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Forbidden Kingdoms - Paris: The Spectral City Babbage Edition
Publisher: Super Genius Games
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/27/2011 00:52:59

In an inexcusable oversight, I managed to run a 4 month FATE game using this setting and book without posting a review. Spoiler alert, if I start a review with "I ran a months-long campaign with this book", I'm going to give it high marks.

Victorian-era roleplaying has fascinated gamers for years. The values and points of view of 19th century heroes and adventurers are interesting to us, and many of our modern genres such as science fiction and weird fantasy have their roots in the time period. Yet many Victorian games never get beyond the confines of England. ("Why ya think we call it Victorian, Jason? Sheesh!") As a long-time Francophile, I found myself fascinated from the start by Forbidden Kingdoms' choice to focus instead on Paris.

It's a Paris that has been inextricably shaped by a mysterious shroud of supernatural darkness that has covered the city and coaxed ghosts into visibility and even, at times, solidity. The cosmopolitan City of Lights has become more cosmopolitan as spiritualists, pilgrims and scientists have flocked to Paris from all over the world, and of course, it has become a literal City of Lights as illumination beneath the dark skies has become a 24-hour a day proposition.

Along with the intrigues and adventures of 1889 Paris, then, comes the strangeness and the supernatural, and a vivid, memorable setting for pulp adventure is born, with catacombs, and opium dens, and cafe society, and the cathedral of Notre Dame, the Seine winding through it all...I can barely even bring myself to describe what a delight this book is on every page.

I wish I could give this my highest score. I really do, I even clicked on the 5-star button twice while writing this. But in the end, technical problems mar the presentation. It's simply a scan of a book. You are basically getting PDF pictures of each page. It's a good scan, but that's all it is. You can't even copy and paste text - normally such a dealbreaker for me I wouldn't consider putting it in a Featured Review. That should tell you how much I adore the text itself, the ideas and atmosphere presented in this most unique of settings, it's so good that I even set aside my firmest, most objective principles to give this work a high rating.

Just paging through it makes me want to go back to that game and dust it off again. Alas, many have moved on. Perhaps, like Proust, one evening when sitting down to game I will smell a Dorito and be transported back to the memory of times past...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Kingdoms - Paris: The Spectral City Babbage Edition
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**removed**
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/27/2011 00:41:30

EN Publishing is rightly regarded as producing high-quality products. Arcane Strife is no exception. But let's get a few things out of the way first. Yes, the last thing d20 (of any edition) needs is more flexibility and power for spellcasters. Yes, the last thing a player of a d20 spellcaster needs is a list of 200 more spells to try to choose from.

But if you already feel your campaign is teetering under this weight, why are you even paging through d20 supplements online? In this review I'm going to assume you already want a d20 fantasy supplement for spellcasting and magic, for whatever reason: you're designing a campaign and want a unique feel to magic, your'e tired of games with everyone knowing the same old spells and want to toss some old ones and put in some new ones, you handle game balance in other ways, you and your players love digging through mounds of options and debating them in and out of character. So you're here because you want to buy a d20 magic supplement and you're trying to decide if Arcane Strife is it.

First, there's a printer-friendly version whose primary change is to remove the color background. Although the version with the color background is marked "screen version", really there's nothing about it that makes it suitable for a screen in particular, such as landscape orientation or variable flow. It's really just a more colorful PDF. The cover is also in the ZIP file in case you want to make yourself a nice-looking copy. The table of contents is very well done, including subheadings for the spells by initial letter. If I had to criticize anything about the organization of the work it would be that some of the spells are not well-described by their initial letter, so having a more extensive index or hyperlinks within the document itself would be an excellent idea.

The work starts with a bombshell of a system that describes how magic works on the world of Shtar, the world described inside Arcane Strife - basically when a spellcaster is interrupted (via the normal Concentration rules), they may permanently lose the spell slot and be badly damaged. It's interesting, but I think spellcasters who are going to be doing casting where they might have to make a Concentration check are going to have a Concentration skill level sufficiently high that it's not going to do much. I think it might be better to just require the damage in the form of subdual (magic is tiring to cast) or make it based on some kind of physical prowess that spellcasters are unlikely to have (a Fortitude save or something). Anyway, it's a really interesting start, not what you normally expect from a book of this kind.

