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Book of the Righteous
by John S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/26/2020 16:59:56

Impressive...most impressive. Great product if your looking for a well written, in-depth pantheon with both a different yet familiar feel to it. EXCELLENT!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Book of the Righteous
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The Expanse Roleplaying Game
by Michael H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/10/2019 00:36:23

The Expanse Role-Playing Game Green Ronin

First a tiny bit of background. I've read the first five books of The Expanse series and loved them. I've watched two and a half seasons of the TV show and will binge the rest shortly; I like it. I think I know about the story, characters and backdrop. However, I'm going to approach this review as if I didn't know anything about the background and as a newbie to RPGs.

Secondly this review is not based on game-play; I've studied the Book extensively but that's all so far. I'm a Kickstarter backer and received my copy and GM's screen about three weeks ago.

Finally, as usual, this review is my opinion only; if I say something is great of poor it doesn't mean that it actually is.

Now, my rambling review begins:

The book itself: it's a beautiful thing; thick and heavy, with quality paper and best of all, the binding is stitched. This book will last. It begins with a short story by the authors; for my sins I must confess that I haven't read it yet.

Next we have the standard blurb about what a role-playing game is and a page of Basic Game Concepts: what the dice mean and how to read them. I think a new player to the hobby would get a good idea of what they were getting themselves into. The Player's Section follows and begins with a chapter entitled Game Basics. Wait a minute, what happened here? Methinks Basic Game Concepts and Game Basics should have been in the same chapter...However, this chapter, tabled "Chapter One" is full of things I enjoy: quick easy and sensible rules. In a nutshell, roll three six-siders add a couple of modifiers then beat the target number to succeed. Nice. There's more to it than that of course and the different types of tests are introduced here; they all seem to make sense. Then comes an explanation of Stunts; I remember these from the first, boxed, instalment of the Dragon Age game, there were a few for combat and some for magic. I liked the idea; as I read on I begin to struggle with he concept. More on this later. 
Stunts aside we learn of the Drama Die and this is something I like very much. Roll three dice if the result includes a double look at the differently coloured Drama Die. This is a very flexible mechanic with several uses including: deciding ties, fuelling stunts, determining when ammo runs dry, contributing to Churn and more. Impressive.

Fortune points are mentioned and they are a key point in the game. They can be spent to increase the value of a single die on a two-for-one basis and... Well, an interview with the games author on the Kickstarter page featured his answer to the question: "What are you most happy with about the game?" His answer, "Getting rid of hit points". He didn't. Fortune points are also hit points.

Chapter two begins with character creation and this suits my tastes perfectly, it's quick and delivers varied and playable characters. Sadly these characters don't seem imbedded in the universe of the source material; yes, Martians, Earthers and Belters get a paragraph each but that's it. I would have hoped for more and this is the start of a disappointing trend seen throughout the book, the source material is simply not used to anywhere approaching its potential. Despite the claim on the back cover, "Here Comes The Juice", the book seems almost Juice-free.

Back to those shiny new characters. The default method is to birth your PCs with random tables; making choices is also valid but slows the process down, particularly if there are min./maxers around. I like this system a great deal, it includes skills (referred to as focusses instead of foci, sigh) and talents. These are no-nonsense game features that are quick and easy and do add some flesh to the bones of your new character. Step one is called Concept: "Come up with an idea of the character you're interested in playing". Don't waste your time doing that if you're going down the path of the random character, your concept will almost certainly be wrong. The designers have chosen a mix of skills available to new characters, many are what you’d expect but there is little parity between them. For example, “Smell” and “Pilot” are available for acquisition during character generation. So you can have a character with a keen nose for a fine chablis and her counterpart that can fly a massive ship through the inky-blackness of space. Both skills carry the same weight in the generation process but clearly there is a vast gulf between the two in this example. The five senses are needlessly broken down to separate skills whist vastly more complex skills requiring years of education and experience deserve just one entry.

