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Shadowrun: Collapsing Now (Runner Resource Book)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/15/2021 12:00:16

Shadowrun: Collapsing Now is a sourcebook, specifically a “Runners Resource Book” for the Sixth World Edition of Shadowrun covering a variety of groups that shadowrunner might work for or against. It suffers from a lack of direction and uncertainty if it is a player or GM facing work. For the lore and background information, worth picking up for Shadowrun Games Masters, but not an immediate must have unless you are featuring one of the highlighted groups in your campaign.

Shadowrun: Collapsing Now, is a Runner Resource Book for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, providing a look at some of the groups that shadowrunners might work with, for or against.

It begins with an introduction, as expected, which is actual rather useful in explain the purpose and organization of the book, well done. One of the ubiquitous fiction sections follows before we get into the meat of the book, the ten organizations. Each of the organization sections ends with statistics for operatives for that group and sometimes other things too.

Starting with the Freedom Network, a European (specifically Dutch) originated set of groups with a shared anti-magic/anti-technomancer agenda, running from a respected think tank down to thugs on the ground. It is, in many ways, the Alt-Right mapped to the Shadowrun world but with an anti-magic stance alongside the nationalism. Includes references to, but no rules for, advanced counter magic and anti-technolmancer tricks this group has access to.

Next up, Greenwar, everyone’s favorite eco-terrorists, and their ties to the greater ecological movement. It is an interesting chapter that explains some about Greenwar’s methods and aims and a rouge sketch of their organization with much implied but little explicit about the leadership there of. Included with the Greenwar NPCs are new, unpleasant weapons like the acid thrower and spore grenade which are signature weapons of the group.

Grey Cell is next, it is an interesting group, well financed and deeply informed, with access to elite operatives, cutting edge technologies and magics and dedicated to quashing magical threats. Intriguing and . . . totally out of place to my view of Shadowrun. They are heroes, their operatives are Professional Rating 8 (special forces level) and they are probably backed by a dragon. Who needs the player characters to save the world when you have Grey Cell? It is a fun idea after a fashion but just does not fit in my view of the Shadowrun cyberpunkish dystopia.

Halberstam’s Brain is pure creepshow, a crazed AI (more or less) and a genius toxic shaman are harvesting human brains and using them for processing power and torture, which they call research. They are both evil and have even more evil plans for the future. They must be stopped, which make them excellent villains. Very good support for the horror side of Shadowrun which is a rarely used sub-theme. A new adept power (Improved Mental Attribute) is included.

The Monads are next, leftovers of the big metaplot threat of the last edition, which I had my problems with (overwriting character’s personalities does not usually make for a fun play experience). Where to find the holdouts that are still around and what sorts of tricks they have, interesting powers but dangerous. GM will have to be careful how they use monads for the reason noted above and the fact that they can totally screw over tech-based characters with very little effort.

Ordo Maximus follows, turning back to the magic side of things, the Ordo is a secret society of the right and wealthy masking an inner circle composed of those infected with the vampiric virus in all its happy variants. It talks a little about the organization of the Ordo, some of its projects and an actual section on advice on using the Ordo in a campaign. The Ordo is interesting, but we already have the Megacorps, the Black Lodge, the Dragons, Immortal Elves and the Tirs, various governments, the space for conspiracies is getting awfully crowded . . .

The Sea Dragon rears her head next. Moving from being a background character to a major player, if not the major player in North America, this section helps to explain how that happened without anyone noticing, which I find highly suspect. Apart from that, a valuable resource on what resources The Sea Dragon brings to bear on problems, which you should avoid becoming one of.

Why do shadowrunners not form a union? The Shadow Chapters section tries to answer that question and the people trying to change that equation. Given the ways I have seen shadowrunners portrayed over the year, such a task seems Sisyphean at best and this section does little to change my opinion of that.

There is a megacorporation among law firms, Stark, Theissen and Van der Mer, and they are given some coverage here (they also figured heavily in the 5th edition adventure Toxic Alleys), a bit more about the founders of the firm and how they became so powerful and who they work for. There are some implied jobs but mostly just information.

And ending the book, is the Yakuza, with a discussion of their manners, methods and history. The Yakuza of the Sixth World rose in power along with the Japanese Imperial States and the Japanese Megacorps, but somehow they remain powerful while being extremely limited in their recruitment, primarily only recruiting male, non-metahumans of Japanese origin for the higher ranks (and -to a lesser extent- at all). Except for BTLs and a little over a page on what the Yakuza are doing in various parts of the Sixth World, there is little here you could not get on any other source on the Yakuza. This section could really have benefited from some Yakuza specific plot hooks and advice on playing ex-Yakuza characters.

As is sadly usual, there is no index. It is an interesting book, containing a lot of interesting information on the Sixth World but I am not sure who this book is aimed at, the information in general is aimed at Shadowrunner but there is also information that is obviously directed at Games Masters and should not be available to players . . . Ultimately, it needed more support for both sides, more information on playing campaigns centered around these various factions and more support for the GM to be able to do so.

See more of my reviews and other writings at: https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Collapsing Now (Runner Resource Book)
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Shadowrun: Slip Streams (Plot Sourcebook)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/30/2020 19:10:15

Shadowrun: Slip Streams is very much a book for Games Masters, lots of information, lots of adventure seeds, all expanding on the effects that magic is having on the world. If the magic side of Shadowrun story is your jam, this is the book for you. Otherwise, it is an interesting read and there are no lack of adventure ideas that it throws off. For players, the in game information is a fun read and the new character option is intriguing but not for all campaigns, talk with your GM first.

Shadowrun: Slip Streams, is a Plot Sourcebook for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, expanding on the magical situation across the world but with a focus on events affecting North America.

