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Game Master's Toolbox: Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery 5th Edition
Publisher: Nord Games
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/25/2019 12:26:49

Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery is part of a series of books by Nord Games that provides a very handy list of characters of various race, background, class, and alignment. The book contains character sheets for each character at level 1, 4, 8, 12, 16, and 20. The character classes include bard, barbarian, fighter, warlock, and ranger, covering roughly half the class options in the Player's Handbook. There are 10 races represented, excluding sub-races, featuring most of the standard races, and even a shapechanger! There are 30 characters in total, with some tables that a dungeon master can roll on to get a random character. There are even tables by alignment in case you're looking for a charatacter that's good, neutral, or evil-aligned. However, this book doesn't have to be for dungeon masters alone. If you're in a pinch and need a character for a game, say at a gaming convention or a pick-up game, this book is very useful. Since the character sheets take up one page each for the characters at each level, you can simply print up characters from the PDF file or photocopy them and hand them out when needed. The character's backstory is even included. This can make the game easy for those just getting started who don't yet understand the character creation process.

On top of all of this, the book has a few pages at the end with some nice equipment options. Much of these are items are things like enhanced tools, kits, and musical instruments that often give bonuses to tool proficiency checks. There are some very interesting items, such as the 'Book of Blackmail' that gives bonuses to persuasion checks against nobles listed in the book who don't want their secrets exposed. Items like this require some DM judgement as to how they are to be used. There are a few weapons listed as well, including the 'powerful crossbow' and 'scalpel', which have some special rules for dealing extra damage. These are things that a DM should be aware of before allowing them in their game. As well, there are some new poisons and magic items to add some flare to your game. There is also a handful of new spells, most of which are really useful. Some of the spell descriptions, such as for the spell 'Donnybrook', which causes a crowd of at least 15 creatures to start fighting each other, are also open to DM interpretation. Most of the spells nicely match the book's theme of skulduggery, giving some nice options for thiefs, such as the 'Sticky Fingers' cantrip that grants advantage on Sleight of Hand checks.

Overall, this book is greatfor DMs. You can use it to introduce a new NPC when you need to, and have stats for that NPC as they rise in level. You can use it for extra characters when you have new players. You can use the items as treasure for your party, and you can surprise and vex your party with spells that they haven't seen before. This is a great book if you're looking to reduce the prepwork before your game, and I can't wait to see what other books Nord games offers in this series.

See the full review at Geeksagogo.com!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Game Master's Toolbox: Ultimate NPCs: Skulduggery 5th Edition
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Shadowrun: Sixth World Beginner Box
Publisher: Catalyst Game Labs
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/20/2019 13:30:49

Note: We got an early copy of the physical Sixth World Begginer Box, which we've based our review on after a few play-throughs. Note that not all of what we discuss is present in the digital starter kit:

The Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box is a boxed set that introduces players to the rules for Shadowrun 6th edition. It's a great introductory set that has all the material you need to get a game started quickly. This includes a 24-page rulebook, a 24 page scenario, four character portfolios, a map of Seatle in the year 2080, scenario maps, a deck of equipment cards (which also includes spells and some NPC stats for the DM), and a set of 12 beautiful custom Shadowrun dice. You'll need a lot of dice, because Shadowrun has always been about three things: futuristic technology, magic, and rolling handfuls of dice--and 6th edition is no different.

A brief word on the world of Shadowrun--the game is set in an alternate future where magic of ancient legend has returned to the world in the early 2000s. The return of magic also brought creatures such as dwarves and elves, and even monsters such as dragons and ghouls into existence. This future is set in and around 2080, in a time when high-tech lasers and cybernetic implants are rather common. This future is a distopian one, with different national boundaries than we know today, and corporations controlling many aspects of daily life. You and your fellow players are shadowrunners--hired mercenaries that end up doing the dirty work for the corporations, often in the form of espionage, kidnapping, computer hacking, robbery, etc. Among the character options are deckers (hackers), a riggers (mechanics), mages, and street samurai (the muscle).