One of the final steps in the process is to determine your character's Income, a single value used for making a purchase test; abstraction is good, there's no need for the players to track their character's credits. I know these tidbits because the rules for making purchases are included here. In the character generation chapter. Odd. Perhaps the equipment or rules chapter might have been the spot? The thing that made me smile about Income is this: the party can share income values, as follows: Take the highest Income value and reduce it by one, that is now the new income value for all party members. Hang on a mo. Let's put that into context. Let's say I have ten dollars, I give up one dollar and now have nine dollars and so do you. So I went from having ten bucks to eighteen. Awesome. I must have misread that surely? Nope. A party member with equal Income can increase your income by +2 when helping to make a purchase; you've given up one point of income but now get a bonus of two. This one missed the sanity check on its trip through proofing.

The chapter is rounded out with a list of goodies your character earns when a new level is gained. How does this happen? A single line in the entire book is devoted to this, arguably important, topic. It reads: "The GM decides when the characters gain a level". There's no assistance provided for the GM on when or how this should happen. There is a chapter on "rewards" but levels or experience points are not given the time of day. I remember that Dragon Age included levels in that book's rewards chapter. The character sheet for this game includes an entry labeled "Experience". Methinks a bit of cut and paste is to blame. Alas, that seems to be another common theme thought the book and I notice that the Modern AGE game is the basis for this one.

The technology and equipment section does take a sip from the cup of the source material but, for example, as a new player I wouldn't have a clue whether my newly minted kick-butt Martian marine is firing a blaster or bullets; most items are described sparingly. I'm pretty sure that The Expanse books don't have blasters but a little flavour text goes a long way and the absence of such is jarring.

Next the meat of the rules. The Rules. Starting with "Action Encounters"; which are the combat rules. Nice and quick, they seem to cover all the basics that you might want in a fast and furious shoot out or punch-up. Nice. We find the excellent Drama Die rule for running out of ammo - I hate tracking ammo. Vehicle combat is included, again, short and sweet which is just as well because you can't buy or hire a vehicle and there are no statistics provided for these non-existent modes of transport. All is not lost however, the book points out that, "...it's not often characters make use of ground or air vehicles", no surprise either. Stunts are next.

As mentioned before, my exposure to the AGE game system, of which The Expanse is the latest iteration, was box one of Dragon Age. That game had Stunts. This game has a lot of stunts. I mean a LOT. Roll a successful double and check the Drama Die and spend your Stunt points. You can choose Action Stunts from the following categories: Chase; General Combat; Gun; Grappling; Melee and Vehicle. In total the Stunt count is, 59. Yep, 59. Combat just went from fast and furious to, "Hang on a mo, let me check one of these charts for a nice tasty Stunt". This is overkill, a cheap way to sneak in every sweet move from your favourite action flick. To maintain the pace of play championed elsewhere in the rules players (and GM) need to be very familiar with these options or choose one on the fly. Ouch. Next up we have the two other types of key encounters: Exploration and Social. Yes, they also use Stunts. Lots but this time I like them. Exploration really only covers the rules for getting hurt outside of combat but does have a subsection entitled "Investigations". I came very close to liking this small slice or rules. It lays out a method for providing the characters with leads and clues some (most) require a test, a dice roll to get past the lead and find the clue. The author warns us against using a path that leads to a dead end. Good advice too, except if progress relies on a dice throw, a failed test is a dead end unless the GM wants to fiddle with rules. D'oh!

Social encounters: for those unfamiliar with roleplaying games, this bit is where you do the actual roleplaying. You talk, sometimes in character, as your character, the GM plays the roles of everyone else. However just as with Investigations, talking it out (roleplaying) is not the default way to play. Instead, NPCs have attitudes, the appropriate focus test will advance that attitude to a point where your character gets what they want. To be fair, towards the back of the book in the GM's section we're told that actual roleplaying is a good thing and should be attempted if everyone feels comfortable; I would say if you didn't feel comfortable, play a board game. If I was a brand new player I would only be required to read the Player's Section and would be left with the impression that roleplaying is an exercise in dice rolling and, frankly, pretty dull. Back to Stunts for a moment. They actually work quite well outside of the action environment. Firstly there's less of them and secondly there is time for players to pick an appropriate Stunt. Here, Stunts don't hamstring a fast-play game, they enhance the experience.