As is expected, it begins with a brief introduction and a glossary of terms related to astral space, this is very handy and important to what follows. Then the requisite fiction section before the meat of the product begins.

The first section, Frayed Fabric, take a look at the weird events happening across the world, weird in this case meaning magical, ranging from echoes of other times and places to full on gateways between Earth and various metaplanes (other places, usually very magical in nature). This is all in world information but there are a handful of sidebars explaining how certain things function in terms of game mechanics. I highly approve of this, there is little more annoying that having things described that change the way a game world works and then not providing any mechanics for it, even if I think a few of the mechanics could have been more clearly expressed, it is still the right way to do things. However, there lots of interesting things in this section to drop in as background to a game or to use as plot hooks.

Next is Soldiers of III Corps, which ties into one of the big mysteries alluded to in the Cutting Black book, the disappearance of III Corps of the UCAS Army. Now, let me begin by saying that this plot line simply does not work for me, if a third of a nation’s army disappeared (and it is explicitly noted as a third), over 100,000 people in this case, plus a small town of 40 or so thousand people, vanished, it would be noticed. No official look-down on the news or denial is going to conceal that, yet here, it happens. But back to the book, the area from which the disappearance happened has been locked down, tight, by the UCAS government and a mysterious research facility is being built there and rapidly expanded, surely this will end well. The soldiers of III Corps are beginning to return but they are . . . different. Not just mentally messed up, though there is that too, but bleeding purple blood different. Most seemed to have been trapped in a place called Dis, which will figure more as we go on, and bad things happened to them. But the returnees are showing up all over the world and there is a race to get them both by the UCAS Government and other interested parties, things are getting messy, but good work for Shadowrunners. This section concludes with a page of statistics for the guards at the site of the disappearance and nasty people they are too.

Bad Mojo how some of the various power players are trying to leverage the weird things happening to their advantage ranging from various corporations (natch) to a variety of magical groups. Again, good for background material and adventure ideas.

Who you gonna call? Details some of the magical organizations, starting with seven pages on the Black Lodge which somehow fail to actually provide anything useful (for me anyway), but the Black Lodge is one of my least liked Shadowrun trope groups, so this is not surprising. It tries to make the claim that they are not really evil, they just do evil things because . . . mumble mumble. The Aleph Society gets some new information about their quest to bring magic to the masses (but to themselves first). The current status of the Astral Space Preservation Society (hint: they are not doing well) who are one of the few actual white hats in the Shadowrun setting, so nice to see some more info on them. And twelve more organizations including the Voodoo based collective Cracking the Bones and the Catholic Church’s magical investigations, the Order of St. Sylvester. Good information here and many potential enemies and employers.

Hiring Board is, well, exactly what you would expect from that heading, various job opportunities for people. A good idea, not so strong execution. Many of them are only one paragraph long and some get a sidebar giving additional game details but several are extrapolated from pieces in earlier chapters (and thus did not really need to be made explicit here) or give a hiring brief for a massive campaign which the GM will have to make up for bit and pieces in this book. I think an entirely out of game, “look here are ways to work these ideas into your campaign with some mechanics to support it” would have been far more helpful.

Cast of Shadows is a mix of generic and specific NPCs, a few spirits and a new creature. Some of the characters are tied to adventures in the Hiring Board section (but neither directly references the other, a few see p xx links would have been helpful here, people). Again, such things are always vaguely useful for a GM but a few of the specific character would have been better presented as clear examples of this sort of role played by an NPCs who has been influenced / empowered by the magic of a metaplane that wants X to happen.

Lastly, there is new Game Information for various things covered in the book, including new rituals, effects of mana flows, and rules for playing returned soldiers (purple blood and all). Interesting stuff though the GM should be careful and not use it all at once. Sadly, no index, which is especially annoying for a product with multiple sidebars which may need to be referenced.

Overall, a useful resource and good read for a Shadowrun GM. Though again, I lament the (over)emphasis on magic at the expense of everything else. What I liked about Shadowrun is the mix of cyberpunk and fantasy tropes and multiple ways to build to the same effect but the recent direction seems to be all about the magic with technology a poor second.

See more of my reviews and other writings at: https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Slip Streams (Plot Sourcebook)
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Shadowrun: Krime Katalog
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/20/2020 15:16:50

Shadowrun: Krime Katalog is an Equipment Book for Shadowrun, for both the 5th and 6th World editions, detailing the new offering from Krime! Mostly weapons and weaponry support but now with vehicles too! Krime always verges on the too silly for my tastes but the book has a lot of interesting equipment and ideas in it, so it is still quite useful even if you strip away the trapping of the Krime and players always like new weapons and vehicles to play with.

Shadowrun: Krime Katalog, is an Equipment Book for Shadowrun, Fifth and Sixth World Editions, having mechanics and statistics for both. Providing weapons and beyond from the company Krime that specializes in weapons and equipment for larger metahumans.

It begins with an introduction to the Krime Corporation which may or may not been started by former Shadowrunners and their meteoric rise to success as providers of weaponry scaled to orks and trolls, with the implication of some shady business deals and a lot of luck propelled them to their initial success.

Then, the new weapons, starting with personal weapon ranging from a holdout pistol and moving up through size and destructiveness ending with a rocker propelled grenade launcher. One of the things I found most interesting was the writeup of a T-shirt cannon, that has some fun uses. The weapons are interesting if occasionally, well, silly and some of the art of the weapons is absurdly impractical. Some players will like that, some not so much. But there are a lot of interesting ideas even if you choose to use them in a different form.

There are a few vehicular weapons, heavy machine guns, rocket launchers and anti-drone optimized grenade launchers. Then new weapon accessories, ammunition (laser rounds! Basically fancy tracers) and grenades. Certainly things that can be adapted and that players will have fun with.

