but none have given me that “OK I’ll do it” like PD did (DW came close). You see, one brother is happy to try any system but doesn’t see the point of trying new systems. History: our group played together many years ago but reformed (albeit in a smaller capacity) a few years ago. We started with what was familiar (3.5), tried 4E (my fault), tried DCC (me again – good but too random), S&W (one brothers favourite and fine by me) but 5E gave everyone a bit of what they wanted. It certainly does a great job of recreating those AD&D days for me with new and improved features but I constantly find myself forgetting rules, and knowing they are in there somewhere I go looking for them. Then along came PD … it won’t replace 5E for our group (alas) but for me it’s the bees knees – I love it! Part 2 – Social = d10 If you gonna sucker me into a game you gotta have great artwork and PDs cover nails it for me. Its clean and simple, has a dragon sleeping on a pile of loot, immediately starts my imagination running, and having read and played the game captures th feel of PD perfectly. Man, even the font used to write “Dungeon” is crazy good. But what’s inside? In 50 pages, there are 15 (16 as one is repeated) pieces of artwork including the cover. Of those I adore 3 of them (4 as one is repeated) and most of the rest are fine. To me the ratio of art to pages is just right. Each is perfectly placed, cover – draws you in, part of 4 at character creation, party of 3 at a dungeon’s entrance, a battle field at the combat section, a pickie of each class and race, a treasure chest and coins (I’ll let you guess), and a skeleton warrior to start the monster section. All pieces are black and white. This is small press after all but the author has chosen wisely. Being pickie, the class/race illustrations are the weakest but are very old school and some I like, it’s just the Halfling that seems out of place being a different style (but that’s just me). Otherwise, organisation is top notch, rules as written just flow (despite character “creation” being after the main rules). There’s no index, but being 42 pages of actual rules you don’t need one (even with my aged memory cells). There are a lot of tables and even they appeal. So much so I adopted a similar appearance for an Operators Manual I’m currently writing at work. I reckon the boss is going to say “What the” (tempted as I was I didn’t use the font nor red) but honestly the tables shine which is good as there are 68 (my count) of them – which includes the stats for the Giant Badger on page 4 (nice touch). The one page character sheet has everything. Clear, concise, nice font choice, and the same standard three colours used throughout the rules, red, black and grey. I have just realised have to ask the author why the attribute d4 is coloured grey … When you buy the pdf you get a choice of black (& grey) and white, or the colour (adds red option). It won’t be taxing on the printer either way but I plan on buying a softcopy (or two) when they are released. We’re up to version 1.3 of the rules but the author is finalising that as I write. Because of the early release and having an active Google+ community it’s been a community effort to ensure the rules are error free. Not that there were many to begin with but the approach I think has ensured we get a quality product. Part 3 – PD Mind = d10 Rules, are they old school? No, but they definitely capture the feel of old school. There are 4 attributes (I hope you guessed Body, Mind, Soul, and Social) that cover all the bases but it’s not 3d6 (or even 2d6) a “polyhedral” represents the attribute (aka Savage Worlds or Cortex). Not only that, in the Basic Rules (what I’m reviewing) you don’t even choose what attribute gets what. Nope, choose your race/class (Cleric, Dwarf, Elf, Fighter, Halfling, Magic User, Rogue – that’s old school) and that determines your attributes (initially ranging from a d4 to a d8, and can be improved with experience make that brownie points). What you do get to choose is you starting 3 Talents and 200 coins to buy equipment (but even equipment selection is semi-predefined if you choose). Talents? They’re like edges, feats, or spells. Spells? Yes, no half you basic rulebook taken up with spell lists here. A Magic User for example can choose from detect magic, familiar, invisibility, light sprite (light) lightning bolt, magic armour, sleep, speed, and summon monster. What? That’s it? Yep. But, each Talent can be improved with experience brownie points which breaking right down means it gets better. In the advanced rules there will be more Talents (and spells) but honestly you can simply make you own. This is again where despite being modern, PD Basic is very old school – if you want something, just make it. So long as you have some familiarity with tabletops RPGs, you could come up with any Talent (spell/power) and it will be fine. You want break a thing trust me. You may tweak it but it won’t be broken. This is one of the part of the magic of PD, don’t like it? Change it. Want more? Add it. You’re encouraged to do so. It’s part of its design and it’s designed well. The other races/classes have their own Talents//Powers, and some can choose from other races/classes, so it’s not just magic, everyone one gets their selection of “things”. This simple/fast character creation system makes it perfect for one shots. The rules are truly so simple that so long as the one person running the show has a good grasp on them, no else needs to know diddly squat. At the very lowest level, choose a race/class and 3 Talents (non-human races get 1 or 2 predefined choices), here’s you equipment and we’re off (in 15 minutes). But how do I play? Simple, choose an attribute that is appropriate to what you are trying to achieve (e.g. Physical combat = Body, Detect someone sneaking = Mind, Convince the bouncer to let you into the club = Social) and roll that die vs your opponents die or a difficulty assigned by the DM/GM (e.g. Easy d4, Nearly Impossible = d12) and highest roll wins. If its combat, roll you damage die (based on weapon used) vs. armour die (based on armour worn) and a positive is the number of wounds a