Now, for the quickstart rules. This is a nice 24-page set of simplified rules that give us a taste of what is to come in 6th edition. The quickstart rules don't include much in the way of character creation, but focus more on gameplay. If you're a veteran of the game, you may remember that Shadowrun's basic mechanics have been centered on forming a dice pool and rolling a bunch of dice. This version of Shadowrun, like recent iterations has us building a pool from an ability + skill and rolling a number of dice equal to the total. For example, if your character is attempting to hack into a computer, you would add your character's logic (representing her natural intelligence) and your electronics skill (her knowledge of electronics). You would then take that result and roll that number of dice to determine the effect. Each result of a 5 or 6 is a success, and contributes to the effectiveness of her attempt to hack the computer. Sixth edition places increased importance on the concept of 'edge', a stat that has been used in previous editions to represent the charcter's luck. Characters enter battle with edge points and more can be gained based on circumstance, such as having the high ground on a battlefield. This edition has expanded rules on gaining and using edge, allowing you to spend edge points in different amounts (1-5) to gain increasing bonuses on actions. Lower-end edge effects allow for things like buy a single re-roll or add to the outcome of 1 die. Higher-end edge expenditures let you do things like roll an additional die for each 6 you roll on your initial test, or increase your enemy's chances of having a critical failure. These are just some examples, but this edition really brings edge to the forefront as a major mechanic. At the heart of the game, you're still rolling a ton of dice and anticipating the outcome. Edge now makes that process more exciting, and players seem to enjoy thinking tactically to gain edge in combat. Veteran players will notice other changes to magic, combat, etc. that largely lean toward simplification. As well, there are some editing errors, particularly in the card set that can lead to confusion. It's likely that the core rulebook will clear up the confusion due to editing, and also possible that we'll see expansion on the rules that often aren't present in a starter kit like this.

The adventure book contains a simple scenario called 'Battle Royale', in which the runners find themselves in the middle of a gang war. Without spoiling too much, they'll have to find a way to rescue a high value target from the gangsters and get out safely to collect their reward. Players can choose from 4 character options: Frostburn--ork combat mage, Rude--troll street samurai, Yu-- Elf covert ops specialist, and Zipfile--Dwarf decker. Each character comes with an 8-page folio that contains an overview of the rules, some background and role-playing tips, and some charts for quick reference during the game. This makes it really easy to get started. The box includes a set of cards that have the stats for the equipment and spells that each character has, which also makes for easier reference. The scenario is about 24 pages with a lot of helpful tips for first-time game masters. There's even a map to help players and GM visualize the scene.

Overall, the Shadowrun Sixth World Beginner Box really has everything that you need to get started. First time players can get a game prepared in probably a couple of hours or less. The box retails for about $25, and it's an amazing value considering that a dozen custom Shadowrun dice will probably cost you at least $20. Not to mention the cost of the card set and adventure book. As a veteran Shadowrun player, this has me excited to play and run the game again. Though this boxed set doesn't present the full rules, it gives us a taste, and I like what I'm seeing so far. This preview of the game shows a lot of promise and it I can't wait to pick up the core rulebook when it's available in a few months.

See our full review at GeeksAGogo.com



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Shadowrun: Sixth World Beginner Box
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Mythos Society Guide to New England
Publisher: Skirmisher Publishing
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/20/2019 12:53:44

The Mythos Society Guide to New England is a sourcebook that doesn't contain any actual rules or adventures, but is well suited for use with the Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Live roleplaying games. The book primarily gives historical information about New England, of course--New England being the primary setting of the works of H. P. Lovecraft, creator of the Cthulhu Mythos, on which Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Live are based. The focus is on the myths and legends of supernatural or strange happenings in New England--the sort of things that would form the basis of a great Call of Cthulhu adventure.