Next, introducing Krime Motors! With offering ranging from troll and ork scaled subcompacts to massive 10-ton prime mover trucks, a “fishing” boat and even a tankette (a single person tank)! Some fun and interesting vehicles.

Lacking is a single compilation of weapon and vehicle statistics and which specific skills (or specializations) are used with each of the weapons. But overall a strong product with a lot of good ideas . . . as long as you do not find Krime a little too cute and beloved by its creators (as, well, I do).

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Krime Katalog
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Shadowrun: Shadow Stock: Ingentis Athletes
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/30/2020 10:21:48

Shadowrun: Shadow Stock - Ingentis Athletes provides ten non-player characters, all trolls, sharing a sports theme and information on the troll meta-variants (cyclops, formorians, giants, and minotaurs). More useful for Game Masters than players, it would have been supported by providing more context for the role of trolls in sport in the Sixth World and a few examples of shadowruns where sports were directly (or indirectly) involved.

Shadowrun: Shadow Stock - Ingentis Athletes, is the first of the Shadow Stock resources for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, providing NPCs organized around a theme and new character options, trying to be something for everyone.

It begins with a brief in game introduction which boils down to “here are a bunch of athletes and ex-athletes who are operating in the shadows.” Then on to the characters!

The ten characters cover a wide range of sports from football and soccer to urban brawl and “azzieball” (and no, that later one is not really explained) and have a wide range of skills: brawlers, drivers and even organizers. Sometimes there is a little mismatch between character description and the skills the character has and, since many of these seem like they could be used for player characters, it seems odd they are not given knowledge skills as well. But most of the characters have more than one way they can be brought into games which is good design. Lacking is any actual character art, there are a few generic troll pieces but nothing specific to the characters and only one that touches on the sports theme.

The work concludes with an in-game world discussion among the various troll variant types about how they differ, which is an amusing read, and then game mechanics for the variants.

Overall, a solid if niche work, nice to see some broadening of roles for trolls. I look forward to seeing more of the Shadow Stock line.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Shadow Stock: Ingentis Athletes
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Shadowrun: Tales from the UCAS: Age of Rust
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2020 12:07:41

Shadowrun: Tales from the UCAS: Age of Rust is a missed opportunity, a sourcebook for the Omaha, Nebraska, region which is undergoing a period of unique instability and change making it a potential hotspot for the sort of work Shadowrunners do. Unfortunately, it fails in providing anything beyond the most basic plot hooks and minimal background material.

Shadowrun: Tales from the UCAS: Age of Rust, is location/adventure resource for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, expanding on the situation in part of the UCAS and providing adventure hooks.

It begins with an introductory piece laying out what the situation is in Omaha, Nebraska, where due to border shifts and changes in the UCAS, NORAD has withdrawn from the Offutt air force base here (where it apparently relocated after the creation of the NAN) leaving a massive economic and political hole in the local area. But with instability comes opportunity for some and that is what this work tries to present.

The next seven pages (almost half of the product) are game world artifacts, conversations, reports and such like talking about the situation in Omaha followed by two pages of in-setting analysis from commentators. While a fun way to present data, this could have been condensed a bit more to provide more room for other material.

Next we have some information on the city of Omaha itself, which is only two and a half pages and somehow fails to mention organized crime or notable fixers, both things that visitors from the wrong side (i.e., shadowrunners) might want to know something about. Nor does it mention the local Henry Doorly Zoo, sport teams, universities or a host of other cultural things that might be of interest.

The next section is on looting NORAD, while I entirely approve of base crawls as a style of adventure there is not much here to help out a GM. It suggests that weapons (naming AK-97s as a potential find, a Russian made weapon, really?) and ammo might be found and what magical assensing can show at the only three locations it names on the base. In fact it only devotes a page and a half, and almost a page of that is what they can find assensing, to what could be really interesting exploration mini-campaign. A huge missed opportunity.

Lastly there is a new vehicle and a half explanation of one of the strange events which refers the reader to a PDF only sourcebook for a previous edition! As the last page was only half used, they could have as least explained it in broad strokes.

While an interesting read it is simply not very usable as is, there are plot hooks but no useful support is for them and one, I quote “More information about what Buzzard Transit is up to will come in future books” which essentially says, do not use Buzzard for anything but background because otherwise we will contradict you in a future published supplement. No maps, and it needed at least three: one for Omaha, one of the local area (to show NAN encroachment) and one for the base. No index either but that is at tolerable for such a short work.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Tales from the UCAS: Age of Rust
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The Pike Pole
Publisher: Inferential Studios
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2020 15:09:51

The Pike Pole, a nautical themed weapon, presents just that. it gives a brief history of this sort of weapon and how they have been used along with ideas for a how a character could have learned to use one.

Several variations on the pike pole, both mundane and magical, are included each with its own illustration.  As are rules for trip and disarm attacks using the weapon.  All well and good except it is a tool turned into a weapon that is just better on all levels than weapons made as weapons.

As listed, it does not have the heavy or two-handed properties yet has reach and does a 1d10 damage for 5 lbs of weight and 1 gold (or 5 gold if you want the improved one that gives you a small bonuses with the maneuvers).  It is a spear with a hook, it should do spear damage (1d8) and have both the heavy and two-handed properties to bring it in line with other pole arms (and the trip and disarm should be added to other weapons as well, if you are giving out those maneuvers).

A good idea and excellent presentation of the weapon, but it just too good mechanically.  However, that is easily fixed.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Pike Pole
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School of Awakening
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/21/2020 14:41:37

Wizard School of Awakening: How to Make Friends presents a new arcane traditions for wizards one that specializes in imparting magic life to objects, awakening them as it were.

