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Mapz 'n' Tilez: Temple of the Spider God
Publisher: UKG Publishing
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/17/2005 00:00:00

Temple of The Spider God provides a pre-made map and associated 25mm scale map tiles for a small temple complex. An autorun executable is provided, which runs when the CD is inserted. The autorun program opens a webpage interface with links to the individual maps, in PDF form, as well as PDFs and JPGs of the tiles.

The Temple complex is composed of a main temple area proper adjoining an outer cavern area, which has tunnels leading into from the north and south. The 2nd level, reached by a stair from the back rooms of the temple proper leads into small dormitory and living area with several bunkrooms, a library and smaller chapel. The third level, reached by stairs in the back of the small chapel area is a large crypt.

Each of these levels is presented by a 2 collections of 4 maps, one in color and one in grayscale. Each collection is made up of a Detailed map, Detailed with Grid, Classic Blue Grid, and Black Grid. The Detailed map shows furnishings, statues, & textures. The Detailed with Grid Map adds a 5? grid overlay in blue to the detailed map. The Classic Blue map shows the basic layout on a blue grid, as featured in older modules, and the Black Grid is the above done in a black grid. Each map has key encounter areas numbered on the map. Which the GM would then write the encounters for, a handy form for recording this information isn?t included however.

In addition to the maps, there are a set of Tiles, also in color and grayscale, which contain each section of the abovementioned maps in 25mm scale, 1? = 5?. Lit and Unlit versions are provided. These can be printed and assembled to form a battle map. The furnishings, statuary, and other objects are shown on the tiles; the images are crisp and clear. Also included are the JPGs used to prepare the maps, thus enterprising GM?s can alter the base images to make a few changes as they like.

Overall this is a nicely done map, ready for use by a GM to provide a nicely rendered underground temple environment into which his player?s adventurers can delve. <br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Lighting effects, sharp images of furnishings and other details.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: No handy form on which to record your encounters. <br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mapz 'n' Tilez: Temple of the Spider God
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StarCluster 2
Publisher: Better Mousetrap Games
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/14/2005 00:00:00

OVERVIEW

Starcluster 2nd Edition is a science fiction RPG in the vein of Traveller; it favors small scale space opera involving smugglers, merchants, scouts, & soldiers making their way in a vast and not very friendly universe. It is built on solid percentile mechanics and utilizes a detailed year by year education/career system to define characters. It is set against a detailed, unique universe, called the Cluster, which ended up as the final refuge of a displaced humanity after Earth was destroyed in a supernova. This refuge was reached at long last by slower-than-light generation ships filled with refugees fleeing earth before its destruction. Upon their arrival they found many worlds connected by jump routes, 3 of those worlds were home to descendants of transplanted humankind, adapted to the rigours of their homeworlds, the Sastra, Vantor, & Tagris. Thus the game provides a vast detailed universe in which the players can play out the adventures of their characters as they seek their fortunes among the closely connected stars of the Cluster.

INTRODUCTION

This chapter starts with the story of history past, specifically what drove the Diaspora of the peoples from Earth, and the surrounding solar system. This back story, the exodus of peoples from the Earth's solar system via slower than light generation ships, which took place over a couple hundred of years, leaves some interesting options open for the GM and players. They can add new elements to the game as their campaign progresses, in the form of interesting new cultures of people arriving on an unknown generation ship.

CHARACTER GENERATION, SKILLS & METASKILLS, AND HUMANS & HUMANOIDS

These three chapters definitely could have benefited from a short overview of the mechanics of the game, in order to provide players with a better grasp on what the skill numbers and other statistics generated in these chapters mean. Secondly, a better overview of the steps in the character generation process and how they relate to each other would have helped as well.

After reading through these chapters a couple of times, and the playing the game chapter once or twice, you would have found out the characters are defined by three sets of key statistics, Attributes, Race, and Skills. Two of these statistics are constrained by the character's birth world and its inherited Tech level. The character?s Tech Level, as determined by his Birth World determines the possible range of three of the character's attributes, IQ, PSI, and (Social) Rank. It also determines the education options the character has open to him and through that the skills he will be able to acquire.

Now the Attributes, most of which are rated from two to 12 or more, with the average being seven, are Strength (STR), Coordination (COOR), Agility (AGY), Endurance (END), Charisma (CHA), IQ, PSI, and (Social) Rank (RANK). IQ, for reasons I do not understand, uses the ?real world? scale where an IQ score of 100 is average, so while you might have an STR of 8 and END of 8, your IQ is 125. PSI tends to range from 0, no PSI ability, to 5 or more. Attributes provide a modifier to a skill for which they are a controlling attribute. This modifier is +5% for each 2 points they are over 7, so +10% at 9, +15% at 11. I didn?t see it mentioned if the reverse is true, that stats below 7 provide a -5% modifier for every 2 points below 7. IQ is an exception of course, in which case the modifier is equal to +1% for every point of IQ over 120. Your physical attributes are used to determine your Constitution ((STR+COOR+AGY+END)*10), which should just be called Hit Points or something, since that?s what they are. Finally, many education and careers options have minimum attribute requirements.

