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BattleTech: Activity Book
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/10/2020 17:45:52

Dang, so I can learn reading, coloring, and the optimization of medium lasers at the same time!?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Activity Book
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Baltic War
Publisher: Zozer Games
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/01/2020 16:06:07

Baltic War is a well researched supplement for the Cepheus Engine's Modern War, giving fans of games like Twilight 2000 a new game to be excited about. It combines the two primary flashpoints for NATO and the Russian Federation - NATO assumes Russia will invade the three Baltic countries while Russia assumes Western powers will attempt to influence or undermine Belarus. In this supplement, both happen, providing four unique theatres to explore in game.

Due to word count, the supplement appears to leave out some setting assumptions. For example, there is barely any information about naval and air postures during the war. Current studies assume that, due to the heavy militarization and presence of missiles in Kaliningrad, air power and naval movements would be severely limited in the early stages of a Baltic conflict, making this the ground war this supplement describes.

Overall an interesting supplement and a good start to the expanded Modern War line. Definitely recommended to Twilight 2000 fans or military/alternative history fans.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Baltic War
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The Hunger Within
Publisher: White Wolf
by Michael A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2019 18:07:49

I actually playtested this scenario nearly six years ago, so it's great to see it in print!

The Hunger Within is a tightly designed SAS adventure for Chronicles of Darkness divided in two acts - investigation with creeping dread followed by tense action. The story can be run in a three-four hour session, making it perfect for convention play, store demos, or one shots with friends. Additionally, the adventure comes with four pregenerated characters, so you can play it with minimal prep.

The adventure is set in rural England, which provides a nice alternative to all of the official SAS adventures that are set in the United States. There aren't many cops around, and the players will need to solve their problems without resorting to firearms. That said, The Hunger Within can be easily adapted to anywhere in the world!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Hunger Within
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Shadowplans - Pack #1
Publisher: Shadowplans
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/03/2016 19:08:19

Wow!

The shadowplans pack is in outstanding GM map resource for modern and near future roleplaying games. Shadowrun missions, Cthulhutech street investigations, and Werewolf: the Apocalypse monkeywrenching will all benefit from this product.

This map pack includes 10 seperate locations in multiple formats. Additionally, security overlay sheets are provided if stealth plays into your game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowplans - Pack #1
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RQ3 From the Shadows (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Michael A. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/20/2015 22:59:21

From the Shadows is a classic adventure and this is a very nice OCR scan of the module. However, the Castle Avernus maps critical to the adventure are not included.

You can find somewhat usable Avernus maps over at: http://www.fraternityofshadows.com/GryphonHill/darkon/avernus.html



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
RQ3 From the Shadows (2e)
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V20 Anarchs Unbound Wallpaper
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/23/2014 19:19:45

This is a wicked rad wallpaper in multiple formats.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Anarchs Unbound Wallpaper
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The One Ring: Loremaster's Screen and Lake-town Guide
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/12/2013 23:01:48

This PDF supplement is consists of a 32 page sourcebook on Laketown, from The Hobbit novel, and the sheets of a Loremaster reference screen. This review focuses on the Laketown book.

Following the events of The Hobbit, particularly slaying Smaug, Laketown has become something of a cultural center of the region, housing not just the native humans but dwarven smiths, and elven envoys, making it a perfect local for any fellowship.

The 32 pages covering Laketown paint a detailed picture, giving players and Loremasters a plethora of ideas. From a setting standpoint there's history of the town, an extensive map with corresponding area descriptions, mercantile information, and even description of a town festival celebrating the death of Smaug. This is all handled quite well.

The setting material also extends outside Laketown, covering the Long Marshes. There isn't much description of the terrain, certainly nothing visceral, and the first sentence seems to indicate that Loremasters should look to the The Marsh-bell adventure for extra information. This section lists a few additional herbs found in the marshes, as well as three adversaries - Hobgoblins, Marsh-hags, and Marsh Ogres.