character takes. Unlike D&D HP system, PD has wound and strain. I won’t go into the details but each wound and strain means a -1 to your roll. This means as soon as you are wounded or strained (stress, fatigue, etc.) you can’t do things as easily as you once could. It has a spiral effect, so a key to survival is avoid or remove wounds ASAP. The four stats even without further explanation would cover most bases, but the author has included rules that cover actions, movement, encumbrance, advantage, communication, help from others, multiple cations, sneaking, opening doors, searching, falling, damaged items, poisons, paralysis, elemental damage, disease, followers, and alignment in 5 pages! And it makes sense! What about long term campaigns? Well PCs get those experience brownie points which can be used to save their skin (re-roll, add one to a roll, negate a wound, etc.) or can be saved to improve an attribute, an existing talent, or learn a new talent. The advanced rules will give more options but it seems easy enough to come up with your own and or steal ideas from other games.
There are 7 pages that cover Gear and Loot which includes magic items (17 of to get you started) and 6 pages covers monsters. Two of these pages summarise 40 monsters in a table (one row) per monster which are all familiar to any old school player. Then there’s a short table that presents monster Talents. In these few pages you can easy make any equivalent monster from any old school module. Not only that, there is good advice on Boss monsters meaning even veterans of the game will never know what to expect. You an even give them brownie points (recall – re-roll, negate wounds, etc.) something normal monsters can’t do. Part 4 – Body = d10 I took a pdf copy of B2 Keep on the Borderlands (RPGNow purchase), converted it to PD, and ran it with one player maintaining 4 characters. I could have done the conversion as I ran it – honest. Look up monster in table – done! OK, being familiar with poisons/acid/paralysis stuff would help but really it’s so easy just to jump in and do it. I did actually do some prep, and of that the most useful was a GM screen, homemade, cut and pasted from the pdf, but I looked at it maybe once? In 2 to 3 hours we introduced the characters, the campaign, mingled at the keep, and made a foray into the Caves of Chaos that finished with 5 physical and one social (leave or we’ll kill you) encounters. The rules are so simple (yet cover everything) you don’t even notice they exist. It’s a game that encourages you not to look it up, but make it up, and does it so well. I’m in a pit how do I get out? With rope roll body vs d4, without its body vs d10 (10 second decision). The kobold is behind cover what’s the rule? There is one but given I allow you to hit when you roll equal to your opponent, because he has cover you will now miss (Not in the rules as written, but worked, and took what? 10 seconds). What’s the range of lightning bolt? I dunno, but given you can see him that’s fine be me (5 seconds). Part 5 – Soul – d10 (edging a d12) Overall I give PD a d10 out of a possible d12 (d20 reserved for monsters after all). Depending on your need, once the Judges Guide with examples is out, not to mention the advanced rules and the extra options to be found therein, I can see this easily being a d12. It absolutely smashes one of the design goals of being one shot suitable whilst providing all the old school troupe. On top of that it can easy succeed as continuing campaign suitable in its current (Basic) form with characters able to improve attributes and talents, and learn new talents. This can only be enhanced with the author’s future plans involving advanced rules, different settings (e.g. modern) that will be designed to be interchangeable. Is it perfect? No, but its close. My playing group for example is not going to replace 5E with PD. But I will introduce it to them whenever I can and that’s the beauty – after x months they can’t recall the rules. After 10 minutes, it will be what rules? In fact my pan to introduce my son to RPGs with S&W or AGE has now been compromised. PD is my game of choice. I should point out that despite my praises, I think initially it might hard for a RPG noob to pick up PD and run with it. After I bought it I read it, then read it, then went o Google+ and asked the author a few questions, then read it again, asked more questions, more reading, and more questions. Then during the play test my friend asked questions I hadn’t thought of! It’s not that the rules as written are bad. They explain everything just the way they are written. In my case I just had to do away with preconceived ideas and what I was used to before I got it. Your mileage on that will vary. What does help is the fact it’s a 50 page rule book (including character sheet, cover, and some blank pages for house rules and campaign notes). If you are not sure read it again, but once you have it you won’t forget. The biggest assistance to the refactoring of my preconceived ideas was discovering PDs Google+ community. The author to date has answered all my questions on a daily basis. He is a one man show, with a day job, yet still finds the time to answer my questions which if I simply read what was written I needn’t have asked in the first place. Hats off to (Roy) actually James but I have a Led Zeppelin theme going here. Once the Judges Guide is out which will contain among other things examples of play, I/we should be able to leave James alone to get on and produce more. Given what I/we have in PD, that’s what I want (Please Sir, may I have some more?) Do I need to add a disclosure at this point? I don’t know the author from a bar of soap (he’s answered every of mine on question on Google+ though) and I never got a free copy for this review. I do however intend to buy all future PD publications. PD Basic has wet my whistle and I hunger for more. "Leaves are falling all around, it's time I was on my way. Thanks to you, I'm much obliged for such a pleasant stay. But now it's time for me to go.” PS – If you like this review I’m happy to ditch my day job and write more, I just need to feed the family is all, so …