Now back to those social encounters for something that I've never seen, or at least can't remember, in a modern roleplaying game. The NPCs also get to use social foci and Stunts on the players. Yes, you read that right. Here's what the rulesmeister tells us, "...be sure to communicate openly when (NPC) social Stunts seem to take away the players' agency..." Not only is this another terrible example of the rule system promoting dice-play before role-play but I'm pretty sure the nature of roleplaying gets bent if not completely snapped in two. Without true player agency you're not playing a roleplaying game in the sense that I understand it, what you have is a tactical game of moves and dice throws. The rules actually refer to social encounters as "social combat". Come on, please.

Following on from non-combat encounters we have Interludes. An interlude is what happens between adventures or dying in-game downtime such as a long space flight, you get to rest, repair, heal and work on things of importance to your character. Good.

Spaceships are a big deal in science fiction gaming and an important part of the source material; the characters in both book and TV live on their ship; it's an integral part of their story and almost a character in its own right. I was looking forward to the Spaceships chapter.

Space is big and the chapter kicks off with some nicely presented science to go with the fiction. Thrust, gravity, mass, spin, apoapsis and periapsis; plus a bunch of other propeller-head stuff. It's good material since The Expanse is what I would call Hard Sci-Fi (aliens and protomolecule hybrids aside). I learned some interesting facts here and the material is well presented. Either the writer is keen on his science or a darn good Googler. Sadly none of this is of any use in the game - spaceships run on their own science-free rails; no room for hard sci-fi here.

I have no problem with this approach but it veers sharply from the "hard" approach of the books. We aren't treated to deck plans, we don't know what to expect on board a ship. Ships have no character. Primarily a ship is a way to get from A to B; there are rules for starship battles and these read well but in the three published adventures I've read, starships and space battles are not a factor. Space battles are deadly and this is definitely a part of The Expanse.

Finally! We are treated to A Guide to The Expanse. This is where a new player will get a feel for the game world. It's very well written and seems to have a different voice from the rest of the rules; perhaps it was written by someone else? No idea.

Just a quick interlude before I get back to the Guide. The reason I mention the perceived shift in writing style is because I find the text of the main rules quite dull, the writing doesn't inspire, it doesn't make me want to get out the dice, gather some friends and take the game engine for a spin. Also there's my pet bugbear; the style is a mixture or instructional material and conversational writing. A rulebook is a text book, I really want to see lots of flavour text but when I'm learning or referencing the rules I want clear, concise writing. The conversational tone pads out the rules; if I could remove every superfluous "Generally speaking", "In general", "Generally" and "As a rule" from the book I'd have a much shorter and easier to read book.

Back to the Guide. Something has happened in the solar system. Something big. The biggest something in fact. Everyone knows about it, it's on the news, the subject of system wide speculation and if you want to find out about it as a player or GM you'll have to search for it. The most important part of this game's story is hidden, buried in the descriptions of the various locations of the solar system. This is wrong. Another example of how the wonderfully rich source material is squandered. The Guide covers forty pages of a 256 page book, that's 216 pages of rules. That's an awful lot of rules, no wonder the brilliant source material is so thin on the ground, there's no room. However, despite the rant, this section is good.

The GM's section opens with a bunch of additional rules including combat modifiers such as high ground, obscured target et cetera. I can't see a reason why this information doesn't live in the Action Encounter section. Also included here is some good advice and suggestions for actually running a game. There's also three pages devoted to the different types of role-players and how to deal with 'em. Holy moly...do we need to categorise our friends?

There is some good work here but two areas stand out and not in a good way. The first is entitled Dealing with Canon; there are three options and each gets between seven and four lines. The last these is to ignore the background completely. Um? I'll save the second gem until we get to chapter 15. The Churn is revealed for the first time and it's something new for me. The GM tracks Churn as a numerical value that increases as the game progresses, when Churn reaches certain thresholds something bad happens for the party to deal with. Interesting. It represents the hand of fate that slaps the party in the face just when they thought everything was going well. Although the GM is offered the opportunity to spend Churn points to slap the players sooner rather than later, this time with an automatic test failure. This seems a tad adversarial for my tastes; is the GM playing against the players?