Two options are presented for generating your attributes, random or directed. Random, you roll 2d6 for most of your attributes, except for IQ, PSI and RANK, for which you roll percentile dice and compare the result to a table based on your character?s Tech Level, as determined by his Home World. In the directed method you are given two sets of points, 35 to split between your STR, COOR, AGY, END, & CHA, and 135 points to assign towards your ?rolls? on the IQ/PSI/Rank table. You don?t spend the points directly, but instead take the score that a roll equal to the points assigned to the attribute would generate.

There are four ?races? in the Starcluster universe, which can inter-breed to form an additional 3 types of hybrids. The races are ?Human?, Sastra, Vantor, & Tagris, and the Hybrids are called SaHus, VaHus, and HuTas.

Sastra are a race of humans adapted towards climbing, being smaller and slighter than average humans and sporting a prehensile tail and large feet which can manipulate objects and pivot like a wrist, think of humans gengineered to have monkey or marsupial features. They have fur on most of their bodies and large pointed ears which give them greater than human hearing. SaHus can have features of either parent.

Vantor are a race of humans adapted to aquatic environments, they have broad, muscular tails, and broad finned feet, how that works wasn?t obvious from the picture of the Vantor, though she was hot. They are also described as having no body hair, with their bodies being covered by a unique pattern of stripes, whorls, spots, clusters, or splotches, depending on the Vantor. The Vantor-human hybrids, VaHus can have features of either parent as well.

Tagris are a race of humans with features similar to large cats such as tigers. They are larger and stronger than the average human, but have limited endurance compared to a human. Part of this greater strength is achieved by having their arm muscles anchored to their necks and heads as well as shoulders. The most notable feature in comparison to human?s, other than their size, is that their heads are covered in fur, except for the mouth and chin with their ears set high on their head. The Tagris-Human hybrids are called HuTas, and again can have the distinctive features of either race.

The primary effect of the choice of race is the attribute modifiers associated with each race. No information is provided as to how these different races are integrated into society or if there are any reaction modifiers or other effects associated with your choice of race, in the Humans and Humanoids chapter.

Skills are rated in levels, with a skill level of 0 representing no training/skill and +1 representing rudimentary ability, with Skill levels reaching +10 or more. Your chance of success is equal to a base chance of 40%, + 5xSkill Level. When attempting tasks in which you have no skill, i.e. a skill level of +0, you chance of success is equal to the Skills controlling Attribute, unless it is based on IQ, in which case it is a flat 10%, regardless of IQ. (Again with the non-standard handling of IQ, sigh. ) Which is the number you must roll less than or equal to on the percentage dice to succeed in using a skill.

A short section explaining these things would have helped new players get into the system much easier. As it stands, these things must be gleaned by scouring over the first three chapters and the playing the game chapter.

Knowing the things described above would have made the actual character generation process much easier to follow. Character generation in Starcluster 2nd edition, is similar to that in the Traveller games, you follow your character?s life path year by year through his education and career choices, improving his skills and attributes as you go (no survival rolls though, so you character won?t die in character generation.) Your character?s basic stats represent his abilities at age 10. You get 4 ?mother?s milk? skills based on his Rank and upbringing, representing childhood skills he learned. You then choose a secondary school for your character, gaining additional skills. From there you can choose to have your character pursue secondary education, assuming he can afford it (You have an amount of starting credits based on your social rank), or enter into a career. You guide your character through careers and education until you reach the age in which he will adventure at, and then he enters play.

You might think it is best to make your character as old as possible, so he can have the maximum skills; however there is Physical Deterioration to contend with. Every 3 years, starting at age 34, your character loses on point from one of his physical attributes. This being the future, it is possible to reduce the rate of this deterioration of your character?s abilities by the use of Boost, which reduces the rate to one point every 12 years.

There is no adventure based experience system in these rules, advancement only occurs through the year by year method. A character?s adventure(s) are assumed to be the most exciting thing that happens to him in that year, the rest is assumed to be his normal schooling/career. There are a large number of tables detailing each education and career option, defining the skills the character can gain and his chance for promotions, etc. It is a pretty good system, as proven in Traveller and other games.

EQUIPMENT, PERSONAL & EQUIPMENT, WEAPONS

This Personal Equipment chapter opens with a discussion of the prevalent technologies at each tech level, including the primary materials and power systems used, then goes on to list various pieces of equipment including their weights and costs. Due to the significant number of low-tech worlds in the Cluster, many low-tech items and armor are defined as well. The armor types even include ?wicker? which the text informs us is very effective against arrows & darts (Thus the discerning player will have his power armor clad warrior carry a wicker shield just in case he is waylaid by a band of pygmies.). Popular fabrics and other details of clothing are described as well. All in all, the equipment is fairly standard, though little information is provided about the prevalence of computers and information networks within the Cluster. An interesting omission, also little is said about nano-tech and bio-tech. I get the impression that Starcluster goes for a more classic space opera feel, and downplays any cyberpunk/trans-human elements in its technology base.