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Polyhedral Dungeon
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Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Damien L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/18/2015 08:08:01

Prelude (My RPG background and a sort of how I discovered Shadow of the Demon Lord)

I’m a father of two boys who has played tabletop RPGs since 1979 starting with Basic D&D, then AD&D. Delved briefly into some Gamma World, Boot Hill, Gang Busters, Traveller, Runequest before settling on Rolemaster for several years (loved the critical hit tables). Then I got bored of the same old same old (get yet another artefact to slay the evil so and so) and took a break for a few years.

A few years ago I got together with two friends and starting playing again. Initially with 3.5E, then 4E, then Swords and Wizardry, some DCC, and now we are using 5E which is probably the best fit for us to date. During these recent times I seemed to have collected a bunch of rulesets that more often than not remain unplayed, some even unread (refer to commentary below). I can’t really explain it, I just read about a game that appeals and end up buying it.

Lately, with a little help from my friends, I have managed to curb my “buy a new ruleset” impulses and have been encouraged to stick with buying only adventures/campaigns so we can stick with our current ruleset of choice. At the end of the day, the rules are just a means to an end and for us 5E is familiar, and has plenty of character options whilst remaining straight forward. But then I learned of the Shadow and became intrigued.

The more I read the more I fell under its spell. I tried to dismiss the idea of buying something new based simply what may be fanboy (and/or kickstarter) hype. But as the commentary grew on RPGNow I only became more curious and before I knew it I was a follower of the Shadow on Google+. This is when my corruption became apparent. I constantly wanted more facts but the discussions on rules, errata, future product temptations (often taunts for me as I was never a KickStarter initiate) many from the author himself (and his cohorts contributors) were never enough. I wanted more and so my corruption grew. I decided to pick up the introduction module “Survival of the fittest”. Just to get a taste I said to myself, I could be strong couldn’t I? Who was I kidding? For by now the corruption had done away with any remaining will I possessed and not even the recent dip in our currencies exchange rate could dissuade me from my newly chosen path. The shadow has me now and I recommend you join its fold. After all, “Victims of the Demon Lord” and “Survival of the fittest” is all you need to get a taste and play your first session.

So stories aside, I decided to write a review. I have written a few reviews for board games before at BGG and a few RPG session reports at RPGGeek but never have I felt compelled to write a review of an RPG until now. Sure my corruption may have maxed out but I believe I still process some sanity. Also it’s not because I think Shadow of the Demon Lord (SotDL) is the best game ever. For I have plenty of contenders on my bookshelves. No it’s simply because I think it’s a great game and deserves lots of attention. Hopefully what I describe appeals to some (or many) and they too take the plunge. I am pretty certain they’ll be glad they did.