Next we have Threats. Another good chapter with important hazards such as vacuum, dehydration and gravity, fitting nicely into the game rules. The protomolecule gets three paragraphs and a stat block for the Hybrid. Oh dear, blink and you'll miss it.

Character rewards are detailed in chapter 14 and there is some game-friendly material to be found; honourifics did seem to match the source well when you consider Fred Johnson "The Butcher of Anderson Station", and the various titles Holden has been graced with over the years. Honourifics are a facet of reputation and are earned, lost and maintained during Interludes; the GM has a lot of control around reputation but the entry in the Interludes section does raise the spectre of a dice roll being necessary. There's no escaping the rules.

I like the Membership rules that easily integrate factions and organisations allowing the characters to be a part of the game world and if you head back to The Guide, you'll find the inspiration you need. Good stuff. The last reward is the relationship bond and the intensity of said bond. If a bond develops organically through play then the rules here grant a genuine and tangible game effect. For me this is a good thing but the default path is to establish a relationship bond during character generation, it's a game statistic and my players wouldn't take kindly to such an imposition on the character and player dynamic. That might just be us though.

Chapter 15: The Expanse Series. This is where we read about Green Ronin's idea of a campaign and it's a pretty good way of setting out a sequence of events. There are snippets of The Expanse here but a lot of it feels like another cut and paste job. There are some good story hooks for a variety of campaign styles such as the Military game, freelancer or that of political intrigue; there's even a column and a half on a protomolecule campaign arc. This is the second of the aforementioned gems that left me baffled.

The protomolecule is the driving force behind much of the source material; it's alien, it mutates things and creates mind-blowing alien objects, it is partly responsible for the death of 1.5 million belters and almost crashes the asteroid into earth. This book spends 37 lines of one column outlining the possibilities. One of those is to take the place of the main characters from the books. Not easy for a player with no knowledge of The Expanse universe and perhaps not desirable either; my players want to play their own characters. Another option is to, "...eliminate the existence of the protomolecule altogether...". I thought about this for a moment; if the protomolecule never happened, why am I playing this game? Why not play Traveller instead? Bonkers.

The last section of the book is a nice touch, an introductory adventure that borrows its name from a Shakespeare quote: To Sleep Perchance to Dream. The first line made me smile a little; I'm told that this is an adventure for The Expanse RPG. That is a relief.

The adventure is short and has much in common with the other two adventures I've read. It require a lot of work from the GM and contains little in the way of atmosphere (no pun intended). However, this one is a good story with a good investigation sequence and some notable characters. If you've made it this far, you deserve a medal and I'm sure you've concluded that I don't like this game. Not so; there is much to enjoy here:

The game engine is sound, I've seen it working first hand (Dragon Age); the Drama Die is an inspired piece of mechanical trickery; the character generation system is great. The Guide to the Expanse is too short but very engaging.

I love the artwork. I find it very evocative of the books - and let's not forget that this game is based the books - the character images don't look like their TV counterparts and nor should they, the TV show is an entirely different beast.

There are things I don't like of course but they are not deal breakers: Stunts, there are just too many but you don't need to use them or maybe you could introduce a few at a time so the players and GM can digest them in small bites. The "rules first and roleplaying second" approach is totally unwanted in a roleplaying game but easy to ignore.

The writing is relentlessly boring and for the most part sidesteps the licensed material, It's too conversational and verbose coupled with a bucket of rules-bloat. The book feels like a rush job that has suffered from too much cutting and pasting from other Green Ronin AGE games. But the thing that disappoints the most is that the publishers focus on their rules system over the source. It's a staggering missed opportunity. If you took the 40 pages of the Guide as the only setting information you're looking at 15% story to 85% rules. This isn't strictly fair, there are slivers of setting to be found scattered across the book but more is needed.