The mechanics are quite fun, allowing the wizard to create two "thoughtlings" (awakened objects) at 2nd level and then more as they gain levels, to a maximum of five, each has its own personality (of a list of tweleve ranging from haughty to silly) which gives it or its creator access to special abilities.  As the wizard grows in power they can awaken larger objects and magic ones as well, eventually gaining the ability to build a magical "homestead" which will maintain animate objects at the wizard's home.

There is a lot of potential for fun and interesting interactions between the awakened object and the wizard, and other people too, but there are some questions.  Can the awakened objects speak for example?  Or how does an awakened shield move?  Why does a large awakened object only have 3 more hit points than a tiny one?  Why do they inflict force damage when they attack?  A little more attention should have been paid to such questions.

From a Dungeon Master's perspective, some advice of how to cope with someone who know has a character plus at least two awakened object (and maybe a familiar too).  That could easily double the party size!  Also several of the ability granted by the awakened objects personalities (kind and lazy especially) could cause some balance issue as they strike me as subtly powerful.

Overall, a very fun and inventive class, one that would be very well suited to a solo campaign.  A DM will have to weight if they will fit into their campaign and how to balance them if they do.  But, mostly, a job well done here.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
School of Awakening
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Creator Reply:
You bring up a lot of excellent points and ideas! Thank you loads for your feedback, I'll see how I can address these questions and issues when I revisit the class in the near future! I'll see if I can clear some of these up soon in the FAQ, though some may take me some more time to get around to. Again, thank you very much for taking the time to not only read but review the School of Awakening : ).
Shadowrun: Firing Squad (Core Combat Rulebook)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/13/2020 21:51:19

Shadowrun: Firing Squad is the first sourcebook for the Sixth World Edition of Shadowrun covering combat, always an important part of the game. The new equipment, combat options and advice widely expand the tactical choices and the discussions of the role of violence and its place in the world and characters’ lives allow for interesting roleplaying if that is your focus. A must have for any Shadowrun GM and any player who enjoy combat focused characters.

Shadowrun: Firing Squad, is the Core Combat Book for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, expanding on the combat side of the game through new gear and new rules and options. Pretty much everything a street samurai could need.

It begins with a short introduction laying out what is in the book, then we have one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, before we find the Weapons Rack section, more new toys for the violently inclined ranging from new melee weapons to guns of all sizes to crowd control water cannons. More options are always good and there is something for just about everyone, lethal, less lethal, probably non-lethal, big, small, it is all here. There are also new ammo types (two) and gear mods (though more of those later). Even a combat chainsaw (from the Ash Arms)! It does fill in some needed gabs, like a portable flame thrower but has some strangeness, such as why the ‘Xiphos’ Tactical Gladius, which is literally modeled on the classic Roman short sword, is an exotic weapon? The second part of the weapons rack section is new weaponry from rEVOlution Arms, weapon designed by Monads (if you have not been following the metaplot, human bodies and brains inhabited by AI) which all use the wild die, which has not seen much use in the game until now, and include wacky things like laser weaponry, PULSE stunners, and more. I have serious game balance questions about some of them (PULSE stunner I am looking at you) but they mostly seem like interesting bleeding edge technology to add to the game.

Suit Up comes next, which is defense to the previous section’s offense, it also introduces a “social rating” for clothes and armor that affects edge gain in social situations (surprise!). So you get everything from Ares customized ‘Bug Stomper’ armor and Mil-Spec armor to high fashion from Armante and Vashion Island. There are also a wide variety of possible modification to armor, some of which are extremely effective and will be highly sought after including one (“mystic weave”) which actually provides some protection against magic!

Customizing Weapons follows which is a section about . . . customizing weapons. Long, short, heavy, light, guns, melee, guns that are melee weapons, it is all here, get the precise weapon you want. My favorite has to be custom style which lets you get a social bonus from a properly decorated gun!

Honing Your Edge provides advice on planning for combat and basic tactics. Much of this is in character, in game world discussion which makes it more interesting. But there are also rules for tactical formations and tactical networks to give mechanical effect to the applied tactics. This is followed by Sharp Combat which includes 32(!) new Edge Actions and two new Edge Boosts. This seems like a lot of Edge Actions, because it is, but it includes all of the sorts of special maneuvers that were separate actions in previous editions, wrapping them all into Edge Actions makes sense. Play will see if tracking all the Edge Actions becomes unwieldy and if they are all relatively balanced. This section ends with Martial Arts, giving players more things to spend their precious karma on in exchange for additional options in combat. The new form of martial arts developed in the Sixth World is easily my favorite part of this section.

These Violent Delights looks at the use of violence as a tool, especially for people such as shadowrunners, both in a moral and practical context, this discussion is again almost all in world. Then it looks at some of the codes of honor existing in the Sixth World, adds a new negative quality of Pacifism and has some additional tweaks to the heat and reputation rules.

Violent Ends looks at the trauma receiving and inflicting violence can cause to people both from an in world perspective and gives mechanical rules for suffering and recovering from trauma. While I appreciate the concept and the deeper understanding of the problems of violence, actually using such rules to inflict trauma on characters seems likely to make players unhappy, so I would suggest discussing it with them before using these rules.

The last section is Fighting Forces which provide statistics for various security forces, paramilitaries (read Humanis) and gangs. Especially for the security forces I would have liked a little more information about standard unit size, expected deployments and, although basic tactics are mentioned, I would have liked that expended on as well.