There's a few other little magic systems that are introduced, wizard's sigils and true names and so on, then a thankfully brief list of feats. The bulk of the work is taken up with an extensive spell list. Interestingly, the spell descriptions begin with a vivid fictional description of its origin, such as the wizard who invented it, or the war it turned the tide of. I would like to see more games use these, especially for campaign creation, as they help me fit the spells into the tapestry of the world.

The prestige classes are very interesting, though they need even more attention in fitting them into a campaign. I'm not sure how a Master of Minor Magic would be played as a PC, an ally or a villain, for example, as interesting as the idea (a Master of Minor Magic consistently increases the power and number of spell slots for lower level spells instead of higher level spells) might be.

Finally, there are several creature templates, most related to some of the magical effects in the book. Like the prestige classes, these templates might have benefitted from some explanations as to personality, roleplaying, or encounter opportunities.

All in all, Arcane Strife is very well presented and has many cool ideas. it's hard to go wrong with EN Publishing. However, I think the best ideas in this work are the ones that are fully developed and integrated into the world described. The prestige classes and creature templates are just left out there for me to decide how they fit in, or what effect they might have on my game world if I eagerly throw them in willy-nilly.

A solid outing, good work all around.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
**removed**
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THRILLING TALES Advanced Class Collection One
Publisher: Adamant Entertainment
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/23/2011 21:01:48

Adamant Entertainment's Thrilling Tales has been a top-notch pulp game for many years, whether in its d20 Modern incarnation - as in this collection - or in its current Savage Worlds incarnation. By going directly to the source material - 1930s and 1940s pulp stories, Thrilling Tales has a unique, authentic feel that "neo-pulp" approaches like the Indiana Jones movies lack. It's not afraid to shy away from the weird - period pulps emphasized action and adventure over perfectly assembled plots or deep characters.

The Advanced Class Collection assembles 8 advanced classes from the Thrilling Tales line.

The Mystery Man is a masked crimefighter, who combines combat effectiveness and investigative prowess, the Air Ace is a stunt and combat pilot, the Paragon is a unique Doc-Savage-esque near-superhero, the Mesmerist is a powerful hypnotist, the Mad Scientist, Mastermind is just what it sounds like, the Noble Savage is a Tarzan-esque master of the wilderness, and the G-Man is an investigator who also has abilities related to government backup.

Although each of these are very fun and flavorful, there's a few things to note: first, game balance is not a goal of these advanced classes. The Paragon is just better than any other advanced class out there, which is as it should be - in Doc Savage stories, he really was better than most of his compatriots. The idea is that this would be the central character of your series, and the other characters would be support characters. It's not a problem exactly, but it's something to be aware of.

If there's a weakness to the collection, it's that there's not much attention to integrating the classes into your campaign. While each of them are flavorful and interesting, it is hard to decide exactly how to use them. Some attention to how the Air Ace would fit into a campaign would especially be nice, since plenty of times characters based around vehicles or transportation have a difficult time becoming part of the action outside that transportation. While the Mastermind is mentioned as being a villain, I think it could be interesting to be a Mastermind player character - some incarnations of the Shadow are best understood this way. Developing how these classes affect gameplay would be the best way to improve this product.

In general, if, like me, you use your advanced classes as a way to make d20 Modern campaigns distinct and flavorful - even if they're not perfectly balanced - this product is for you. You might even get some good ideas for character types for your Savage Worlds Thrilling Tales game if you don't have a lot of experience with pulp archetypes.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
THRILLING TALES Advanced Class Collection One
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Dust Devils
Publisher: Stories You Play
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2011 16:02:52

I can't believe this remarkable game is nearly ten years old. It seems like only yesterday, the original version was one of my first e-book purchases. Now the Revenged version is available, and for only $10. This is one of the best deals on the site, and one of the best games on the site.