Original source material with a distinctive voice deserves a dedicated rules system, not a cookie-cutter version transplanted from other games. I read somewhere, and I don't know if this is true, that the authors of the books originally planned The Expanse as a roleplaying game before they realised they had something special on their hands. Now that would have been the game to play.

Tight beam transmission ends.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Expanse Roleplaying Game
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Dragon Age RPG Quick Start Guide
by Michael P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/16/2019 12:07:40

I dont want to pour into a ton of wordcount where on a product you can just get for free but overall i felt the system was lacking. The world and the art is generally fine mostly just emulated the games, but my issue came with the fact that it feels like everyone has buckets and buckets of health and not enough damage to compensate turning combat into a slog. Reminded of D&D 4e. Anyway great setting but i cant recommend the system.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Dragon Age RPG Quick Start Guide
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The Expanse Roleplaying Game
by Wickus B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/02/2019 20:06:54

As fan of the books this is simply great. As a fan of the AGE system...this is fantastic.

It captures the setting and the AGE system does what it does best, get out of the way of telling stories. Mechanics to steal for your other games: Churn and Fortune. Easily incorporated into other iterations of AGE.

So much fun!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Expanse Roleplaying Game
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Chronicle of Sorcery
by Robert F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/11/2019 22:22:06

I really wanted to like this book, I really did, but sadly this book has no kind of functional magic beyond the three common arts with one of them (warding) being almost completely useless given how it would barely affect either of the other common arts. If the rumored expansions to blood magic, wortcunning, and spirit whispering came out then I wouldn't mind but it's been a long time since anyone has heard anything about those future expansions. Until more information on the example lores, and how to make balanced spells are released, I can't recommend this.



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[2 of 5 Stars!]
Chronicle of Sorcery
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Modern AGE Companion
by Alexandre M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/08/2019 20:23:03

This is my first impressions look/review at the Modern Age Companion. This is also the first time I write any kind of review - I thought I should contribute for once.

If you want the executive summary: In my view, its a good resource, especially the rules part. However, if you hope this book will help you design, improve or run an modern/urban fantasy setting or campaign, you will likely be left on your apetite because content on magic/exceptional power is essentially inexistant. My "rating" would be 3.75/5.

To give some context to my review: I have been thinking for a while about trying Modern Age by running a post-apocalyptic-ish modern fantasy campaign. I had high hopes that the release of the Companion would provide some needed additional content to work with, hopefully to save myself some extra work, and to provide players with additional options.

A big part of the book presents new rules or mechanics. It covers: an alternative system to hit points, duels (the way I read it, this is for those times when the desired outcome of a combat is more cinematic or narrative, rather than reducing hit points to zero), custom fighting styles, actions for flying combatants, using miniatures and maps, fatigue (similar to fatigue as alternative to power points in the basic rule book), fear and horror, extraordinary items and abilities (i.e. character/monster enhancements, not to be confused with extraordinary powers), creating organizations, equipment modifications (giving equipment special qualities) and demolitions. There are enhanced rules for hazards effects, stunts, relationships and memberships. New campaign-level tools are presented, including complications and events. Finally, there a section on campaign genres.

I believe this part of the book does overall quite a good job – with one exception that I will discuss in conclusion (e.g., the missing chapter). For me, the most appealing rules/mechanics are those on fear/horror, fatigue, organizations (for example to create a base of operations), hazards, extraordinary abilities (this can help create new custom supernatural monsters/creatures). I appreciate the efforts to create a mechanic (complications) similar to "meta" threat mechanics in other systems that can help create additional tension. I am also curious to see how the alternate approach to HPs would work in practice. For those interested on how this works - in brief:

A Toughness test against a target number (TN), which incorporates some modifiers, equal to the damage dealt. Weapon damage is converted from (xd6 + y) into a static +1 to +6 to the TN. Other damage modifiers are also added. There is a “conversion” chart for all melee/ranged weapons and hazards that indicates the static number to use. There is guidance on how to handle Rate of Fire bonuses, talent and stunt bonuses that provide extra damage in addition to the static weapon damage value. Interestingly (see my conclusion), there is no specific guidance, as opposed to weapons and hazards, on converting magical damage. If the test is failed, the character suffers one or more injury points – the gravity of the injury depends on the stunt die of the failed Toughness test. With each injury, the probability of the next injury leading to incapacitation or the character dying increases. So, the way I read it, there is no specific quantity or pool of injury points.