The book concludes with tables of new equipment, which is nice but would be better if: 1) it incorporated the weapons from the core book, and 2) if the rEVOlution Arms listing included what sort of weapons they are as the alphabetical listing of names is not always clear. The armor list does include the armor from the core book to include the new social rating. As is sadly usual, there is no index.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Firing Squad (Core Combat Rulebook)
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Shadowrun: 30 Nights (Campaign Book)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/25/2020 08:37:24

Shadowrun: 30 Nights is a Campaign Book for Shadowrun detailing Ottawa and setting 30 “Nights” worth of adventurers there. There is some good information and some interesting adventures, some of which can be adapted to other situations, but not a required book unless you want to play in Ottawa or need ideas for adventures set during the Blackout part of the metaplot.

Shadowrun: 30 Nights, is a Campaign Book for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, letting players experience the UCAS blackouts (as discussed in Shadowrun: Cutting Black) directly.

It begins with an introduction with describes the terrible things that happened in the 1977 New York Blackout and leads into a brief discussion of the layout of the nights/ adventures. Then there is one of the required fiction pieces. Next we get a description of Ottawa, UCAS, it is short (twelve pages) but useful including such things as talismongers and weird mana zones within the city but it is lacking a map of the city, which would be exceedingly helpful as places are continually referenced in the city description and the adventures that follow.

The meat of the book is the 30 Nights, each one a situation that must be coped with, overcome or avoided. The nights are divided into several chains of linked sequences if the GM wants to focus on particular themes.

The adventures are varied, starting with building up a safe haven followed by traditional shadowrunner missions, some mysteries, some magical threats, a mixed bag. Most are more adventure frameworks than full adventures requiring considerable work from the GM to make playable. Many of them look fun but a few have real issues. One of these is a mystery where you are trying to learn about a sinister group performing rituals, there are three points where to move to the next stage one particular clue need to be found and that right leap must be made to move forward, and two of those require getting information from people who are likely to be uncooperative if not hostile. This is poor design. Another in a jail break from a Lone Star containment facility that is covered in less than three pages and has no map (in fact, nothing has a map).

Also, there is some issue with the framing of the whole Blackout/30 Nights, it is predicated on something all mysterious knocking out all the functioning tech in multiple cities across the UCAS. So, for the entire adventure period, there is no way to reliably access the Matrix, no power, no vehicles, the GM is reminded not to screw over decker and rigger characters with this by directly trashing their stuff but they are still crippled as characters. There is a little discussion of this in the first few nights but not much about practical things such as how do you network with your contacts without the Matrix (no phone, no text) and no working vehicles?

There are a great number of NPCs, both named and generic, given stats in the back of the book along with a new creature and many new creature powers. Weirdly, there is an index to the NPCs right after the NPC section which is alphabetical, exactly as they are organized just a few pages before. Now, if this also noted which Nights the NPCs showed up in, this might actually be useful however, it does not and just seems like repetition (and, no, there is no other index).

There is fun to be had here but the GM should not be expecting to be able to pick the book up and use adventures, additional work will be needed. The GM should also make sure this kind of semi-apocalypse setting is what the players are interested in, as it is Shadowrun but maybe not the play experience everyone is looking for.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: 30 Nights (Campaign Book)
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Shadowrun: Cutting Black (Plot Sourcebook)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/09/2020 14:14:57

Shadowrun: Cutting Black is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and lets you know how and where the metaplot is going with the Sixth World edition of the setting. It is mostly written in an engaging “what is happening?” style gathering fragmented information and shaping it into something coherent. It is almost all primary “in world” data with no authorial analysis, so you only get to see what the people involved can see with no explanations or looks behind the curtain. If you like that sort of sourcebook, it is a fun ride. I have some issues (placed at the end of the review to avoid spoilers) but I found it an engaging read.

Shadowrun: Cutting Black, is a Plot Sourcebook for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, this particular book provides an overview of what changed in the world as the editions rolled from 5th to 6th. Spoilers ahead so stop reading the review here if you want to experience them first hand

The material in this product is presented as an in game artefact of information, which is interesting, if disjointed, presented with information scattered and covering weeks of actual time as it was reported on the shadow boards. The information gathered from fragmentary news reports, first hand data being broadcast and other scraps of data that could be dug up.

Following an introduction, laying out the theme of the book, as is traditional, there is one of the ubiquitous fiction sections and then another, shorter one, leading into Ruptured Detroit. Long story short, Damien Knight and Ares brought all the toys to stomp a massive bug hive under Detroit and it did not go so well. Ares losses were huge, Knight is gone and Detroit turned into a battle ground between bugs and people and mixes of the two. This event is the catalyst for the rest of the events that follow.

Next section, Ghost Army, the UCAS mobilizes and sends a major force to intervene in Detroit and it just vanished. Roughly one hundred thousand soldiers and their equipment (and the area they were passing through) just gone. No explanation given but some very evocative stories from investigating where the army vanished from.

Next section, Blackout, which details the UCAS Government’s response, including abridging the Business Recognition Accords that gives the megacorporations such power. Then cities start going dark, all power and technological systems failing, the cause: unknown. But it causes havoc throughout the UCAS and only the UCAS.

A long fiction section leads to UchrASh which details further bad things happening to the UCAS, invasions from Quebec and some of the NAN states, which are not very successful by cause more troubles. Chaos erupting among the political classes in DeeCee and drumroll please St. Louis and Seattle breaking away from the UCAS to become free(ish) cities.

Detroit Now looks at what the current state of play is in Detroit, who has power, what kinds of opportunities are there to make money and what survived the bugs and the bombs. A great resource for Detroit after the disaster.

Next Atlanta, somewhere outside the UCAS!, gets an update in Atlanta Now! A short section bringing Atlanta up to date and its new status as the home to Ares Macrotechnology. But nice to see the CAS getting some time.

As the Dust Settles looks at some events outside of the UCAS even: the fall of the UK’s New Druidic Movement government and what replaced it, problems in the NAN and Quebec, and a little more.