A note for those who aren't familiar with it, Call of Cthulhu is a horror role-playing game published by Chaosium, that has been around since the 1980s. It is based on the work of H. P. Lovecraft, who wrote about evil alien monsters and black magic. Cthulhu Live is a live-action role-playing game based on Lovecraft's writings, in which players dress up in costume and act out their characters. Most of H. P. Lovecraft's stories were set in New England, thus this book is a useful aide for writing adventures based on Lovecraftian horror. Though, I should note that the book offers nothing specific to Call of Cthulhu. It's completely rules-agnostic, and usable in other role-playing games as an aide for writing adventures, or it may even be usable for authors writing short stories.

As for the contents of the book, it has a lot of great information on the six states of New England. The beginning features a nice overview of everything from the climate to the economy. Chapter 2 goes into the history of New England, with a focus on the period between WW1 and WW2. This includes a nice timeline of historical events through the 20s and 30s, the period in which most Call of Cthulhu games are set. This is followed by chapters that provide some early histoy of the region--largely about historical theories about the earliest of settlers and natives, as well as a great deal of information about native tribes. The last three chapters are probably of the most use to those looking for scenario ideas. Chapter 5 covers legends of monsters of New England, such as sea serpents and demonic whales. There are no stats or rules for these monsters, but ideas of monsters that could be adapted to any game with some work. Chapter 6, of course, covers witchcraft--which is a subject that Lovecraft explored in several stories. There is a nice overview of the subject and a list of individual witches that might fit into a scenario. The last chapter rounds out the book with a lengthy list of legends associated with each state. The authors of this review recognized a lot of what was in the list, but we felt there could have been a few other local legends included. The book still does a good job of covering most of the main legends in a good amount of detail. This is a great jumping-off point for writing up horror scenarios set in this region, with dozens of ideas that could form the basis of an adventure.

Overall, this is a nice book to have if you're a keeper for Cthulhu Live or Call of Cthulhu, or a game master in another horror role-playing game. It would even be useful for non-horror settings that take place in the 1920s or 1930s, such as the RPG Capers or even some Savage Worlds settings, and has some nice reference material for games set in the Prohibition or Depression era. Using the book to its full potential requires some creativity and effort on the part of a game keepr, but it can certainy plant the seed of a great adventure.

Check out our full review at GeeksAGogo.com



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mythos Society Guide to New England
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Barbarians & Basilisks
Publisher: John M Stater
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/18/2019 13:33:05

Barbarians and Basilisks is a nice, short, rules-light game that invokes the sword and sorcery films of the 80s, and elements of fantasy pulp novels. The game is presented in a simplistic, no-frills format that invokes the feel of a small publisher game from the 80s or 90s that was published on a copy machine. The art is simple, but consistent, there is no fancy page design, and the pages are full of tables. This is what most role-playing game books looked like from the 1970s through 1990s, and that is definitely the look that the publisher was trying to invoke here.

As for the gameplay, this is a standard fantasy game with 6 character stats, and typical sword and sorcery adventurer classes. This includes barbarian: unarmored brutes with great strength, sorceror: magic users, thief: cunning, sneaky adventurers, and warrior: fighters who use armor and fight with two weapons. There are six stats that range from 1-6, all determined by a D6 role. The stat level determines the number that a player has to roll on 2D6 in order to score a success for attack or skill use. The rules for magic are extremely simple--there are no spell lists, just guidelines the target roles based on effects. The skill system grants one skill at character creation and gives the character further abilities. The book has an equipment list that includes all you need for basic combat and adventuring--weapons, armor, and gear.

Figthing in this game is simple enough--roll 2D6 and hit a certain target, which depends on the type of monster or class of opponent that you are fighting. Your class determines your ability in combat for attack, defense, and turn order. There is some opportunity for character advancement as well. At the end of each adventure, there is a chance that your character can gain a random improvement that may include learning a new skill, a bonus to hit with a weapon, a follower, or one of several other possibilities. After capturing a castle through gameplay, players can advance further and gain more followers and gold, and then expand to rule more castles, gold, and soldiers.