Review (Have read book, haven’t played)

The first thing that attracted me to SotDL was one of its design concepts. Paraphrasing (perhaps badly) the author (Robert); his group consisted of players who met irregularly and not everyone made it to every session. The typical adventure lasting perhaps three to four sessions meant those players that missed a session had to get updated with the latest events next time they met which takes time. Then epic campaigns that saw characters go from 1st to 20th level simply took too long. He wanted something that was familiar (d20 based), easy to pick up, adventures could be completed in 1 (or 2) session(s), and it was all over once the characters had reached 10th level so something new could begin. Sounded just like the brew I was after. Add an element of Warhammer (I own FFGs and some 2E pdf’s but never played) and I was sold.

I shall proceed with a brief (most of the time) review/opinion of each chapter:

0 - Introduction

Covers the typical RPG introduction, and example of play, but also a very brief overview of what SotDL world is about such the land being in its last days and players being neither strictly good nor evil but somewhere in between (like most people in the real world). Nothing new to experienced players but its brief, and a good introduction for those new to the hobby. It also gives a clue as to what SotDL is all about.

1 - Character Creation

Characters start as level 0 novices, and players choose from six ancestries (what I call races). They are Humans, Changelings, Clockworks, Dwarfs, Goblins, and Orcs. Other than Dwarfs and Humans, everything is slightly unusual (Goblins and Orcs) or quite unusual (Changelings and Clockworks). The four unusual ancestries each have an additional twist applied that makes them in addition to be unusual for a fantasy game, but also not quite what you probably expected.

Each ancestry has a fixed set of attributes (of which there are four: Strength, Agility, Intellect, and Will), but a player can choose which to increase as they gain levels (humans get to increase one at level 0). Then the ancestry’s starting characteristics are listed which includes the following: Perception, Defense, Health, Healing Rate, Size, Speed, Power, Damage, Insanity, Corruption, Languages and possibly a Profession and/or other feature such as Shadowsight (able to see in shadows).

Regarding professions each character starts with professions (unless like humans they gain an extra profession). If you missed not rolling your attributes this is where the random kicks in. To determine a profession you roll 1d6 to get the type (Academic, Common, Criminal, Martial, Religious, or Wilderness). You then have one table per type with up to 20 different professions and you roll for that too. For example, a common profession roll of 6 means you were once a butcher. You can of course choose or come up with your own but where’s the fun in that? Professions are explained in chapter 2 but basically if you are trying to do something and have an applicable profession your chances of success increase (or perhaps give you a chance to succeed where others automatically fail).

Each ancestry also has a bunch of random tables (often roll a d20 or 3d6) for determining things like their Background, Personality, Religion, Age, Physical Build, and appearance. Then you roll for your Wealth (Destitute, Poor, Getting By, Comfortable, Wealthy, or Rich) which determines your starting equipment and one “Interesting Thing”. What’s an “Interesting Thing”? Well it’s interesting (and up to you to put a story behind it). To finish off you roll for personality traits where it’s recommended to roll for two positive traits, and one negative.

Of course, all of these things you could choose and/or come up with your own but we wouldn’t be playing RPGs if we didn’t like to roll dice. That said, there will be times and places where it would be more appropriate to not be so random, but the randomness strongly encourages creativity and again that’s why we play these games.

The chapter finishes with discussions on how to round out your character discussing relationships, values, secrets, etc. and presents ideas for building an adventure group (play nice and be nice to each other). A table of what character advances you get at each level (1st to 10th) is provided here as well as suggestions on how to generate higher level characters. Probably a good thing because I hear the games a bit lethal – sounds old school to me so I keep reading with enthusiasm.

Good: Character creation is quick, easy, intuitive, fun, and random, planting the seeds of creativity. Goblins, Orcs, and especially Changelings and Constructs all have twists and sound fun to play. Don’t get me wrong, Humans and Dwarfs would be just as fun, just missing that unexpected twist the other four have.