The last page of the book is the only new game information with Sixth World stats for insect spirits. However, without support material, they are not very useful in and of themselves. No index.

Cutting Black is an interesting read but the lack of actual, well, information on what is happening (rather than just the in-game perspective on it) is deeply frustrating for a GM. Yes, it is a new edition, the Game Designers want to shake things up and tease new secrets to reveal later. I get it. But it makes it far less useful as a resource than it could be. Worse, from the perspective of me as a GM and my Shadowrun game (and I suspect for other long running SR campaigns), it makes a set of big, setting changing moves in the Metaplot . . . that cut across how my Shadowrun campaign has been developing the setting. I have a deep and abiding hatred of major changes made to the setting without involving the people who actually play and GM the game. And the changes here are significant enough that I either have to totally change my campaign or part ways with the new metaplot. As the new metaplot as presented in the book is rife with major actors taking stupid pills, unexplained choices, continued privileging of magic and dragons over megacorporations and technology and other sheer absurdities, I know which I am path I am following. So, while this book was an interesting read, it has almost no use to me as a Shadowrun sourcebook.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Cutting Black (Plot Sourcebook)
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Shadowrun: No Future (A Cyberpunk Sourcebook)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/02/2019 22:20:49

Shadowrun: No Future is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and lets you know what the media landscape is like in the Sixth World of Shadowrun. It casts a wide net covering music, popular entertainment, news, sports and more. If you like this level of world building, this is the book for you, for others, there is general information on the world and run ideas but perhaps not enough to make this a required purchase.

Shadowrun: No Future, is a CyberPunk Sourcebook for Shadowrun, this particular book provides an overview of where culture is in the Sixth World, ranging from music to sports, media to fashion. The limited amount of game mechanics for the version I reviewed were for Shadowrun, 5th edition, but the cultural information is edition independent.

Following an introduction, laying out the theme of the book, as is traditional, there is one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then begins Look Forward in Anger which looks at the power of the media to shape perception in the Sixth World and how the corporations use that to maintain their grip on the world. Each of the major megacorporations gets a short write-up of how they deploy their media power and how its works. And maybe, just maybe, how you can fight back.

Blitzkrieg Bops looks into the music scene of 2080, new music genres, who are the current stars and what happened to some of the old ones. It also looks at venues, up and coming acts from all around the world and some notes on sythlinks. It ends with a section on making music with rules for playing a rocker and making music (or other art), both live and recorded, unfortunately, the rules are essentially unusable with parts verging on incomprehensibility.

Creation Starts With Darkness covers what is being broadcast (streamed, whatever) that makes it way as part of the public perception of the world. Initially focusing on popular shows with considerable discussion of how they portray the world around them. There is a surprising amount of potential plot and adventure fodder here and that is just the show! There are also discussions about geographical hubs of activity (all North American sadly), media corporations and some of the people who hire Shadowrunners in the mediasphere. Also much flavor in the form of series guides, broadcast schedules and more. There is a page, just a page, on pornography in the Sixth World, which just skims the surface of the subject but is no less amusing for its brevity.

Next, after some fiction, is Leading & Bleeding about the news media in 2080 which is entirely corporate controlled and follows the corporate line almost all the time. A description of the corporate playbook for media control follows along with the major corporate players. Next there are the organizations fighting back against the sterilized and manipulated news. There are implied plot hooks here but they are not as frequent, clear or fun as in the previous one.

The Thrill & Agonies delves into sports, mostly professional, and the place they have in defining communities. Several “future” sports are included such as Combat Biking and Urban Brawl and information on how all of the sport have adapted to cybernetics, magic and metahumanity. This is all great background material but a little light on the adventure potential though the suggestions on fallen athletes becoming Shadowrunners, and the pitfalls thereof, has potential both for player characters and NPCs, Logos or at least colors for the new sports teams would have helped to flesh out this section and made it more useful, at least from my point of view.

We Suck Young Blood is about cool hunters, influencers and how the corporations aim to make some money off of them (and you). This implies certain sorts of missions and games and some of the corporate players are mentioned but it is not properly expanded on and there is no real guidance to how to incorporate these ideas or corporate groups into a run or campaign. Which is a shame as there are some interesting thoughts here.

Lastly, there are new toys: musical, cybernetic, fashions, weapons (of course), printing presses and other exotica. Fun as usual but nothing particularly game breaking but certainly good thematic support.

While the entire product does not match the superb chapters on music and media, it is an amazingly useful resource for making the Sixth World feel like a real place for the characters (and their players). However, if emphasizing that side of the game world is your jam, get this right away.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: No Future (A Cyberpunk Sourcebook)
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Shadowrun: The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2019 15:26:05

Shadowrun: The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and lets you know a little bit about a lot of things in the Sixth World of Shadowrun. It is edition agnostic, making it a useful book no matter which edition of Shadowrun you play though timelinewise it is set at the start of the new Sixth World Edition (2080), so some of it could be spoilers for games set earlier in the timeline. It is a fun read and a good way to provide an in-game look at the world to players but by no means a required book.

Shadowrun: The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia, is a Deep Shadows Sourcebook for Shadowrun, this particular book provides an overview of just about everything important in the Sixth World, from a NeoAnarchist perspective of course.

As is traditional, the book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves into From the Ashes, Neo-Anarchism, which explains the background to and current state of the Neo-Anarchism movement in the world of Shadowrun.

Then, the meat of the product, the data here is organized alphabetically, with some exceptions, such as famous AI (Artificial Intelligences) being tucked inside the AI definition. But the information is apportioned haphazardously, as you would expect from something that is presented as being crowd-sourced, which is often annoying at least to this reviewer. Nations often get short shrift, this is especially annoying for countries that have never appeared in sourcebooks or whose last appearance was more than a decade ago, to only get a paragraph light on details and high on snark (and some nations, like the Scandinavian Union, do not even get that).