The basic rules fit into under 10 pages, and after that, there is enough material to run several adventures. The book includes a sample adventure, complete with maps and treasure, and monters. As well, it comes with several sample characters, making it easy to start playing without much preparation work. For further adventures, there is a bestiary that includes more than 50 monsters for your players to fight, and some traps. This makes the game very easy to run as a one-shot, but also possible to play as a campaign.

Overall, Barbarians & Basilisks is a simple little RGP that you can pick up and run with little trouble. It's great as a one-shot, since it takes only 2D6 and a bit of prep work to run. It's a much simpler game than similar fantasy games, such as Dungeons and Dragons, at the expense of being less customizable. Though, it's a simple game with no frills, it does a good job of evoking self-published games of yesteryear but comes with enough material to play for several adventures. This is a great game to play with friends who want to try an introductory tabletop RPG, but will also keep veteran players entertained.

Read the full review at Geeksagogo.com!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Barbarians & Basilisks
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Banes
Publisher: Sergeant Nerd Games
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2019 12:15:08

Banes is a book that offers a list of weaknesses that game masters can apply to the monsters or villains in their games to make them tougher for their players to defeat, and to provide a more interesting gaming experience in big fight scenes. Most game masters and players are already familar with the concept: the achilles heel that will take down a powerful monster. This occurs in one form or another in common tabletop RPGs, such as Pathfinder and D&D in the form of monsters that are aligned with a type of divine or elemental energy that take double damage from the opposite type of energy. For example, firey red dragons taking double damage from ice attacks, or evil creatures that take extra damage from the holy attacks of angels.

What this book does is take that concept and expand upon it. The book starts out with some guidelines about how strengths and weaknesses should be applied to your monster. How should normal damage affect the creature? When exposed to its bane does it take double damage? Does it die instantly? The last few pages of the book also have some nice guidelines about considerations that GMs should make in applying weaknesses/strengths to monsters and villains, such as how to adjust challenge ratings. There is also some great advice about more unique banes, such as ancient magical swords or stone from the elemental plane of earth, and how these might have special effects on a monster.

The real meat of the book is a nicely laid-out list of common monster weaknesses that includes the tells, damage results, and special effects for each. This list includes acid, bludgeoning, cold, iron, slashing weapons, electricity, fire, holy energy, piercing, silver, unholy energy, and weak spots. These are all fairly common weaknesses in fantasy games. Each type of damage has a half-page description that lays out some ideas for how a GM can give hints to their players that a creature is vulnerable to a type of damage to give them a fair chance of defeating it. For example, a creature that appears dry and dusty would indicate that it might be vulnerable to fire. This section of the book is very useful when you need some descriptive details during combat. If your characters are fighting a creature vulnerable to fire, use this book when describing to your players what their flaming sword does when they strike it. Overall, this is a useful book for game masters that is general enough to use for multiple gaming systems. Though it gives some guidelines that are well-suited to Dungeons and Dragons and Pathfinder games, the same principles can be applied to sci-fi, horror, or really any other genre of gaming.

Read the full review at Geeksagogo.com!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Banes
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John Carter of Mars Core Rulebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/11/2019 12:06:07

The John Carter of Mars series by Edgar Rice Burroughs is perhaps best known for the notorious 2012 film adaption (the infamous 'mockbuster' film company The Asylum also took a stab at the character three years earlier). But the series also influenced such new classics as Star Wars and Avatar. The source material is a natural for a tabletop RPG and Modiphius Entertainment has provided it. How does it size up? The series features a Virginian native and soldier who seemingly dies in the nineteenth century and is temporarily transported to Mars (known to its inhabitants as Barsoom as chronicled in the 1917 book A Princess of Mars. A series followed and John Carter is now second only to Tarzan of the Apes as Burrough's most famous character. Although the game is faithful to the source material, the designers openly acknowledge that politically incorrect elements emerge in the original stories and are translated into the game. Context is obviously open to interpretation and players can still handle subjects such as slavery or sexism in the manner they deem appropriate.