The weapons chapter provides statistic for both modern and archaic weapons, all of which see use within the cluster. High tech items include arc swords, laser pistols & rifles, gyrojet pistols, slug throwers, molecular swords, sonic weapons, & stun weapons. No plasma weapons or other high-tech energy weapons are listed. Archaic weapons are what you would expect, with nun-chuks and katana listed, because even in the future they are damn cool.

Weapons use hit tables based on the damage type and armor type against which they are being used. Damage types include, cut, arrow, bash, kinetic, energy, electric, sting, & unarmed, pitted against hide, ballistic, steel, plate, ceramic, plasteel, chromeskin, and wicker, yes wicker. Though, as explained in the designer?s notes, armor reduces damage, these damage reductions are front-loaded in the resolution process, and are handled as to-hit modifiers instead, for ease of use.

PLAYING THE GAME

This fairly short chapter includes a brief discussion of the play style assumed by the game, and then dives into the combat rules followed by some skill use rules.

Starcluster is based on a ?survival? model, that is, your main goal is assumed to be your character surviving to gain more skill & ability. The default campaign is assumed to a linked series of adventures, each presumed to take place over a period of years, spanning the character?s career. Thus you first adventure or two might involve a military character fresh from the academy, then a few years later in his first campaign, and years later as grizzled NCO leading a troop in a campaign.

Combat in Starcluster is conducted in one-minute long rounds divided into a 120 segments called initiatives. A character?s initiative score is determined by the roll of percentage dice. This is the character?s base initiative. A character can take penalties to his hit or damage rolls to speed up his initiative, acting on an earlier segment or can delay his initiative, thereby gaining a bonus to his hit or damage rolls. Character?s with high skill levels with certain weapons are able to make additional attacks during a round, each occurring 10 segments later, the first occurring on his acting initiative segment. Character?s make attacks using their weapon skills, damage is based on the weapon modifier plus the roll of a d100 (damage values of 100 or more are common, as most characters have between 250 and 350 Constitution). A character has 4 damage levels, Normal, Hindered, Unconscious, and Seriously Wounded, corresponding to 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4 of his Constitution. As you will note, there are no automatic dead results, most character will be knocked unconscious as a result of combat.

STAR TRAVEL & SPACE COMBAT

This chapter describes space travel within the Cluster, which is accomplished via the use of A-grav, g-Drive, and jump. A-Grav is the use of anti-gravity fields for propulsion and used mostly to and from orbit, G-drive is a anti-matter based reaction drive and is used mostly for in-system travel. Finally, Jump is based on the use of a Jump field guided by a psionic navigator, no spice required. Jumps are limited to the closed system of Jump routes which are based on stellar type and location. The Jump drive only works within the Cluster, as the jump routes don?t extend beyond the confines of the cluster, limiting travel to slower-than-light means.

Starship combat is conducted in a series of turns, in which movement, fire, damage control, etc are performed as tasks by the crew members. Damage is handled similarly to that of characters, with ships having a constitution score based on their size.

GUIDE TO CLUSTER POLITICS & SOCIETIES

This chapter provides an overview of the political divisions of the Cluster as well information on the major worlds that it comprises. The Cluster is dominated by the SaVaHuTa, a loose confederation of world including the Diasporan humans, and the ?native? species of the Sastra, Vantor, and Tagris. Second is the Diasporan Community, which is much smaller than the SaVaHuTa, there defining feature being their xenophobia and distrust of the Sastra, Vantor, and Tagris, whom they do not consider human. There are also the Independent Worlds and the Thieve?s Worlds rounding things out. There is a League of Alien Nations, there being a number of non-human species native to the cluster. No information is given on the actual alien species nor any information on playing them as characters. The chapter is rounded out with a detailed description of the Aztec system, suitable as a beginning area for play, some nice maps of the Aztec system and the Cluster round out this section.

Overall, the Cluster presents a pretty interesting environment for play with some engaging elements. Things seem focused on small scale actions by players making their way among the worlds of the cluster, as there are no great monolithic empires or opposing empires to go to war or such. Smugglers, merchant princes, and fleet captains are all likely adventurer types to include. There is the ?seeder? background, the aliens who seeded the humans that would become the Sastra, Vantor & Tagris, as well as the now collapsed Etvar Empire, plus all manner of intrigues between the various states and the SaVaHuTa and Diasporan Community.

DESIGN NOTES

This chapter provides some insight into why certain mechanics were designed they way they were. Most useful for players who want to use the system are the core goals of the system, from the text.

The basic, core goals of StarCluster are:

? To sustain a survival oriented, realistic style of play

? To promote unique and memorable characters

? To allow for competent but not vastly superior characters

? To allow for various methods of game structure, both traditional (Campaign, One Shot) and nontraditional (Serialized Adventures, Flashbacks) as the GM and players wish.