Bad (potentially): You may prefer you’re atypical ancestries (Halflings, Elves, Gnomes aren’t here) but they are coming in future supplements I believe (but they won’t be atypical). You may miss rolling your attributes. You may prefer six attributes. You may want more starting health. None of these things concerned me however. Bring on the first adventure I say!

2 – Playing the Game

As you may have guessed, this is the bulk of the rules. The system is basically a d20 variant. The general rule is you need a 10 on a d20 to succeed at a challenge. Applicable attribute modifiers are applied and are simply the attribute minus 10. So If I am trying to break down a door (a Strength challenge) and have Strength 11, I add 1 to my roll. If it was 8 I would subtract 2. Easy!

If I had something assisting me in the challenge I would add a Boon for each form of assistance and conversely a Bane for each thing hindering me. What are these? Each Boon or Bane adds or subtracts a value to your roll. Boons and Banes also cancel each other out. This is best described with an example.

So if my friend was helping me break down the door (1 Boon) and I had a battering ram (1 Boon) but the door was made of tough stuff (1 Bane) I have: 2 Boons, 1 cancelled by the Bane leaving 1 Boon. However remaining Boons or Banes you have is the number of d6 you roll, take the highest number rolled and add (or subtract) the number rolled from the d20. So if you have 3 Banes you roll 3d6 and subtract the lowest of those from your d20 roll. If I roll 15 on the d20, and my three d6 rolls were 1, 3, and 6 I would have to take 6 from my roll leaving me with 9 – normally a failure. That is way harder to describe than actual play. You just have to be creative with what may give you a Boon or a Bane. Honest it’s really simple and very similar to 5E advantages/disadvantages if you are familiar with those.

Attacking is very similar but instead of the standard target number of 10, the target number is usually the opponent’s defense score. If you are hit in combat rather than “take” damage, you add it up. Once the damage total equals your health you fall down. This may take a while to get used to but I am assured it makes sense in the end.

Attributes are described next, what they represent, what they are used for in the game, and what sort of challenge rolls they are suited to. This is followed by rules on the various characteristics (Perception, Defense, Health (and Healing), Size, Speed (and Movement), Power, Reach, Damage, Insanity, and Corruption). The last two Insanity and Corruption are new to me. Characters gain Insanity when they encounter the strange, and corruption when they delve into what’s not good for the soul. I will have to play it to see how these pan out. The damage section also discussed death and I liked the discussion on the amount of time a characters soul spends in hell (as it is cleansed) being in proportion to their level of corruption when they died.

Afflictions (e.g. Blinded, Dazed, Stunned, etc.) which can affect a character during play are briefly described, as well as rules regarding Objects, Range and Distance, and Obscurement are described. As a 5E player all seem very familiar, a good thing for me as it means the concepts are easy to pick up and being simple, easy even if not familiar with such concepts. Roleplaying, Social Conflicts, and Combat are then covered. The most interesting thing in Combat is initiative rolls are no more. Instead characters can either do a quick fast move (an action or move) or wait and do a slow turn (can do both an action and a move). Monsters can do the same Fast or Slow, but always go after the characters. The rationale is it does away with tracking initiative while remaining tactical by having a couple of options each turn. Pretty certain I’m going to like this. The chapter finishes off by discussing the combat options in more detail, Moves, Actions, and Attacking (which includes option attack options such as Guarded Attack (increase your defense) and Called Shots (attack specific location ranged weapons)). Once again, as a player of 5E, 4E and 3.5 everything here is familiar but easy to pick up for anyone new to tabletop RPGs.

The Good: Familiar d20 system, I liked advantage and disadvantage in 5E so Boons and Banes are cool and together with setting all standard challenge target numbers to 10 allows the game to flow and not get bogged down.

The Bad: Insanity and Corruption may take a while to get used to and implement. There’s a lot here for someone new to gaming to take in but it is all clear, concise, and in a logical order.

3,4, and 5 – Novice, Expert and Master Paths

The first two chapters give you all you need to play and complete a single level 0 adventure. Now we get to what is for me the neatest thing about SotDL, the character paths. After the characters finish the first adventure they are supposed to choose a novice (level 1) path from either Magician, Priest, Rogue, or Warrior. As a level 1 novice they get some set benefits such as attribute and health gains, spells for magicians and priests, and abilities that add boons to rolls for rogues and Fighters. Ho hum you might say. Well whatever you choose at level 1 gives you another benefit at Levels 2, 5, and 8. Still Ho hum?