Dust Devils is a Western game, with a relatively simple poker-hand resolution. But the important thing about the game is the Devil mechanic.

Each character has a Devil that both drives them onward and torments them: it can be their past as a bandit and assassin, it can be whiskey, it can be resentment over broken promises to their tribe, it can be family trouble or money trouble, but whatever it is, the game gives it mechanical weight. And most importantly, as your character struggles in their situations, the Devil helps them - after all, in the bleak Western style that Dust Devils recreates, it's the grit and determination of the character that matters, not necessarily their talent. Then as the Devil helps your character, you are also eventually driven into the endgame, a showdown between the worst your Devil has to offer and your character's determination. You will eventually have to face your worst fears, your worst flaws, in this game, and you might very well fail to overcome them.

Dust Devils strikes a middle ground between short-form story games and interminable play-this-game-forever campaigns. There are options for picking up a new Devil after you resolve the first, and continuing the play the same character, but really, this game is about the most important conflict in your character's life, and what it means for the frontier.

Add-ons give options for Le Carre-esque espionage, another ideal area for this game, since in this bleak form of espionage novel, there are no James Bond heroics - there may be only one shot fired in the whole novel, and it's a suicide. In the end, the game puts values like loyalty and justice to the test. It really is like nothing else out there. I have played it many times with many different players - nobody has walked away from it without having a new appreciation for what can be accomplished with the role-playing game form.

Dust Devils ought to be required reading for the hobby. Get started.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dust Devils
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Zombie Generator
Publisher: Chaotic Shiny Productions
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/14/2011 15:47:45

Chaotic Shiny productions has a lot of great generators, including this one, up on their website for free. Just click on the Publisher Homepage link to the right. By providing the free generators for download, they can help you run games when you're away from the Internet.

The zombie generator includes all of the bells and whistles we've come to expect from CS: you can edit the text generated, copy and paste it into other game materials you're preparing, and voila! You've got a solid description of several individual zombies. One thing that's difficult in a zombie game is that dangerous situations are normally about hordes of zombies, making horrific descriptions of individual zombies fade into the background. The Zombie Generator is appropriate for situations in which someone unexpectedly opens the door to a closet and a zombie falls out, or a zombie is found to be inside the safe house, or comes crashing through a window, and the presence of just one zombie provides the horror and danger of the encounter.

It's free, what do you have to lose! Check it out, you won't always be on the Internet (if you do, you DO have Chaotic Shiny bookmarked, right?)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Zombie Generator
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Complete Guide to Beholders
Publisher: Goodman Games
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/05/2011 17:42:50

What makes a good monster book? Probably most importantly, you have to be able to finish it and still want to kill them. ("Good" dragons have never appealed to me just for that reason.) Beholders, crazy floating eyeball beings, have been a staple of D&D play since the early days, when they were saddled with cartoony art. They were major villains throughout the Forgotten Realms, where their magical capabilities and scheming methods made them memorable antagonists.

Goodman Games has a reputation of producing high quality, high-detail supplements and the Complete Guide to Beholders is no exception. It contains information about beholder culture, physiology, and their beliefs about the universe. It's a self-contained set of beliefs (nihilism focused on "The Void") that has attitudes about "the gods" without reference to who they are, to help you fit them into whatever campaign world that you have. There are even suggestions for how to incorporate it into superhero, espionage and horror games.

A welcome addition is a section regarding how to roleplay the beholder (don't shake your head! You know how irritating that is?!) This is something that other games should take note of. Specific advice for GMs on this level is highly needed and very effective.

There are some ideas for beholder-oriented campaigns, most of them fighting them from the outside but at least two based on being magical beings connected to beholders, or even beholders themselves! If you like play-the-monster games, it's definitely worth checking out.