Finally, for players there is a new culture - Men of the Lake. Unsurprisingly, these characters show a proclivity for bows, as well as shield fighting and savvy trading. The culture is well balanced with respect to its Boxed Set counterparts, but unfortunately the Backgrounds are a tad dull. Compared to the generic Backgrounds introduced in the base game, one would hope the supplements would be a bit more creative. However, best of all, the example character of the Men of the Lake culture is a woman - Frida, a tenacious wanderer inspired by King Bard's deeds to learn archery.

The Laketown Sourcebook and Loremaster screen is great, but I'd be careful about buying it in PDF. $15 doesn't seem worth it for a 32 page book and a few reference sheets - this may be a better product to get in print.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring: Loremaster's Screen and Lake-town Guide
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CthulhuTech: Racial Insecurities – Fetch
Publisher: WildFire
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/02/2013 18:53:53

Racial Insecurities is a neat concept - introducing a small electronic and now-in-print supplement to the Cthulhutech line that covers a new player option. Fetch, however, falls short of the Racial Insecurities line's potential.

This supplement reintroduces the fetch, a magical, sentient assistant presented in the Cthulhutech corebook. Originally these gremlin-like creatures were discussed with only a few passing sentences, but Fetch presents them as a complete 6 page racial player option. Playing a Fetch requires the purchase of one or more Assets and selecting a few Attribute bonuses from those. Otherwise, character creation is the same.

Fetches provide the opportunity to play a psychopathic gremlin, Igor-like sorcerous aide, or mischievous Outsider in a Cthulhutech game. This obviously doesn't mesh with stories set in frontline combat or the ruins of China, but can work nicely for certain types of groups in certain occult investigation settings.

While the writing is decent, there are only 6 pages of usable gaming content in this 12 page PDF. With a $2.99 price tag, Cthulhutech fans should consider carefully before picking this up. I would never recommend getting this short supplement in Print.

Overall, this is a mediocre start to what I hope is a strong line of player options. Cthulhutech and the Cthulhu Mythos are ripe with creatures that can make intriguing, though rare, characters in your story.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
CthulhuTech: Racial Insecurities – Fetch
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Convention Book: Syndicate
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/08/2013 18:26:04

Convention Book: Syndicate, the latest in the long-awaited revised line of Convention Books, is an uneven book but one which ultimately won me over. I'm a long-time fan of the Technocracy in general and the Syndicate convention in particular and I realize that it's difficult to flesh them out beyond "they're the ones who have all the money" and White Wolf proved that difficulty the last time they wrote a splatbook detailing the Convention by making them mobsters, Gordon Gecko clones and generally unsympathetic jerks all around. This book does a lot to mitigate that and explain some things in greater detail and, while still falling short of it's Primal Utility ideal, does a good job of humanizing this Convention.

After a short story introduction which follows a Syndicate operative through her travels and travails shutting down a lab that has developed an outside of the Concensus cure for cancer, we begin with a chapter covering the Syndicate's history. This is, in my opinion, the worst written of the chapters. It comes so close, so often to getting the point of the convention but each and every time it falls back into the "they're the guys who are all about the money!" trope. It also manages to gloss over centuries of history in a few short paragraphs and then spend far too long going over the last decade and a half. The history is neither well-focused nor terribly interesting as presented. The chapter also gives a quick run down of how the Convention generally views it's allies among the other Conventions (ranging from "these guys are our bread and butter" to "we're running an economic and psychological cold war against these jerks") and it's enemies among the Traditionalists, Marauders, Nephandi and the like. I enjoyed this section and it's nice to see them slowly moving the Technocracy Civil War metaplotline forward.

Chapter Two: Human Resources is probably the best chapter in the book. It details the organizational structure of the Convention, giving examples of how one moves up and down and around the org chart of the Convention, how an Enlightened person is recruited, rewarded and reprimanded. It then finally does a much more effective job of explaining the paradigm of the Syndicte. They're not about money, they're about value. Money (and what it can buy) is just the most common way of expressing that value. There is then a brief two or three page writeup of each Methodology within the Convention, covering Disbursements, the Enforcers, the Financers, Media Control and even a disturbing blurb on what became of Special Projects Division which may be my favorite part of the entire book as it is dripping with unresolved plot hooks and connections to other White Wolf games.