The “characters” part of the book covers: custom/streamlined character creation, creating custom backgrounds, professions and drives, about a dozen fantastical backgrounds, peoples (dwarves, elves, orcs, shapeshifters, humans and otherworldly) backgrounds, characters conditions (blind, depressed and so on), two new talents degrees beyond master, about a dozen new talents and a few more specializations.

I am generally disappointed with this part of the book. On the positive side, the fantastical (or supernatural) backgrounds are an original and useful addition. Overall, the backgrounds content is acceptable. The new specializations and new talents are also ok. However, I take issue with the content for the new degrees for talents. The descriptions for the two new degrees are provided for three basic rulebook talents, used as examples, and for the dozen or so new talents in this book. For all the other talents from the basic rulebook or World of Lazarus setting, eight generic options are provided, and you choose what applies on the basis of the “use your judgement” criteria. To me, this feels half-baked and somewhat lazy: Well created new degrees for a few talents and a “band-aid” approach for the rest. Many talents are more than one simple mechanical effect. In addition, the narrative text that comes with each talent is often useful to have. To me, this means that if I want to use this new feature, I must create myself the narrative and the mechanics for the two extra degrees for dozens and dozens of talents – not interested.

This said, my fundamental disappointment and the biggest shortcoming I see with the Companion is with respect to the exceptional powers content (magic):

  • Where are the non-powers related arcana talents? There are none in this book, and none in the basic rulebook.

  • Where are the extra powers for each power list? The Fantasy Age Companion upgraded each power (spell) list to 8 powers, from a basic 4, and included new power lists. It is possible to use Fantasy Age powers/spells as a “patch” for most Modern Age power lists with some minor adjustments. Still, Modern Age had two original modern power lists: Machine Arcana and Digital Arcana. Not providing extra powers for especially those two, which are very appropriate and thematic for a modern fantasy setting, is a shame.

  • Where are the magic related specializations? There are zero specializations, in either the basic rule book or the Companion for exceptional powers users. I find this is a huge oversight.

  • In the Companion, there is a chapter on technology… Where is its counterpart, a chapter on exceptional powers (magic)? Nowhere. How about rules on enhancing powers in various ways, on portal travel, on consumable items that can be collected in the environment and used to enhance power effects or spell power, on blending exceptional powers and martial arts, on conjuring entities/spirits, on rituals, on hunting supernatural entities, on pacts, on minor magic (which exists in Fantasy Age Companion), on blending magic and technology, and so on? Another huge oversight for me.

To conclude, I mentioned in the beginning where I was coming from: working on an modern fantasy setting and campaign, which I beleive is one key type of setting that Modern Age was intended for. In this context, the absence of content on magic/exceptional powers in the Companion is a big let down. It seems that magic is simply treated as a complementary option for characters as opposed to a full character concept.

For players/GMs that don't use magic in their campaign or setting (or where magic has a very minor role), this book will likely be a good and useful resource to run Modern Age, especially the rules part, and having access to some extra backgrounds, talents and specializations is always nice to have.

Hope this was useful!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Modern AGE Companion
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Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero's Handbook
by Jon F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/17/2019 22:39:56

Thus far I've purchases three copies of this book, two physical copies and a third pdf. I've been playing Mutants & Masterminds for a decade and this is hands down one of the best books supporting the system I've ever read. It is a great primer for new players, and a really helpful tool for experienced ones.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero's Handbook
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The Expanse Roleplaying Game
by Zachariah D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/11/2019 23:37:24

System isn't intuitive at all, had to read the character creation/advancement section several times to be able to even begin to understand how to level up a character. The book also spends a lot of time plugging other editions of the AGE system or seeking to "clarify" how this book/setting is different from other system books. Sorely tempted to take the setting and run in another system.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Expanse Roleplaying Game
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Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/05/2019 15:17:40

The trouble with most "gamer fiction" is you can practically hear the dice being rolled in the background. Sometimes, and it doesn't matter how compelling the story, you can't bu help see or hear game terms being thrown about.