I'm reviewer tilting this one up one star because I absolutely adore the roleplaying suggestion/instruction section. Surprisingly flexible and highly effective, the Complete Guide to Beholders is Well Worth The Cheap Price.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Complete Guide to Beholders
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Steel Roses: the HeartQuest Guide to Mecha
Publisher: Seraphim Guard
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/05/2011 17:20:14

Heartquest was FUDGE before FUDGE was cool (shoutout to all the FATE 3.0 folks out there). An introduction to a type of adventure/romance that I had not been exposed to before, it helped bring relationship issues and struggles to the forefront of the story, while using the stereotypes and shorthands developed over time in the source material to get the game off the ground quickly. Steel Roses is one of the supplements for Heartquest, and one of the most detailed and thorough campaign settings for the game.

It focuses on mecha, specifically as plot contrivances in shoujo manga. I know about as much about shoujo manga as a Napoleonic-era carrier pigeon with a severe concussion, so a well-developed sourcebook was a big aid to me. The first and last sections were most valuable to me, as they detailed what mecha were in relation to the characters and gave an example of what a typical setup might be: a 17 year old girl is the only one that can pilot the giant robot that can save the town; her crush, a dreamy 16 year old young man, is secretly part of the resistance against the authorities she is sworn to fight!

The middle portion of the book is a solid, simple, straightforward FUDGE mecha system, with minor tweaks for scale and a few skills and gift/flaws related to mecha. As with most good FUDGE systems, this portion uses the generalized and rules-light nature of FUDGE to make quick and easy generation of player character mechs and enemies fun.

The book references the core Heartquest book quite a lot, so it won't help a standalone FUDGE or mecha game that much. But you should probably buy the core Heartquest book too, so don't complain, just go buy it first.

If you saw Battletech and said "I don't get it, why don't they have green hair and cry about their girlfriends", as so many did, this is the supplement for you.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Steel Roses: the HeartQuest Guide to Mecha
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22 Talent Trees
Publisher: Bloodstone Press
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2011 19:08:21

Talents were and are one of the most interesting parts of the d20 Modern approach to classes. By using classes based off the attributes, characters could be customized to a high degree through mixing the base classes as you developed. Talents, by contrast, rewarded you for sticking with a class long enough to develop special effects in that class. 22 Talent Trees is exactly what it sounds like. The art is minimal (which tickles this reviewer's cold dead heart), but the talents themselves are solid, most having to do with expanded specialization rather than new effects. (The few exceptions to this are often less balanced than the others.)

For those doing medical dramas with d20 Modern, there's also an expanded Treat Injury system for transplants. Much like the Surgery feat itself, I never quite saw the point of that level of detail in a system that modeled injury with hit points. No harm no foul, though, if you used Surgery in your game, you are likely to enjoy this small bolt-on.

With a sub-$3 price, there's no reason to pass up 22 Talent Trees if, like me, you still enjoy d20 Modern for its potential for character customization.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
22 Talent Trees
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Teenage Demon Slayers: Strength in Numbers
Publisher: UNIGames
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/10/2011 16:58:20

Strength in Numbers is a free introductory scenario for Teenage Demon Slayers. Introductory scenarios have a lot of goals that they have to fulfill. They have to give the basics of the system, establish a tone, and make us want to come back and play more. Strength in Numbers fulfills all of these, and even has a few innovations that you might not expect.

First of all, though I'm not sure if it's intentional, the scenario sets a very serious tone. For a game about teenage demon slayers, the demonic problems and damage is presented absolutely straightfaced and without winks and nods. This is interesting, and something that I've often found helps comedic games - if the comedy lies in the characters, Buffy-style, then the situations have to be "real" in order for the game not to go crazily off the rails into nonsense. The Strength in Numbers scenario is presented with almost a grim tone, counting on the concept of the game and the players to provide any levity. That's a good choice.

A second unusual trait of Strength in Numbers is its timeline. Although many mystery scenarios are constructed around a timeline, Strength in Numbers gives specific time segments for different actions the player characters might try, such as questioning witnesses or pursuing suspects. This helps new GMs follow the timeline of the evil demon-summoning delinquents, a good tool for an introductory scenario.