Chapter Three: Movers and Shakers is the crunchy rules heavy section of the book. It begins by providing sample Syndicators from each of the Methodologies, then goes into detail on running Syndicate-centric games, provides a sample Amalgam and the guy who runs it. There are some new(ish) Syndicate rotes, many of which are mostly reskins of pre-existing rotes from older Mage books. There's a Technocratic reskinning of the Prime sphere which they chose to call Primal Utility (because "Worth" or "Value" are, presumably, too easily comprehensible to the average person). Like the Data reskinning of Correspondence sphere found in the NWO book or the Dimensional Science reskinning of the Spirit sphere, it's mostly a paradigmatic reinvisioning of the standard effects with one or two very minor changes. It's good and can be used to further distinguish a Technocratic character from a Traditionalist one, but the name will keep bugging me though really that's a pretty minor issue. After explaining the "new" Sphere, there are a few Hypereconomic Procedures designed specifically with Primal Utility in mind. None of which utilize the sphere below the third level showing that even the Technocrats don't know what to do with Prime 1 and 2. Finally there are six sample archetypes included only one of which, at the time of this writing, are correctly constructed using the character generation rules from the corebook and the Guide to the Technocracy.

As I stated at the beginning of this review, the Syndicate is my favorite Convention in the Technocracy and one that it is very, very difficult to grok. But in the end, I think that the authors managed to do so and convey that to the readers in a well-written, concise and entertaining manner. I'm not in love with this book, but I am happy to have added it to my collection.

If you'd like more World of Darkness discussion, check out our website at http://darker-days.org



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Convention Book: Syndicate
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BattleTech: Era Report: 3145
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/24/2013 19:11:11

If Era Report 3145 is representative of the Era Report series, I'll have to pick up more. This sourcebook is a detailed cross section of the Inner Sphere's nations and key players in 3145, providing overarching political background for Battletech and A Time of War games. The sourcebook is divided into four main sections - one describing the current state of interstellar nations, another covering the dramatis personæ, a chapter on technology, and a rules section with campaign information and modifications for Battletech and A Time of War.

The Background and character sections provide a thorough look at interstellar politics, describing the events of the Dark Age that occured during the Clix game, along with a few more years of war that Catalyst has created. As someone that stopped paying attention to the Clix game after the first expansion, I found the background to be both complete and insightful, filling me in on all the story I'd missed in the plethora of Dark Ages novels. Of particular note, the Nova Cats clan got shafted, losing all their territory and becoming almost a nomadic clan, with a few scattered enclaves. The book also provides more insight into the Raven Alliance - the politically unbalanced marriage of the Snow Raven clan and the Outworlds Alliance. However, perhaps my favorite part was the biographies of key players in the Republic of the Sphere. Damien Redburn and Tara Campbell's last ditch effort to hold onto worlds outside the Fortress Republic provides great personalities and scenarios for the tabletop game or roleplaying.

The technology section gives background to the development of new weapons, armor, and equipment in the 3145 era. This is all fluff, but it's still quite cool to read. One interesting feature is the Nova Cat's Mystic Caste. These are a new, non-warrior, sibko generated caste that are somewhat akin to Mentats from the Dune universe... except we're not exactly sure if they work. And many of the clan's warriors don't think they work. It's an interesting new addition to the universe that expands a clan that has suffered so much. Another intriguing clan development is the Elstars - where the clan eugenics program has gone beyond selective breeding into full genetic manipulation.

The rules section provides campaign tracks and other methods of play that showcase the Battletech-scale conflicts of 3145. ER3145 uses the Chaos Campaign and Warchest Points system that is presented in other recent Catalyst supplements. The supplement also provides numerous scenarios with optional rules and the touch point track and mini-campaign scenarios provide critical battles in the era for players to participate in.