Thankfully that is NOT the issue here with Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel by Joseph D. Carriker, Jr.

Carriker gives us a story we can get into and characters we can care about, that is the job of all good storytellers; whether that medium is a novel, a play or a role-playing game. In this case, we get a good novel that preserves what we like or want from the RPG but still satisfies as a novel.

The story opens with the disappearance (likely murder) of two envoys from the Sovereign's Finest. The Sovereign is Queen Jaelin of Aldis and her envoys are tasked with helping out where they can and mostly fighting the forces of evil. The two envoys are tracking down a reported case of Shadow Sorcerery in the Veran Marsh east of Aldis. Shadow is more than just black magic, it is a taint of the unworldly, of the unnatural. Contrasts are turned up in Aldis, the evil are very evil and the good...well the good try to be very good, but as this book reminds us even the Envoys of the Queen, the very symbols of good, have to make hard choices.

The story begins with a trio of envoys. I would say "unlikely" but in truth the envoys are a varied lot. We have Soot who is a Rhy-Crow, or an intelligent crow with the abilities of an Adept. Morjin Brightstar, a lovable rogue and rake who works best alone, but is constantly falling love with whomever he meets. A note. Morjin is a character who in a lesser hand would have been VERY annoying. But Carriker invests a lot of attention and dare I say love into Morjin that you feel for the guy. He is a former Roamer, a nomadic culture similar to the Romany of our world, but he has been exiled from his clan. So it becomes easy to see how his happy-go-lucky, devil-may-care nature hides a profound sadness of what would be a good heart. Finally the last of our trio is Ydah (pronounced EE0dah). She is a Night person, or what might pass for a half-orc in other books. She is the fighter to Morjin's lover. She is also recovering from recent grief and hides her sadness behind a gruff exterior and a desire to beat the living crap out of people. Which she excels at.

The trio finds themselves in a hidden smuggler's town called Serpent's Haven. Where basically everyone is a criminal or descended from a criminal of some sort. Their mission here is to discover what happened to other envoys and figure out what the nature of the Shadow they were looking for.

I don't want to spoil the plot, but suffice to say it involves cults, crazed cultists, a Dark Fiend and the ever-present danger of Shadow to all that are around it, friend and foe alike.

Naturally, comparisons will be made to the Valdemar books by Mercedes Lackey, of which Blue Rose is inspired by, but those comparisons are mainly superficial here. Sure one can tell a "Valdemar" story with Blue Rose. One could also tell this story with Blue Rose. The differences to me lie at the heart of what Shadowtide and Blue Rose are really about. The characters of both the novel and game try to do Good with a capital G. But often the only choices they have are goods with a little g. They can't fix every problem. The difference I think then between a Blue Rose character and say a D&D character is that it is the good they can't do is what bothers the Blue Rose characters, and this makes them want to do and be better next time.

That is certainly true for our trio of heroes here. Morjin feels bad about how treats certain people when he knows he has worked towards the greater good. Ydah feels bad about having to kill (and kill she does) cultists, but she needs to stop an even greater evil. Soot, well Soot has some problems all his own and shows us how dangerous the cult they are dealing with is.

In the end, the characters care about their actions. They care about how others see them as envoys and they care about how others are treated. They know there is injustice in the world, even Ydah mentions the stares she still gets in "enlightened Aldis", but they are working to make things a little bit better. Because they care they are not the "murder hobos" of other games or stories and we care more for them as well.

The book ends, but room for a sequel is left open. I certainly hope so. The characters are entertaining and the mystery they are delving into is a fascinating one. Kudos to Carriker for giving us characters whose motivations I believe and whose stories are compelling enough to make me want more.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowtide: A Blue Rose Novel
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Hero High, Revised Edition
by Matthew H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/14/2018 22:01:19

Good: The Claremont Academy section and the premade teen characters are very useful.