? To allow for various points of emphasis, Exploration, Story Arc, Combat, and Social interaction, among others.

PRESENTATION & LAYOUT

The document makes use of both single column and double column layout throughout The PDF (as a second look shows). Certain sections definitely would have benefited from using a multi-column layout, especially in presenting the numerous tables. The artwork appears to be doctored model photos against hand done backdrops using a kind of watercolor or oil paint filter or effect. The effect is hit or miss, with some of the illustrations looking quit striking and other ones looking like a quick photoshop job. Overall it is pretty good though. The text doesn?t make use of bookmarks, but the TOC and Index use hyperlinks (the page numbers are linked in the index, not the index entry it corresponds to.), however. It is serviceable, but better layout would make the tables easier to nagivate and save on paper should you want to print them out.

SUMMARY

Starcluster 2nd edition is a solid Sci-Fi game set against an engaging universe. Its mechanics are easy to use and functional. The game text could use more summary & explanatory text to make it easier for the players to get into the game, but overall it is a good buy for player?s looking for some hard SF gaming focusing on the small scale stories of the peoples who make their way among the many worlds of the Cluster.

[Review edited to address publisher's comments]

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Interesting background, career system<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Lack of explanatory & summary text, sprawling layout used for tables.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Acceptable<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
StarCluster 2
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Creator Reply:
Hi Rob: An excellent review, very in depth - and you obviously read the game book thoroughly. There are a few, small points of fact I should bring up. Some of the chapters are layed out in double column, for example Playing the Game, Space Travel & Starship Combat, Guide to Cluster Politics & Societies, and the Design notes - basically anywhere there was a lot of text to read. Single column chapters were pretty much limited to those with lots of tables. Biotech is available in the Biotech supplement. The scope of the game necessitated working in large strokes, so this was not developed in the core book. There is no focus on nanotech, though. :D The ToC and the Index both are fully hyperlinked,though there are indeed no bookmarks. Aside from that, the humanoids were not given any reaction modifiers or other social effects because there is no single unifying society in the Cluster. Each world is its own society, and such things vary enormously between them. I pretty much agree with your assessments. The rules certainly are a bit jumbled, and could use a good editor. :P Glad you enjoyed it! -clash
Thieves' World Player's Manual
Publisher: Green Ronin
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/07/2005 00:00:00

OVERVIEW

Thieves' World, the name alone summons up images of dangerous back alleys and shadowed skulduggery, and for me, memories of gripping, gritty action in an all too real fantasy world. I have been a big fan of Thieves' World since the original anthology appeared in the '80s, Hanse called Shadowspawn and Tempus Thales are my favorite characters from the series. As a matter of fact, I just recently completed my Thieves' World collection, having gotten the last 4 books in the original series, which I haven't read yet. I also haven't read any of the new series yet. So my review will be based more on my memory of the original series, which is my 2nd most favorite fantasy series ever. I never had, nor have I ever seen, the original Thieves' World RPG, so am I am coming to this product with no preconceptions of how the adaptation should be done.

With that bit of preamble out of the way let me say, this is a pretty damn good Thieves' World game done D20 style. I think that D20 player's will find that the rules adaptations and changes will really give the feel of cruising those dangerous back alleys among the vibrant, gritty and dangerous city of Sanctuary.

CHAPTERS 1 & 2: "A Sanctan Primer" & "Cultures and Backgrounds"

These two chapters provide at good introduction and grounding in sanctuary and the thieves world setting. Chapter 1 provides an overview of the peoples of sanctuary, and its current government under the timeline of the new anthologies and Sanctuary novel. The chapter also discusses the languages spoken in the Thieves' World setting, as well as the calendar and and currencies used.

Information is also provided on the climate and geography of the region, illustrated by a nicely done map. Finishing out this chapter is a 12 page overview of the city of sanctuary itself. This overview includes description of each quarter or district of the city, including notable establishments and denizens. The description of each section of the city also includes notes on playing a character from that part of the city of Sanctuary. The information provided in this chapter is meaty and will help the players get into the setting, and conduct themselves like a true denizen of Thieves' World. This section also explains why you don't go into The Maze at night, or go alone, and especially not unarmed.

Chapter 2, Cultures and Backgrounds, describes the cultures, and people, that populate the Thieves' World setting. A description of common members of each cultural group is provided along with the languages they speak. Classes a character from that cultural group is likely to take are also described. Each culture is also made distinct by being given a default feat, that all members of that cultural group possess. The player is also allowed to pick a cultural feat from a shortlist for that cultural group. Backgrounds provide characters with additional skills and background traits, as well as providing back story details for the character. Thus encouraging the player to generate details of the character's life before he began adventuring. The cultures and backgrounds go a long way toward making a character feel like a native to the Thieves' World setting. Backgrounds also encourage the player to develop an interesting back story for his characters, defining how he or she has survived in the city of Sanctuary.