For roleplayers, there is a small section describing character creation for Dark Age Era characters. Pages and page of new affiliation rules are presented, for both new factions and existing ones. Nova Cats are still included and can be created as a Draconis Combine sub-affiliation and Clan Wolf-in-Exile characters are now a Lyran Commonwealth sub-affiliation. Following that are some new Life Paths, economic adjustments, and statistics for all the characters with biographies in the previous chapter.

Overall, this is a great product and outstanding launching point for Battletech and A Time of War games in the Dark Ages era.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BattleTech: Era Report: 3145
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Fallen is Babylon
Publisher: White Wolf
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2013 08:54:01

Fallen is Babylon is the first Storyteller Adventure System (SAS) module I've ever run and I'm extremely impressed by it.

The SAS contains eight tightly designed scenes based around the infernal pacts of Dr. Rasoletti and others. As with other SAS products, Fallen is Babylon includes extensive background material, NPC character sheets, discussion of the scenes, and scene summaries and player handouts at the end.

What makes Fallen is Babylon such an impressive adventure is the efficient design - author Matt McFarland was able to create a complex and evocative plot with only two mortal and two infernal characters. The first half of the adventure requires almost no work for the storyteller - in my experience the SAS gave me every recommendation and description I needed. Towards the end, as the players come up with their own ideas and schemes, the SAS becomes a bit more open ended. Don't expect prewritten plot points to get in the way of your players.

Overall, Fallen is Babylon is great and worked perfectly as a four hour one-shot story.

If you'd like more World of Darkness discussion, check out our website at http://darker-days.org

If you'd like to see an actual play of Fallen is Babylon, check it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I4aX5PbZ1F0



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fallen is Babylon
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Filthy Shades Cliché
Publisher: Postmortem Studios
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2013 07:43:34

Filthy Shades Cliche is a hilarious word game and literary exercise. And cheap. Just buy it and check it out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Filthy Shades Cliché
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Enemy Within
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/06/2013 07:40:09

This is it. This is the capstone of WFRP 3rd Edition.

The Enemy Within 3rd Edition is not a reprint of the classic 1st Edition campaign. It is a reimagining and worthy successor. Even better, there are hints and plot threads that allow this 3rd Edition campaign to tie into the 1st Edition one, indicating that the Purple Hand might be related to the Black Cowl. Best of all, you can easily port this campaign back to your prefered WFRP edition - the writers realized for this adventure that mechanics can't get in the way of story.

That said, it should also be noted that this Enemy Within has a slightly different tone than the previous. There is definitely a more epic feel towards the end, with characters brushing shoulders with luminaries of the Empire, attempting to stop assassinations, and facing a larger-than-life foe. It's all in keeping with current Warhammer Fantasy lore, but it just needs to be pointed out that the entire campaign isn't down in the gutters.

This PDF version does spend some time discussing the bits provided in the boxed set. Most of these aren't necessary. However, the background cards sound cool and I wish that had been provided in the book. Additionally, there are a number of handouts, maps and letters, that really should have been appended to this PDF - there's no reason these can't be included.

Luckily if you buy the boxed version nothing is needed for this chronicle beyond the contents of the Core Box or the Corebooks. If you get this on PDF only and want to use it in WFRP 3rd, you'll need to get a little creative with enemy ability cards, but it's nothing impossible.

The adventure is divided into three parts, with an optional "Epic Level" story at the end. Characters begin at tier 1 and go all the way to the end game. The campaign is also broad enough that you can fit in side trips and extra adventures - and the campaign includes some loose ends that could tie into these.

The optional story at the end is, I feel, the weakest part. It essentially culminates in a big battle - and not a particularly interesting one. There's cool stuff along the way and it puts characters in a strong political position for future adventures... but it just feels like an underwhelming finish. I'd suggest grabbing some of the more psychadelic adventure material found in The Thousand Thrones and using that for inspiration.