A free scenario like Strength in Numbers is a great idea for any game, especially for cheap bastards like myself, and Strength in Numbers is a good way to get started with Teenage Demon Slayers!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Teenage Demon Slayers: Strength in Numbers
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Bloode Island: Diceless Swashbuckling Adventure
Publisher: Precis Intermedia
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/03/2011 15:21:25

The Active Exploits Diceless Roleplaying system is a simple, robust system that's been available for a considerable time. They're reprinted in this download so you don't have to juggle multiple downloads, a welcome addition, although the double-wide first page does make it hard to use the "page width" button on most PDF readers.

The Bloode Island materials start about halfway through. It begins with a solid overview of the New World in the time of the pirates, although with brief descriptions of major locations. Next there are many pre-made characters, always good for getting a game started quickly. A brief, light combat system for ship-to-ship combat. The basic maneuvers are handled just like any other character action, with special actions like boarding handled with stunts.

A pirate haven is described, from the perspective of a crew visiting it for the first time, a position the characters are likely to be in. There are several historical and fictional characters described, along with a few brief scenarios, concluding with a glossary of piractical terms and a thorough list of equipment.

Precis Intermedia has long displayed expertise in getting across a lot of extremely practical game information in very little space. Bloode Island is no exception. There simply isn't any wasted space whatsoever in this supplement. You can find everything you need for a solid pirate game in these 60 pages or so (plus the 70 or so pages of the diceless system).

If I had to identify an area for improvement, I would like to hear more about some of the typical issues with respect to pirate games - how to handle the NPC crew members, how to handle female characters given the views of females in the day, contrasting "realistic" piracy with pulp adventure piracy, and so forth, but these are all things that might be added, not changes to what's already there. For the $6 price, this is a marvelous, fast-moving pirate game, with everything you need to play from beginning to end.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bloode Island: Diceless Swashbuckling Adventure
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HDL: Demongate High
Publisher: Tremorworks
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/17/2011 16:58:18

I've recently started a design for a school-based game, so I've been reviewing some of the older school roleplaying materials on rpgnow, and I found this little game sitting in my review queue, with some notes that were intriguing but which I never got back to.

Demongate High is a school setting crossed with a supernatural setting. The characters are young people learning their supernatural powers because if they don't, demons will destroy the world. Character types include psychics, half-demons, those chosen by heaven, kids who have inherited a family blessing or artifact, oracles, summoners or mystic martial artists. Character creation is by point buy, and you can quickly make characters that are best described as "having potential". They may not be extremely potent, but you get the feeling from the abilities they can use that there's something serious going on under the surface. Since this is pretty much the point of all supernatural-school games, the metaphor for the potential of someone growing up versus what they might someday be, this is an ideal place for the game to aim.

The school itself is meticulously documented, including a hilariously pentagrammatical map and a collection of international professors - props to the game for including women and non-whites as significant players at the school. The history of the school is documented, including the discussion of how it evolved from an attempt to protect the world from a demon threat to training the next generation to do so. Suffice to say that this evolution and change causes problems for current-day students. For example, there's an active gate to the dimension of demons on the island where the school is, which would be a terrible idea if you were building the school independently, but because the founders were more concerned directly with the gate, it makes sense as an unfortunate decision in the game world. This makes things interesting - it makes me feel like the adults don't completely have things figured out either, a key to fitting in teenaged PCs.

One thing I really like about the book is that each section is highly focused - the first introduces players to the characters they'll be playing, the second tells the GM how to run the game and provides a basic scenario, the third describes how the world works in more general terms, and so on. This provides a very natural flow from the extremely specific things you need to play out to more general information about the world and game.

The game also gets a gold star from me for including clickable URLs in the text that take you to webpages about real-world occult sites and mysterious legends. This is using the electronic format to its greatest extent and more games should have this.

A downside is that you are not told that you need the HDL Basic Rules and a set of HDL cards until literally the last page of the file. (Yes, I know that if this were printed out it would be the back cover, but if it were printed out, those URLs would be useless, right?) I can't say I'm an expert in those rules or cards, so I can't really address the stats of the system. The point costs for things do seem to match pretty well with what you would expect from a school RPG.