CHAPTERS 3, 4, & 5: "Classes", "Prestige Classes" and "Skills & Feats".

Chapter 3 provides an overview of the character classes featured in the Thieves' World setting, modifying a few and introducing introducing new classes unique to Thieves' World setting. These new classes include such standouts as the Godsworn, a character class like Tempus Thales in the anthologies, and the Witch, whose powers are far greater than the candle and cauldron charms typically associated with the idea of the witch.

An important difference from the usual D&D 3.5 rules is that multi-classing is unrestricted, without experience penalties, which fits with the nature of the Thieves' World character's and stories. Readers of the books will reall that many of the Thieves' world characters had talents in many areas. Also fitting with the nature of the Thieves' World setting, Alignments are not used either.

Chapter 4 provides the Prestige Classes unique to Thieves' World Setting. These PrCs include The Blue Star Adept, Hell Hound, Nisibisi War Witch, Sacred Bander, and S'Danzo Fortuneteller. These are all pretty interesting and reinforce the feel of the setting, and offer some interesting abilities to wield.

Chapter 5 offers a new skill, Gamble, and additional rules for a few others, a list of new Feats is provided as well. The more interesting and Thieves' World specific ones being Sighted and Witchblooded.

CHAPTERS 6 & 7: "Supplemental Rules" & "Equipment & Resources"

Chapter 6 provides additional rules for combat. First, there are the altered massive damage rules (the amount being equal to your CON score plus a Size Modifier, and thus much more likely than the standard rules),Severe Injury rules (On a critical hit where character suffers damage greater than his massive damage threshold, he may suffer a severe injury. Which is applied as an ability drain.), and the Infection Rules (If character suffers damage equal greater than or equal to his massive damage threshold, he must make a fortitude save or suffer an infection. Infection is treated as a disease that does 1d4 constitution, so it's possible character can die from it.) Also in this chapter are a set of "Reputation" rules, whereby a character's reputation in the city can gain him advantages in social situations. A set of contact rules are also provided, providing the character with NPC's he knows that can provide him with information, influence of skill help.

The additional combat rules definitely add to the "not your typical D&D feel" of the Thieves' World stories, and will help player's empathize with the reasonable fears of character's who are not given to combat. The Reputation rules help player's develop a legendary status among the denizens of Sanctuary, allowing tales of their own exploits to be added to the storytellers' collections.

Chapter 7, Equipment & Resources, adds rules for a few items unique to the setting. Enlibar Steel for one, as well as rules for some of the many drugs found in the setting, such as Krrf, which featured heavily in the original anthology. They also provide some guidelines for the presence of magical items in the Thieves' World setting.

Though the book states that magic items should be available as in other D20 games, I have to disagree. Magic items were rather rare in the original anthology. Indeed, the appearance of shop selling magical items was the focus of a number of stories, including one involving Hanse Shadowspawn after he was stricken by a "fear stick". They do point out that Magic items are not readily or easily available for sale, and provide advice on what items are appropriate and which are inappropriate to the setting. Though this reviewer's recommendation is to make the magic items few and far between and provide the focus of a rousing adventure, much like in the original Thieves' World anthology.

CHAPTERS: 8 & 9: "Sorcery" & "Spells"

Chapter 8 provides an alternate magic system that seeks to emulate the magic evidenced in the Thieves' world series. It works by requiring casters to make Casting checks to fill a mana pool until they meet the Mana Threshold of the spell. Once they have focused enough energy, they can cast the spell. Critical success and failures on these checks can have interesting effects. Spells can be cast normally or performed as rituals, which take longer but have a greater chance of success, and greater effect. Rounding out chapter 8 are the curse rules, a type of magic that anyone can perform, at great cost to themselves.

The Spells chapter provides a small list of new spells, as well as spell lists for each type of sorcery, magic, prayer, and witchcraft, and new domains for priests. It also provides a list of inappropriate spells for the Thieves' World setting. Overall the spell list is pretty good, and should please players who want to play Nisibisi Witches, Mages, Priests, and doomed Godsworn. Overall I think it is pretty well done, though it does make it likely that players will be throwing around more magic than is seen in the original anthology.

APPENDICES: "Gods of Sanctuary" & "Character Glossary"

The appendices provide first, a brief overview of the major pantheons and god's present in the Thieves' World setting, including info on their symbol, associated domains, and favored weapons. The second appendix offers a character glossary which has a comprehensive listing of characters from both the original anthology and the new anthology (but no stats at all, unfortunately). I found both of these to be useful and interesting

PRESENTATION & LAYOUT

The Thieves' World Player's Manual is a 193 page PDF done in a two column layout. The font used for most the text is a fairly ornate serif font, but is easily readable. Sections titles are marked with bar graphics, which makes the book easy to skim through. Its layout is above average and quite readable. The artwork is good, with a few pieces standing out. Though some of the more cartoonish pieces didn't appeal to this reviewer. But overall it is a very high quality professional looking product.