So yeah. The Enemy Within is awesome and WFRP fans of every edition are going to get a lot of mileage out of this. I highly recommend it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay: The Enemy Within
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Mirrors: Bleeding Edge
Publisher: White Wolf
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/30/2013 18:20:07

There are already a lot of reviews for this 23 page product, so I'm not sure how much I can add... but I figure I should chim in.

The Bleeding Edge is good. It's well written and presents the core themes of Cyberpunk, along with some new Merits to represent those themes. But it's not great, and serves as an example of using a limited word count improperly.

Bleeding Edge has three broad sections - Introduction and cyberpunk themes, mechanics, and storytelling elements. The first and last sections are great - the right length and well written. The mechanics, I feel, did not use their space well.

There new mechanics are three Merits - Origin, Role, and Plug-ins - along with Alienation, a new Morality alternative.

Origin and Role are basically Merits that put a mechanical advantage to something you did anyway - create a character concept and character backstory. The mechanics are sound, but the first thing to go through my head was, "Is this really necessary?" The second thought was, "Do these two Merits need to take up 8 pages of a 23 page PDF?" Both of these Merits just feel like unnecessary bloat - why do characters need free bonus specializations when they should already purchase those based on their character concept?

Plug-ins are great. There's just enough here to give you ideas, but leaves you a system that can be easily expanded and modified. For example, I'd really be interested in giving some plug-ins a "Passive" mode, where they have an effect that doesn't require the expenditure of Willpower.

Alienation is pretty thematic, and represents how cyberpunk characters drift away from "civilized" society. It charts a course for the character's story arc as well, as they accept more daring jobs and are forced to commit more horrific acts. I approve.

All that said, I'm fairly happy with my purchase, I just felt that others should be aware of what they'll actually be getting with this product.

If you'd like more World of Darkness discussion, check out our website at http://darker-days.org



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Mirrors: Bleeding Edge
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Earthdawn Player's Guide (Revised Edition)
Publisher: FASA
by Michael A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/30/2013 18:15:14

Earthdawn is the FASA fantasy heartbreak - it's a unique fantasy roleplay, ostensibly tied in to the Shadowrun universe, with an interesting dice mechanic and small, fanatical fanbase. With numerous novel tie-ins and a plethora of sourcebooks from the 90's, there's enough material to make Earthdawn an appealing alternative to any Dungeons and Dragons campaign setting. That's why I decided to check out Earthdawn Revised.

And I can't help but feel a little let down.

Don't get me wrong, the rules are tight and the world is interesting. It's a problem of presentation. This book is a chore to slog through, crippled by poor formatting, recycled artwork, and an odd digest size. The written word isn't too bad, but I was looking through some old discounted Earthdawn sourcebooks at my FLGS and found that I was rereading paragraphs wholesale - some of the text here is just copied and pasted. I'm sorry to start the review with such a negative point - but presentation is how people initially judge a product, and FASA/Redbrick should really know better.

The primary setting of Earthdawn is Barsaive - a dwarf controlled territory that has recently broken away from the authoritarian magocracy known as the Theran Empire. This independence also occurs following The Scourge - a magical cataclysm where the world was invaded by extradimensional entities known as Horrors and most civilizations were forced hide underground. Magic is also very important in the Earthdawn setting - with all characters (wizards and warriors alike) using magic to power their abilities. However, the few horrors remaining in the world consume and corrupt magic, making the player characters perfect targets. Just those three core concepts, regardless of geographical setting, can give you ideas for dozens of play sessions.

The core dice mechanic is fairly elegant - characters add together their skills and attributes to find their "Step," and this step corresponds to a dice pool that is rolled against a target number. So, for example, Step 4 means you roll 1d6, while Step 9 has a dice pool of 1d8+1d6. The game gets crunchier there, with a plethora of special abilities and complex combat rules, the latter of which really can be optional.

Earthdawn revised is probably a good product for new players - it provides a fairly cheap entry point into the universe. Long time fans might actually want to give this a pass, since they'll already have most of the rules and much of the fluff.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Earthdawn Player's Guide (Revised Edition)
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