Well at level 3 you choose an expert path from a list of 16! Each novice path has 4 “appropriate” expert paths. For example, the Path of War has Berserker, Fighter, Ranger, and Spellbinder expert paths. But if at level 2 I choose warrior do I have to play one of the “appropriate” four expert paths? Nope! Let’s say I choose Witch (from Paths of Power) instead. This gives me some attribute and health gains (that vary with chosen path) and as a witch I get the “Witch Fire” cool power. Then at level 6 and level 9 I get more witch powers.

OK so what happens at level 7 you may ask? I get to choose a master path and anything goes here. Not only that, there are 64 to choose from! 32 “magic” paths, and “32” skill paths. The only bad thing here is you only get to choose one path  I get the level 7 benefits from that master path and then at level 10 another set of benefits. So from a level 0, to 1 of 4 different level 1 novice paths, I have a tremendous number of possible permutations I can take. In chapter 5 you are given a table that summarises (in a couple of words) what each path is about which should help players narrow down their choices to match their “concept”.

In 5E you have an option to multi-class but there is usually a price you pay. Some combinations can seem pretty awesome but you may at times regret a choice made earlier. In some ways this optimisation is encouraged and sometimes at the expense of the characters identity. Not so much here. Sure there will be ways to optimise this and that but the way it is laid out and the sheer number of permutations to my mind will encourage players to choose paths they want to “role” play rather than “roll” and play. Supporting this is the fact that a player who chose warrior at level 1 gains warrior powers at level 2, 5, and 8. Unlike 5E where I chose fighter at level 1 only so I could wear heavy armour and totally forgot my origin playing a warlock for the next 19.

“Role” playing is further encouraged as players are advised to choose a novice path based on what their character did (role played) during the first adventure. You even get to roll a d6 to determine where you got your training from. Its then up to the player to incorporate this into their story. It makes character evolution a voyage of discovery for both player and game master. Similarly for expert classes. At level 3 you roll d20 (or choose) to get the characters objectives and each path has another table (d6) that outlines the story development for that characters chosen path. At master level you roll or choose a quest. All these encourage character and story development and are so well intertwined into the rules. Obviously these things can be completely ignore or replaced but at worst it gets you thinking.

The Good: The whole darn 3 path concept.

The Bad: Optimisation if your thing may be more challenging but I’m certain it could be done.

6 – Equipment

Nothing really new here. Some rules on living expenses which are quite serviceable. Lists of equipment with prices and rarity, I forgot to mention this is a magic/steam/clockwork setting so we have black powder weapons included. You also find Hireling, Potion, and Scroll pricing.

7 – Magic

I still think the character paths are the best but the magic system is a close second. It starts with the rules (mostly stock standard stuff) but spells are broken into traditions. There are 15 traditions based on the Intellect attribute (e.g. Curse or Illusion) and 15 based on Will (e.g. Nature or Fire). The characters chosen paths tells them when (if) they gain spells. They then either choose a new tradition or another spell from a tradition they already know. When they choose a tradition for the first time they choose one of two rank 0 spells from that traditions “spell list”. When they choose a spell from a tradition they already know they choose a spell whose rank must be equal or lower than their current power. Each tradition has 2 rank 0, 3 rank 1, 2 rank 2, 2 rank 3, 1 rank 4, and 1 rank 5 spell.

This adds some flexibility as it allows a spell caster to get many traditions but have 1 or two spells in each, or concentrate on getting only a few traditions but have most or all of the available spells for that tradition. The number of spells you can cast between rests varies with your power level. At power level 3 you could only cast 1 rank 2 and 1 rank 3 spells (that you know) but 2 rank 1 and 4 rank 0 spells before you had to rest. I love the variety of traditions and personally like the idea of magic that requires you learn the basics first before you get the higher ranked stuff whilst not being over restrictive as characters can choose to have a narrow or wide focus.