SUMMARY

The Thieves' World Players Manual offers up a well-done D&D derived adaptation of the Thieves' World setting. It makes important changes, and additions, to the classes, skills and feats available to support the feel of the setting. The Culture and Backgrounds do a good job of reinforcing the setting and providing an extra hook for the player's to become immersed in the setting, as well as providing a mechanical difference between characters of different cultures and backgrounds. The new combat rules make the combat a bit more gritty and dangerous, as befits the background. The Sorcery rules adapt the standard D20 magic rules to be more like the magic as shown in the anthologies, and provide a feel more like the magic present in the Thieves' World setting. Overall, I think the book does a good job of adapting the city of Sanctuary and the Thieves' World setting to the D20 system. I look forward to the other products in this game line, especially Shadowspawn's Guide to Sanctuary, and having my chance to walk the dangerous alleys of the Maze. Hopefully more info from the original anthology can be provided as well, so us old-timers can play in the "Ranken Era". As another reviewer mentioned, more adventure bits and more info on NPC's from the series would be nice, and a small adventure would have been useful too.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: The grittier combat rules, attention showed to seamier side of Sanctuary via drugs rules and Street of Red Lanterns. Godsworn class and several of the Prestige Classes.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: Availability of magic items in setting is overstated, and magic use should be shown as being a bit rarer among sanctuary citizens than the impression given in the book.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Thieves' World Player's Manual
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EABA v1.1
Publisher: BTRC
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/06/2005 00:00:00

PRESENTATION & LAYOUT

EABA is presented as two different PDF's, a version which has colored illustrations and uses color in the graphic design and layout, and a grayscale version for printing. (Though the full page chapter graphics would still eat up a lot of ink, more than I would be willing to spend on them, but you can always skip those page if you print a copy of the PDF.) The color version makes good use of color with attractive graphic elements, such a Chapter title graphic with the chapter title, and a series of red crossbars and dots to indicate the chapter number that is repeated every 2 pages for quick info on what chapter you are reading.

The PDF also makes good use of color in different parts of the text. General text, is in black, important notes or concepts are in red, examples in green, and advanced topics in blue. The PDF also makes good use of hyperlinks, with page references done as hyperlinks in text. Overall it is a nicely done PDF, With attractive and functional layout and convenient hyperlinking. the index is sparse, but usable. A nice selection of character sheets and other record forms is included as well.

OVERVIEW

EABA is a generic universal role-playing game system in a 150 pages, 150 well-written pages. It is terse, yet provides enough examples for you to understand what is presented. It is based on 5 major concepts. First, that dice rolling is fun, specifically, rolling a handful of d6. (It uses a best-of-three mechanic, where you take the three highest dice out of the dice thrown to determine your result.) Second, that is cool to be heroic. Thus, characters are easy to hurt but hard to kill. Third, that variety gives character. This is represented in the design by providing a detailed character creation system with lots of options. Fourth, no risk no reward. This means that, even though the game is heroic, the characters can still fail, suffer losses, and even die. Five, that story, rules. Thus the rules are designed to be easy to learn and remember, a task at which I would say they succeed. So you only need what's on your character sheet to play the game. Instead of having to flip through books and consult charts while you're trying to play. It also features one of the best effects based power systems in any game.

CHARACTER CREATION

Characters, or adventurers as they are called in the book, are defined by three main elements, Attributes, Skills, and Traits. Traits in this case being advantages or disadvantages in other systems. Adventurers are designed by a point based system, with points coming from two different pools. An attributes points pool, the points for which are designated by a number followed by a capital A, 5A for example. And a skill points pool, the points for which are designated by number followed by the capital S, 3S for example. Traits are purchased with either attribute points or skill points depending on the trait.

Attributes are given a number rating called levels, 7 is average, each of which corresponds to a number of dice plus an add, called the default roll. An attribute level of 7 corresponds to a default roll of 2d+1 for instance. The attributes are Strength, Agility, Awareness, Health, Will, and Fate. Fate is a special attribute that represents luck in most games or can be used to determine the level of power a adventurer can wield, such as psionics or magic.

Attributes limit the maximum level of skill you can attain. You add your default roll and your skill rating, given as a number of bonus dice, to get the dice you roll to perform a task. So if your adventurer had a Skill level of +1D and his default roll was 2d+1, you would roll 3d+1 when the adventurer used that skill. The maximum skill bonus your adventurer could get would be 2d+1. So the highest rating your adventurer could achieve with that skill would be 4d+2. Remember that you only count the highest three dice thrown, plus any add to determine your result. Thus results range from 3 to 20 for normal characters, there is an advantage that will let you count 4 of the dice rolled to determine your result.

EABA provides a detailed skill list with an option to specialize in certain aspects of a skill. This specialization gains the adventurer a +1D to his skill when performing an action where that specialty applies.