Most "school" settings I've seen are either Harry Potter-esque wizarding schools or Xavier's Academy-esque superhero-ing schools. It's great to see a horror/action approach that builds a unique world, where demons are right on the edge of killing everyone and only a bunch of 15 year olds stand between them and annihilation. In the end, Demongate High is a very detailed and highly original approach to "school roleplay" and definitely worth a look. It's not just the same old thing with the numbers filed off!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HDL: Demongate High
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Moon Elves
Publisher: Dark Quest Games
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/01/2011 14:29:42

Moon Elves came out very early in the d20 boom, and to a degree it shows in its imperfect command of the system. However, it fulfills my requirements for what makes a good d20 supplement, so I'm going to give it high marks.

First of all, there are two versions in the zipfile, one marked "B&W", though both are color PDFs, with a color cover, color margin art in the introduction, and so on, the "B&W" version changes some color "journal entries" into normal text. This is a pretty primitive stab at printer/memory friendliness, but at least it's there.

This book expands on the race of elves presented in D&D3 (or Pathfinder's corebook, for that matter). Imagine that you were able to "expand" that section - it would pretty much be a book like Moon Elves. This is a good trait because it gives a simple puzzle-piece style supplement for a GM to include (or not include), and isn't dependent on other setting material (like the Forgotten Realms, for example.)

The language is very simple, aimed clearly at introducing players to roleplaying elements of an elven character. A considerable portion of the book discusses cultural elements of elves and provides good notes for players who wish to bring a cultural aspect to their roleplay.

There's the obligatory "new items" and "new spells" section, which can be used to add flavor to treasure or magic, but thankfully Moon Elves doesn't overreach as many d20 supplements do to providing new insanely great items. These feel like a natural counterpart to the society described. Similarly, the spells mirror the spells in D&D3 relatively closely.

The prestige classes are all right, but didn't really integrate with the cultural elements described in such detail in the beginning of the book.

Moon Elves is one of the more solid early entries into the d20 field - it's well worth a look even in these Pathfinder days. The price is exceptional for what you get. Who doesn't like elves? Nobody, nobody doesn't like elves. And that's a fact.

I'm reviewer tilting one star up for nostalgia purposes. D&D3 was when I really got excited about D&D again and Moon Elves is a supplement that will help you sustain and flesh out your campaign.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Moon Elves
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Block by Bloody Block
Publisher: White Wolf
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/14/2011 13:21:46

This was my first order from the print-on-demand section, so this is as much a review of that service as it is of the book itself.

Damnation City is one of the best and most overlooked supplements for Vampire: The Requiem. Its strongest part was a method of creating influences and control, and adjudicating players' and NPCs' attempts to maintain and expand their power in Your Campaign City. Ever since its beginnings, Vampire has had a game of politics and power as one of the many options, but Damnation City was the first to put in game mechanical terms how much easier and more permanent murder is as a means to power. By tempting players to choose unethical strategies, the characters were, for the first time, really, pushed down a slippery slope. Those that tried to maintain control and their humanity were taking a dangerous stand and a challenging path.

Hunter: The Vigil also lends itself to this kind of approach, because of its investigative angle. The characters must find the monsters before they can learn about them and learn about them before they can kill them, and even after they kill them, they must know what other monsters are tangled in their business. Organizing monsters in Hunter: The Vigil is a very time-consuming (but very rewarding) part of that game for the GM.

Block by Bloody Block describes how you can use geography to organize the monsters in your Hunter game by theme. It contains an explanation of the approach, followed by several examples - a suburb whose motivational organization is a murder cult, a set of public housing projects whose drug dealing gang is headed by a warlock. These excellent examples are layered with several sorts of hooks for the various sorts of Hunter campaigns there are.