Bad: The rest of the book. The advice for running a teen campaign is mostly very easy to extrapolate yourself if you've read the Gamemaster's Guide and have ever been a teenager, and the writing style is an incredibly cringeworthy attempt to sound young and hip from someone whose idea of "hip" seems to have been gleaned by observing 1998-2002-era teen culture from a great distance. It makes it incredibly difficult to read the first three sections without skimming, so it's entirely possible I missed out on some gems of advice within the dross.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Hero High, Revised Edition
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Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
by YANN E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/16/2018 08:42:37

This is a primer on the AGE system (used in Blue Rose and Dragon Age), it is (hence the name) fantasy oriented and it is not provided with an specific universe, the core three class and the mechanics are provided and a few specialties, spells and equipment plus several GM's advices.

I think the goal is to have a basic fantasy core book that a GM can build upon as it is less complete than Bluse Rose & Dragon Age but that's not the goal of this book.

Still a good product for beginners and people curious about AGE.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
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Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
by James B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/29/2018 06:37:54

On the whole I like the AGE system. The stunt mechanic is interesting, task resolution is generally fast and smooth and it is generic enough to build a homebrew setting around pretty easily. The system and this pdf do however have a few glaring problems that I find no one is talking about. First, the combat relies too heavily on the stunts system to add interesting choices. There are very few mechanical options in combat beyond "hit guy with my weapon using my most appropriate talent" and if you don't roll doubles or roll crab on your stunt die that makes for a very dull turn. Second, the mechanical effects of the different talents and specializations just feel uninspired and bland. It doesn't feel like there is really a significant difference between playing say a two-hander warrior and a sword and board warrior. Yeah you get a couple of small stat differences and very minor ability riders but nothing that makes the game experience notably different or varied. Third, I can't find animal statistics anywhere in the book. This is especially frustrating because they include mounted combat rules and animal companions (especially with the Beastmaster option in the Companion) but no actual animals to use. So several of the options that might actually make the game fun to play with aren't actually useable.

The pdf itself is very poorly put together. The bookmarks are an absolute mess. They are often out of order and there are sub-marks under headings that make no sense. For example, after the classes in the book there are a few pages dedicated to the final touches of your character (calculating defense, starting money, character goals, gaining XP and the like). Only about half of them are given a bookmark and all the bookmarks are submarks of the Warrior class bookmark. That is only one of a few example of very poor bookmarks. To make this even worse, the pdf is locked so you cannot even change the bookmarks manually.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Companion
by Cary M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/31/2018 19:42:15

This pdf has been rigged so that if you print it the names of talents and the like do not show up on the document. I even using a print to pdf program and the names were not visible.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Companion
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Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero's Handbook
by Rory H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/30/2018 00:28:01

For those people, like me, who didn't quite grow up with the depth of experience to master point spend-based superhero rpgs, this book delivers a very accessible, attractive game and system that can be played practically out of the box. The art direction is very strong too, with the use of a short comic strip inside to illustrate the possibilities.

While the system is the same used in the more advanced Deluxe version of the game, it focuses on easily recognisable archetypes (8 in total) and simply chosen packages of abilities and powers to build characters. The elegance of this is that both versions of the game are completely compatible and, along with the points buy and random tables found in the Deluxe book, almost every preference for character generation is provided within the game as a whole. Fans of class-based systems, however, will appreciate this book the most.

The Basic book is still pretty comprehensive as a self contained game (you don't need any other), with plenty of advice and resources, that can run pretty much any type of tale found in the comics and movies. The tone is decidedly positive and cheerful, rather than gritty (should you be looking for a darker style) but, in all, this product largely underlines Mutants & Masterminds claim to be the 'greatest superhero roleplaying game'. For me, this was the best product I have seen of it's type and genre.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutants & Masterminds Basic Hero's Handbook
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The Expanse RPG Quickstart
by Curtis B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/24/2018 21:52:43

Another fantastic product by Green Ronin. Looking forward to the full book!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Expanse RPG Quickstart
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