Traits in EABA include advantages such as Forte, which provides a bonus die to attributes in certain situations, and disadvantages such as Weakness,which merits a penalty die to the default roll for attribute, in certain situations.

POWERS

The powers system presented in Chapter 6 of EABA is different from most games. Rather than being a list of predefined effects that you can apply modifiers to, EABA offers a meta system whereby you design the effects you want by combining a number of individual power elements called modifiers. Modifiers include, lethal damage, non-lethal damage, prevents an effect, reverse an effect, melee or ranged range, conveys movement, acts like an attribute, subverts movement, etc. These effects are rated in dice, just like Attributes & Skills, the number of which is determined from your Fate attribute. (As I mentioned earlier, Fate is a special attribute which can be used to represent psionic power, mutant ability, magical aptitude, etc, depending on the game world as defined by the GM.)

In EABA, using a power is a three-part process. First you must activate the power, then target it, and finally roll for effect. Effects scores can be converted to all sorts of different values using the Universal Scale table. These values include measurements such as distance, size or movement, time, weights, money, and even information. This table is similar to the AP scale in DC Heroes.

All powers in the system include certain default elements as part of their definition. these elements are Noticeability, Duration, Range, and Target. By default, powers can be seen and heard, and if in the area of effect, even felt, smelled or touched. By default, powers have a duration of instant, they occur instantly. By default, powers have a range of touch. By default, powers affect a single target. By altering these default elements, and applying "effect" modifiers that define what the power's effect does, as well as "limitation" type modifiers, you create individual powers. So an adventurer that can manifest a damaging energy aura around himself while angry might be defined by the following modifiers;

Lethal damage (the effect dice causes lethal damage) Melee range (Only affects those he touches or who contact him.) Power lasts as caster wills (It lasts as long as he is angry) Generic Limit (Only when adventurer is angered)

Each modifier has an "activation cost" associated with it. These costs are added up to get a point value. The point value is used to determine the difficulty of activating the power. Thus the more sweeping and effective the ability, the harder it is to activate, and thus use.

The cost and requirements to have a power are set by the GM based on the world. In general, A player must have a Skill related to the ability to be activate it and thus use it. This is usually a general skill based on the type of ability, you might have a general Sorcery skill or Psionics, of Mutant Powers Skill. The book recommends that each individual ability, whether magic spell or psionic discipline or power stunt, require a specific skill as well. So to use powers you have, you have to at least pay skill points for your general power skill, and points for skill with individual abilities. The GM can also rule that if you don't have the skill you can't attempt to use the power at all. Which would be the case with mutants, or where only those sensitive to mana flows can attempt to use powers. It is also possible to apply the Power costs +3A modifier, which reduces the activation costs by 10 in exchange for 3A from the character's attribute points pool, of which you have less than you have skill points. There is also the Gifted advantage on which you can spend attribute points to obtain powers that are always on or always function, because the "activation cost" has been reduced to 0, and thus activating the power has a difficulty of 0.

Rules for creating power frameworks, i.e. templates for common power origins are types, are included. there is also a section on how the presence of powers in a game world affects its economics. There are also rules for enchanting objects and gadgets.

With a little practice using the system you will be able to create all manner of different powers. The system is a bit confusing and more examples would have been helpful in understanding it. A supplement showing the system used to create a wide variety of powers wouldn't hurt either. overall however, after working with the system a bit, you'll be impressed with the effects that you can create with it.

COMBAT

Combat in EABA is handled as a series of skill rolls against a character's relevant weapon skills. Damage done by weapons is rated as a number of dice and is qualified as either lethal or nonlethal, or combination damage. Lethal damage is marked as a X, and nonlethal damage is marked as a / on the damage track. As the character reaches certain points on the damage track from accumulated damage he suffers penalties rated as a number of dice to his attributes. Thus a character can be quickly incapacitated by damage, being unable to perform an action, without necessarily being killed or knocked unconscious.

If your character takes damage equal to the sum of his health score plus his will score he will pass out. if your adventurer takes damage equal to his health plus his will in lethal damage he will die. One interesting element of the system is that as you take more damage, any additional attacks will have less effect on your adventurer, unless they do a greater amount of damage. the advanced combat chapter has additional rules for special situations and other detailed topics.

SUMMARY

EABA is a very good generic universal system made up of a compact set of rules with well-designed mechanics. Its power system is unique, flexible, and detailed. It offers gamers a satisfyingly detailed and crunchy set of mechanics that is still manageable and easy to learn, being that is only a hundred and fifty pages. Anyone looking for a flexible generic universal system that isn't mired down in an rulebook so thick it is bulletproof should give EABA a try.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Easy to read layout & graphic design & hyperlinking. Great price for a solid well-designed system with flexibles powers creation system.<br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: The Powers system could have used more explanation.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Excellent<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
EABA v1.1
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d4-d4 Main Book
Publisher: Better Mousetrap Games
by Rob M. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/04/2005 00:00:00

PRESENTATION & LAYOUT

The PDF itself is 89 pages laid out in a single column. The fonts are readable with color being used for section titles. Colored text boxes are used to highlight rules options and notes. It is serviceable and readable, with nothing especially artistic or beautiful about it. The artwork is primarily clip art and thus not much to look at. It includes a brief index.