I need to mention that a few spells are a bit horrific descriptive wise, especially for the “Forbidden” tradition. This may not be to everyone’s taste reading about someone’s body exploding (complete with graphic depiction) but these types of spells seem few in number. Hopefully most people realise this is a game set in a horror setting so naturally contains those elements. When I first read about SotDL I like the implied simplicity of the rules and wondered if it would be suitable for playing with my 9 year old son. I wasn’t sure how easy it would be remove the horror element for his sake and other than keeping his eyes away from page 129 it should be fine. I can manage what traditions he can choose from, nothing in the paths seems only suitable for adult readers, and my plan is to play in a more optimistic world rather than one that seems doomed.

The Good: Whole magic tradition concept rather than just providing a great list of spells that anyone can master, and high level characters won’t have endless lists of spells which stops me as a playing wasting time going through my spell lists during combat – what does that spell do again?

The Bad: You may not like your spell caster being tied to traditions and prefer massive lists of spells that you can pick and choose, and you may have a better memory than me and/or like seemingly limitless lists of spells to choose from.

8 – A land in shadow (world geography, history, cultures, religion and cosmos described)

I skim read this chapter. I’m sure I’ll use it when I play with my regular group and familiarise myself with its details then. One continent is described with just enough detail to leave an impression but leaving plenty of scope to make the land yours. Seemed fairly typical for these sorts of things. Had two nice maps that were oddly drawn in two different styles and I understand you can download them from the creators website. One map depicts one continent (Lands of Rul) the other one province (Northern Reaches) in said continent. The Northern Reaches map has many unnamed towns so while there is some detail in this chapter, there are plenty of blank spaces for you own imagination to fill.

9 – Running the game

Covers advice for the Game Master and it was good reading. I am a player and game master in my RPG group but feel my game master abilities may be adequate but not great. So I definitely felt there was plenty of good advice in this section that included running and creating adventures/campaigns, travel, creating and adjusting combat difficulty, dealing with character death (might be common in this game), and secondary characters (NPCs). Given the author has been involved in many RPG products over many years it is no surprise the advice here is good. Even simple things like if a player decides to change a character mid-campaign, keep the old character in the story – simple but something I had never thought of. Having played through a few pathfinder adventure paths with their excellent stories I find myself reluctant to put my own ideas down on paper and so end up running published material. One of the things about SotDL that appealed to me was the concept of 1 (or 2) session adventures, and a whole campaign completed in under 20 sessions. SotDL is doing a wonderful job of encouraging me to get my ideas on paper.

It then discusses the game world being in crisis under the Shadow of the Demon Lord. The premise in brief (paraphrasing) is he exists in a void and devours worlds. Initially he is unable to enter the worlds he finds so cracks are created and he sends in his minions. It does state this is an optional element and given only 4 and a half pages discuss the topic it won’t matter if you decide to go your own way. It also states the SotDL element can be either the main threat or just lurking in the background. A table provides 20 random (or you can choose) effects of the Demon Lord. Each effect is briefly described, first it’s overview and then the effect it has on the game. For example a looming star appears in the night sky and over 2d6 months people start to mutate (complete with nice random mutation table).

The chapter finishes with discussion on tools available to GMs and recommendations on how they are incorporated into the game. The tools include corruption, deprivation, Disease (includes tips on creating your own), Exposure, Fire, Insanity, Suffocation, and a few pages dedicated to traps. At the very end are character rewards such as treasure, companions, enchanted objects, and some suggestions for Relics. Enchanted objects are created by rolling on a table for its form, and then 1 of five tables for its effect. Not sure how this will play out but great for those who like everything random.

The Good: I really liked the GM tips and actually found them not only useful nut encouraging. I wasn’t sure what to make of the effect of the Shadow on the game before I read the rules but was taken by its simplicity and variation. You could play 20 completely different campaigns just from the 4 odd pages provided. The section on traps should help any GM wishing to stock his dungeon with things other than monsters.

The Bad: You might not like random enchanted items but I’m willing to give it a go to see what the dice come up with. I’m sure some results will be a bit odd but that just makes it memorable I suppose.

10 – Bestiary

Starts with an overview of what is presented in each creature’s statistics (stats) block, before presenting over 100 creatures including animals (swarm to huge), goblins, trolls, dragons, demons (tiny to huge) + a demonic “talent” table for that random variety we now come to expect, undead, and some bizarre stuff like the “dread-mother” (in-law?). On top of that it adds NPC stats e.g. bandits, cultists, etc., rules on customizing creatures, and some character templates. At the end of this is a table ranking creatures by difficulty to assist GMs when creating encounters.