There is also a missing referenced entry, Omnistar references that it is a combine of DocWagon, Lone Star Security and Manadyne and to refer to the individual entries . . . but there is not one for Manadyne. Very unfortunate.

But for all of these flaws, it is still a useful and interesting resource, giving the “state of play” at the beginning of 2080 and the Sixth World edition.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: The Neo-Anarchist Streetpedia
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Shadowrun: Better Than Bad (Deep Shadows)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2019 19:07:12

Shadowrun: Better than Bad is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and provides support for characters “hooding” or helping the little guy. As that is a campaign style that has not seen much support for this edition, I was pleased to see this book as it is a style I like to see. If you are interest in that style of pay, or Azania which also gets explored in this product, it is a worthwhile purchase but probably not a priority.

Shadowrun: Better than Bad, is a Deep Shadows Sourcebook for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book covers the idea that Shadowrunners can actually do good in the Sixth World and not just be corporate stooges along with a visit to Azania (formerly South Africa).

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves into A Light in the Darkness, talking about “Hooding” doing good for the community and striking against the powerful, named after Robin Hood (of course). Various of the organizations that oppose the corps are covered ranging from self-help groups to full on terrorist organizations, something for everyone and a bit more. It also includes a pitch to fight the power, rock on Opti (aka Old Crow, active NeoAnarchist and host of the NeoAnarchist podcast).

Another fiction section leads into It’s All About Power, which are a bunch on in world pitches for hooding jobs across the globe from Atlanta to Mumbai, these serve as nice adventure seeds as well as giving information about what is happening across the Sixth World. A useful section is “Turning a Profit without Charging Money” which talks about the rewards for doing good beside money. It then turns to looking at some of the organizations and networks, such as the Draco Foundation and the New Underground Railroad, who are trying to do good work. A discussion of getting hired for this kind of job, for whom the contact is generically referred to as “Ms Smith” (as opposed to the corporate Mr Johnson) and how working with such non-professional tends to go very differently from the usual run along with some example run ideas and a set of random tables for generating more (though one of the tables is missing a result line).

Next we move onto the location-based section of the product, welcome to Azania (formerly South Africa) and specifically the Pretoria-Witwatersrand-Vaal Metroplex. If one wants to run some adventures in Azania, this will give you the information to do so including places to visit, what the Megacorps are up to (short but let you know what area is controlled by each, making it easy to link them to run), the political situation (more fodder for runs), and notes on likely opposition from the security forces and criminal elements. There are some new para-animals including dangerous paratypes of rabbits! The way SINs work are slightly different here with the addition of color codes and that is detailed along with the problems having the wrong codes can cause.

Jacaranda Citizens presents fifteen NPCs, mostly who operate at Hooders in the PWV sprawl, many of whom could be employers or allies, with one or two targets or enemies. I would have liked to have seen more adventure hooks and fewer stats (about five pages are consumed with stat blocks). The section ends with two new qualities, one positive and one negative, and a new mentor spirit that has the worst mechanical downside of any mentor spirit, a real, what were they thinking moment, as it has the potential to trigger “you cannot play this character is this adventure.” Bad design choice.

Being Less Bad looks at the nuts and bolts of being a hooder, from an in game perspective, and gives a lot of general adventure ideas in the process. Solid section and a good read.

Building a Hooder is where all the new toys are, the “grey tech” items which provide protection from magic (but are not recommended for magically active characters) and includes a drug (“blight”) that really messes up magically active beings. There are two new spells, two new adept powers, eleven (more) new qualities: seven positive, two masteries, and two negative. New Life Path modules for characters from the Azanian Confederation are provided. It concludes with some new rules with more uses for karma and street cred.

The book ends with tables to generate Hooding runs which are useful for inspiration as well but sadly, no index.

Overall, a useful book though I remain not entirely sold on the sourcebook/location book combo. I am all for encouraging less violent and more help the people style of play, part of any cyberpunk setting should be the focus on the do it yourself, build a community aspect of punk part of the name. So, I entirely approve of seeing that focused on here.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Better Than Bad (Deep Shadows)
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Shadowrun: Kill Code (Advanced Matrix Rules)
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/21/2019 21:32:34

Shadowrun: Kill Code is a sourcebook for Shadowrun and providing a useful (and clearer?) overview of the Matrix and how the rules system for it works, with general technological tools more options for technomancers and more information on the state of the Matrix. However to get best use from Kill Code you will need at least the earlier sourcebook Data Trails and several other source books. Unless you are running a Matrix, and especially Technomancer, focused game, this sourcebook is not a priority.

Shadowrun: Kill Code, is the Advance Matrix Rule book for the 5th edition of Shadowrun, this particular book expands ways to interact with and explore the Matrix for hackers, technomancers and others. As well as providing new tools and troubles for all involved in Matrix work.

The book begins with one of the ubiquitous fiction sections, then moves into a section titled “So you want to be a hacker?” which begins with a brief (in world) description of the history and current state of the Matrix, the global computer network. Followed by the Manual of the Matrix which redefines the Matrix for game play, referring back to the main rule book with page numbers and everything. Followed by How to Hack 101, which walks through the basic rules systems used for Matrix hacking. Not a good sign when you have to spend sixteen pages of a supplement to explain how the rules in the core book are suppose to work, but nice to have it clearly laid out. Then there is one new rule (reckless hacking) and a section of eleven new matrix actions, including the delightful named Squelch (which stops communications) and Subvert Infrastructure, which cover many of the things hackers need to do as shadowrunners. The Gamemaster’s Grimoire of the Matrix comes next and gives some advice for GM (naturally) on how to present and use the Matrix in play, including a nice chart for Matrix runs and advice on how the different types of hosts work and how to use them. It also answers the big question of the Matrix changeover of 2075 and what the Foundation of the new Matrix is. This is both welcome and surprising at Catalyst has a long tradition of hiding the vital “secrets of the world” in their novels and never explicitly explaining them in their source books. So, well-done Catalyst and please continue including vital setting information in the RPG source books.