OVERVIEW

The game describes itself as being best for modern or future campaigns, of relatively short duration. As longer campaigns will result in the character's breaking the system by becoming too proficient.

The game itself is based around a trait description ladder, modified by a roll of D4-D4. In this it is reminiscent of FUDGE. The basic system itself is solid and workable, and easy to use. You modify your character's trait rating up or down a number of steps on the trait rating ladder (listed on the character sheet) based on the roll of the D4-D4. So if the roll of the D4 is +2, I would adjust my trait rating up two rungs on the trait description ladder, say from Fair to Good, this result then becomes my performance rating. So I would have achieved a good performance on my action. I would compare this to the difficulty rating of the act to determine if I succeed. If I only needed an ordinary result, my good performance would result in success, for instance. The bulk of the game is simply elaborations on this basic mechanic.

CHARACTER CREATION

Character creation is fairly detailed, but light on number crunching, requiring you to consider elements of your character's background, figuring the details of his appearance and considering his personality elements. These personality elements include philosophy, demeanor, habits & mannerisms, likes, dislikes, and ambitions. The bulk of the rather light crunch is in defining your character's Traits. Traits includes common character skills as well as attribute like qualities, such as agility, as well as some advantages such as absolute direction. If a character doesn't define one of his assumed qualities then it takes a rating of ordinary. That is, you only consider attribute like qualities when they are extraordinary, bad or good, in some way.

Traits are of one of three types, anyone traits, specialist traits, and bad stuff. Anyone traits are traits that anyone is capable of performing, jumping or running for instance, these default to ordinary. Specialist traits are traits in which you must have some training in order to perform, Karate or Brain Surgery for instance. Bad stuff are traits that hinder your character in some manner.

You receive 20 levels (Depending on power level) to spend on your character's traits, raising them up from ordinary for anyone traits, or buying them at ordinary for specialist traits. You can take up to 5 levels of Bad Stuff, gaining you that many extra levels to spend on your other abilities. Bad Stuff here covers the typical disadvantages you find in most systems.

COMBAT

The combat rules are serviceable and workmanlike. D4-D4 is out of step with most RPG rules in that it discusses the psychological trauma associated with killing another human being. It provides rules for requiring a trait test by your character to actively try to kill another character in combat. Again, something that isn't discussed in most RPG's. The author even takes time to point out that detailed weapon stats and rules are not included with instead the focus of combat supposed to be on the effects of combat on the character, psychologically.

Combat itself is a series of trait tests pitting your weapon skill against the opponents Dodge (Speed) or Parry score. Damage is of one of two types, stab or bash. With Stab being the more deadly and harder to heal. It should be noted that the rules don't include a death spiral, penalties for injuries are not suffered till after combat has ended. The character must only avoid incapacitation, being knocked down and knocked out, during combat without having to suffer penalties for injury received. Shock and survival is determined after combat has ended by making a test against a difficulty based on the level of wounds suffered during the combat.

The combat system doesn't go into great detail with regards to maneuver or tactics, movement and facing and such being handled abstractly and represented by applying a penalty to an attacker's trait test to hit in combat where appropriate, as determined by the GM. There are no detailed rules for firing automatic weapons, explosives, or fully automatic shotguns. It is a simple, lite combat system for those more interested in narrative than crunch.

GAMING STYLES

This chapter provides an interesting and conversational discussion of issues of game style. It also discusses finding a gaming group and keeping one. Readers will also find references to several gamerisms, such as Cat Piss Men. Internet gaming is also discussed, a task that D4-D4 is well suited for.

GMING

This chapter provides a brief discussion of the elements of games that engage players, and how to provide those to the players as the GM. It also discusses issues of character gain and character death.

This chapter also issues some tongue-in-cheek advice to provide a sometimes good, sometimes bad gaming experience to keep players involved. Pointing out the infrequent reward as keeping players addicted, much like gambling.

SUMMARY

To summarize, D4-D4 is good. It is a solid and workmanlike system based around a descriptive and narrative style of mechanics. Players looking for crunch and detail will be disappointed, but those wanting a simple system to run a game with will find themselves quite pleased.

<br><br><b>LIKED</b>: Easy to understand text. Quick and easy to understand Mechanics. Interesting character creation options <br><br><b>DISLIKED</b>: System is rather light on detail, with little crunch. Guns & other weapons are are given little detail, and thus any gun is much like another.<br><br><b>QUALITY</b>: Very Good<br><br><b>VALUE</b>: Very Satisfied<br><BR>[THIS REVIEW WAS EDITED]<BR>



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
d4-d4 Main Book
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