The Good: There are plenty of nasties here to keep the party on their toes and the customisation are almost a necessity, especially if like me you plan to poach stories from other games.

The Bad: Zilch

Index and Character Sheet wraps the whole thing up.

Conclusion

I so regret the fact that I didn’t see this on kickstarter and support the project when I had the chance. The gushing reviews on RPGNow left me somewhat sceptical but at least left me intrigued. When I finally took the plunge to invest in the pdf I was confident I would like the game and I wasn’t wrong. I really, really like this game. But I have a problem. I have a history of introducing my group to new rules. It started with 4E, then DCC, and then 5E. At least those are the ones we tried. The list of untried games that were shortlisted (came close to being played) includes:

• FFGs Warhammer Fantasy (Looks great and love this setting but just a bit too different from our norm) • The One Ring (looks great and came close to seeing our table but just didn’t quite get there); • Beyond the Wall (Another awesome game that I thought I would use with my son but really needs a group so the characters have connections) • Dungeon World (Came so close but I chicken out feeling I couldn’t come up with enough moves to keep it interesting) • Torchbearer (Love the concept but again a bit too different from what we are used to) • Whitehack (A gem but maybe not enough options for us?)

The list goes on with long shot ideas (Star Wars Edge of Empire, Shadows of Esteren, Hackmaster, Traveller, Runequest, Gamma World, Mutant Epoch, Mutant Future, Kuro, Numenera, Shadowrun, Dragon Age, Scarlet Heroes, Barebones Fantasy, Yggdrasill, Rocket Age, Qin, Victoriana, Fate) all printed copies sitting on my shelf (and I’m probably missing some).

So I am not sure how to go about the “Hey guys, guess what?” but I like this game enough I am willing to give it a try – when the stars align at least. In the meantime I shall read the rules in more detail and jot down story ideas.

Another big plus for the game is the schedule of planned releases – there’s heaps of stuff currently in the making. And supporting that is the very active community on Google+ which includes the author and other contributors who add to the discussion on a daily basis. If nothing else SotDL as inspired my creativity.

If I can sum it up it would be:

A simple, familiar ruleset, with optional extras, that is design to introduce players slowly to both characters and rules, that expand and evolve as the players and characters grow, with loads of character development options, all set into a great setting, whose initial goal was to suit players who have busy schedules and have to fit gaming into available moments as best they can.

Loved: Random tables, Ancestry and character development, Banes & Boons, Fast & Slow turns, Magic System, Setting.

Disliked: Nothing. If I had to say something despite it being simple, there’s seems to be a lot to take in. Is that a bad thing?

I can’t truly be a judge until I play it and that may be a while away. But for now its 4 out of 5 stars and likely to go higher once played.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
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Gold Town: The Mining Town Game
Publisher: Hotz Stuff
by Damien L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/10/2005 00:00:00

I decided to buy this because I like both board games and the old west theme so this had to be the best of both worlds. I am certainly please with my purchase. I have up until now only read the rules but the game looks like it will be very enjoyable to play. You can read the details here on the products page or Eric Hotz website but basically you are a gold miner who hopes to finish the richest miner before the gold runs out. You achieve this by mining for gold (randomly drawing gold cards) and then performing an assigned task that must be performed in town (randomly draw a task card). An example might be "Buy an axe handle". You then wander into town trying to get that axe handle so you can get back to digging for more gold. But in town there are many attractions to get you side tracked and take away that hard earned gold. It uses dice for movement so there is a large dose of luck in the game but the theme is captured very well in my opinion. The production quality is excellent. The rules are clear with plenty of examples. They are on the long side but a "cheat sheet" is also included and I imagine after a few games you won't even need to look at the rules. The cards used in the game can be printed in colour or black and white and either would look great. Mine are in colour and they really do look good.<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The theme. The clear rules with included background and design decisions. The production quality of the playing pieces.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: I think the luck factor may be a tad high but I am sure the game will still be great fun to play. Game length may also be an issue but you have some control by choosing how big your gold deck is before you start.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gold Town: The Mining Town Game
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