Next we have Dips & Chips which includes new gear for hackers, technomancers and non-Matrix types, things for runners and tools for the corporations. There is a lot to digest here and GM will probably want to introduce part of the new runner oriented gear slowly so as not to totally upset the balance of a campaign. But lots of fun things here to provide advantage for, and against, hackers and technomancers ranging from weaponized spam to new decks and the corporations even get three new types of IC (rah?).

Disc Jockeys & Lightstream Riders provides new positive (four) and negative qualities (nineteen!) for hackers, though the writeup on a few (such as Echo Chamber) are not as clear as they should be. A set of life modules, for that variant character generation system, for hackers and technomancers are also provided.

Data Streams follow another fiction section and provides paths for technomancers to follow: Sourcerers, Technoshamans, Machinists and CyberAdepts, each emphasizing a different aspect of the technomancer abilities and each gaining access to a unique complex form; these function in a similar manner to traditions for spell casters gaining advantages, the most game changing is the technoshaman being able to summon great form sprites which have very powerful abilities.

In the Flow adds eleven complex forms for technomancers, new positive (fourteen, seven of which can be taken by non-technomancers and one that can only be taken by non-technomancers) and negative (eleven, six of which can be taken by non-technomancers) qualities, two new sprites (companion and generalist), three new sprite powers, seven new optional sprite powers, and seven new echoes. Paragons allow for a mentor spirit like relationship for technomancers following by following the ideals of various Matrix-based paragons who aid in certain tasks and hinder others but allegiance to the Paragons in a fairly fluid thing and can be gained, lost and switched with comparative ease.

A Million Icon Bloom gives information on technomancer tribes, which are societies of technomancers (and, occasionally, others) who aid each other especially for submersion and advancement. Pretty much what you would expect with some useful bits about how to interact with these tribes for non-technomancers.

Diving Under gives some advice for those having to fight technomancers. This is an odd section, part advice and part commentary but almost entirely devoid of in game commentary. I would have liked to have seen more here especially a discussion of how corporations work to “technomancer-proof” their operations.

Infinite Realms details a few of the weird “resonance realms” that exist in the far corners of the Matrix and can be visited by technomancers. Interesting but of limited use unless you are playing a technomancer focused games. Reversing the Current look at those technomancers who have embraced the “dissonance,” the other aspect of the technomancer’s understanding of the Matrix. Three paths for dissonance users are provided each with their own tricks and abilities.

Null Signs brings us back to the Null Sect, first mentioned in Dark Terrors, which is a Matrix based and created set of being that seek to purge the Matrix of all beings and things with ties to the physical realm. An interesting idea but not sure what can be done with it in play and a lot of effort is spent spinning them into a major threat though to what end I am unsure.

Into the Wild talks about the “wild matrix” the parts that are not overseen by corporation or governments or, sometimes, any structure at all. Not quite the same as resonance realms as these can be accessed by anyone willing to leave the safety of the regulated Matrix. It also talks about who would be interested in paying you to go there or pay for data brought back from the wild.

The final section is The Core of Consciousness which provides more information and variants on the technocritters, animals with technomantic powers, and technosapients, beings of the Matrix, both first seen in Howling Shadows. Some fun creatures here that can be used by or against runners. More information about the xenosapients of the Null Sect is also provided (including some GM only information).

Kill Code is a mixed bag, there is some good information, such as making the Matrix rules a bit clearer but this should have been published as a free PDF for all players of Shadowrun (perhaps with the addition of a flowchart) as it is one of the more confusing subsystems in the rules. But it follows the trend of making magic, in this case technomancy, always ultimately much more powerful than what technology can provide hackers with. For some reason, I find that annoying as no one path should be objective the best when there are multiple paths. But overall a useful book for those campaigns that delve deeply into Matrix but primarily only for such campaigns.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Kill Code (Advanced Matrix Rules)
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Gostor: Nymph (5e)
Publisher: First Ones Entertainment
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/26/2018 14:33:41

Gostor - Nymphs: Minor Goddesses, a new race for D&D 5E, by Jean-Philipe ‘JP’ Chapleau provides exactly what it promises, the race of nymphs, nature spirits or the most minor of goddess, inspired by Greek Mythology in a playable form.

A short background of the place of nymphs is followed by the types of nymphs. A few paragraphs on using nymphs and four paragraph length adventure seeds

Nymphs, as presented here, have three playable subtypes: underworld, forest and waterway, while wild nymph and hags are noted for story reasons, and sky nymphs appear as monsters. They seem balanced though all, naturally, have some magical abilities.They are supported by two backgrounds, whose features need clearer definition of how they should be used, and one new feat, which really seems more aimed at NPC nymphs as it makes the character an ally of hags.

Two new "monsters" round out the product, sky nymphs (which oddly, cannot fly) and wild nymphs, both which have a very minimal descriptions outside their statblocks.

While this product achieves its aims, there is so much more it could have done. It only allows for female nymphs, for example, while males would have another name there is no reason for nature spirits to be confined to one sex. Some tables for suggested characteristics to go with the backgrounds and a magic item or two would have really solidified the usefulness of this product. As it is, it seems of more use to a DM than players, but even then it would have been nice to have had more support material.

3.5 rounded up to 4.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gostor: Nymph (5e)
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