I really enjoyed the work, and appreciated that it pointed out that while Grand Theft Auto may be a cartoony and satirical videogame, it also realizes neighborhoods and controlling them as part of the geography of the game(s). This is a good insight. I have often thought that GTA has a lot to teach gamers if we really look at it closely. The influences from GTA are clear in this book.

I got this through print-on-demand, so some discussion of that service is necessary here too. The book was mailed within 48 hours of me placing the order and received in good condition. The quality was very good, the cover was glossy and the colors were as good as anything I've seen from White Wolf's normal producers. The internal pages were well-aligned and the whole thing seemed sturdy enough. If you're like me and you end up printing out a lot of material from a book to use, or if you prefer a print copy for various reasons, it's a bargain to get both.

Because I loved Damnation City so much and it fits Hunter so well, because geographic organization in sandbox play is a hobby horse of mine and because my first POD experience was so great, I'm reviewer-tilting this one up a star to give it my highest rating. Kudos to everyone involved.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Block by Bloody Block
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Tournaments, Fairs, & Taverns #2: Drinking
Publisher: EN Publishing
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2011 14:45:47

EN Publishing's "Tournaments, Fairs and Taverns" was one of the earliest d20 supplements, and one of the most welcome, in my view. To me, these social opportunities have always been important to the lives of characters in my RPG settings, and to have innovative, thoughtful rules looking at them was a big help. Now they're back with Fourth Edition looking at some of the same material. In this well-priced supplement, they look at drinking and how it can add to your fantasy game.

Along with a system for drunkenness (it uses increasing Endurance checks and a measure called "shots", for reasons that are obvious), it also contains a list of many fantastical drinks and their strange effects. A hilarious option allows players to choose whether their characters are friendly drunks or unpleasant drunks, with effects on their skills when they get blasted.

All in all, it's a well-rounded look at light-hearted drinking, a staple of many fantasy adventures. I heartily recommend it with a loud "bottoms up!"



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tournaments, Fairs, & Taverns #2: Drinking
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Echo City Sourcebook for Resolute the Superhero RPG 2E
Publisher: Splintered Realms Publishing
by Jason C. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/14/2011 14:33:50

Superheroes have always been an urban breed. "On a roof, where do you think?" is what they are normally saying into their cellphones. More importantly, vivid urban settings have always been part of superhero comics. Superhero RPGs have had the same urban elements in presenting their settings. Resolute's Echo City is meant to be a street-level supers setting, but it requires that you know what that means and what you want out of it. What you get from this very basic presentation will not take you far without a knowledge of other comics and a clear picture of what you want from your campaign. That said, it's a great starting place.

In only 8 pages (in the printer-friendly version), you get a quick geographic rundown, a clip of history, several evil factions, a short introductory adventure, and a few heroes and villains to populate Echo City with.

First of all, I love the name "Echo City".

Secondly, the introductory adventure is something that more settings need to have. Not only does this help get across the city to players who are established in the setting, but it also gets across to the GM what the setting is about. In the adventure, the team is tracking a bad guy to Echo City, and they discover he (and the police) are involved in the plans of a larger mastermind. It's straightforward and gets the point across about the corruption of the city in a fun and immediate way. Playing an introductory adventure is far more fun and interesting than passing around supplementary material.

Finally, the two pages of heroes and villains give a good idea of what sorts of characters would be "at home" in Echo City. Resolute has an advantage over more complicated systems here, since a character writeup can easily be presented in only a few lines.

On the downside, there are some awkward sentences and grammar, but more importantly, the introductory material and geographic material don't give a clear picture of what the city is supposed to be about, or clear ideas for where superheroes should go or what they should do. I get that the city is corrupt, but I don't know how that corruption works or what it looks like for the suffering people of Echo City. The only reason I know what a game in a corrupt superhero city should be like is because I've played them before and thought about them a lot. Attention to how to use the material, along with explanation, would definitely improve this supplement.

That said, there's a printer-friendly version included and if you want a free star from Jason, include a printer-friendly version or do something with the fact that this is an electronic version of your material. It's well-laid out and easy to read.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Echo City Sourcebook for Resolute the Superhero RPG 2E
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