The game allows characters to play either a transplanted Earthborn hero like Carter or one of four 'human' races populating Mars - Red Martians, Green (the most physically alien and my personal favorites), Yellow and Black. Character creation is relatively simple. Character start with four points in six attributes and are given to more points to discretionarily spend - more points are added based on the races and occupations selected by the players. Players combine two appropriate attributes as appropriate for skill resolutions using 2 D20 - the target number is equal to or less than the sum of the attributes. If a player rolls a success that is less than the weaker of the two attributes, they earn an extra success. The difficulty of the task determines the number of successes required - excess successes can be saved as momentum points and spent at a later time. The race and occupation selected also determines a character's general skills and knowledge of the setting. Each occupation also comes with a recommended talent (characters get the equivalent of five talents when they begin).

For example, I may want to play an Earthborn fugitive Confederate sharpshooter feeling Union regulators that winds up on Barsoom - basically The Outlaw Josey Whales in a sword-and-planet setting. He would three points two might and one each to two other attributes - I add a point each to reason and cunning. I have to subtract one from an attribute due to the racial choice so I deduct one from daring. I choose fugitive as an occupation because his character, like Whales, was more of a guerilla than a regular soldier and is now fleeing. I now get to add two each to cunning and passion. The talent 'no chains can hold me' is suggested as a talent but I can see what else is available and pick something else. Players choose a descriptor that describes the character and allows bonuses to attributes. I choose canny and get one point added to both daring and reason. Characters also start with at least one core piece of equipment and renown - the latter allows the purchase of in-game advantages such as contacts. Earthbound characters are the exception to both rules so I am out of luck. Each character also selects a flaw to help define them. Player-created flaws are allowed on a discretionary basis and I choose bitter - my character lost friends and family during the Civil War. For talents I pick three grade-one entries and one grade-two. I select passionate rider, expert rifleman and keen marksman for grade one. My grade-two selection is deadly pistoleer. Yes, I may I have watched too many Westerns. Characters also start with a luck point pool that is generated from their weakest attribute, although it can be awarded for player ingenuity. Game masters can use the player's luck pool to generate threat points, which are used in a manner similar to momentum except that they are used against the payers (these points can temporarily boost the villain's fighting capabilities, for example).

The setting is divided into three eras based around the progression of Carter's social influence. The first era, for example, is set before Carter became established and is a conflict-driven setting. During the third era, when Carter rules an empire, there is considerably more law and order. The rules also include a bestiary and a serialized adventure in the mold of the original stories. The book also discusses the shared universe of which the Mars series was just a part. Not only does Carter find monsters and villain on Jupiter and the moons of Mars but he occupied the same literary setting as Tarzan, the Pellucidar saga (essentially John Carter in a hollow Earth setting), the Venus series (really more of the same) and the standalone novel The Mad King (a Ruritanian in the style of The Prisoner of Zenda). Unfortunately, the rules only skim this aspect of the story - future supplements may address this. Overall this is an excellent product. It retains the integrity of the original material while allowing for significant extrapolation. This is highly recommended for fans of the Space Opera genre who want to try something more 'old school.'

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Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
John Carter of Mars Core Rulebook
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Star Log.EM-057: Space Goblin Options
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2019 12:07:40

Starlog.EM-057 Space Goblin Options is part of a series of books from Everyman Games that gives supplemental options for the Starfinder role-playing game. This book, like many in the series includes options for a race that was introduced in Paizo's Alien Archive supplement for Starfinder--the space goblin. Space goblins are a scrappy little playable race, known for using their talents in tinkering to make the most of sub-par equipment. They also tend to like fire. This book presents some new options for space goblin characters that largely focus on these attributes of space goblins.

The first option is a class archetype called 'best-gob paragon'. It simply offers an ability at second level to gain skill focus in engineering, or one of the feats in the book that are related to goblin tinkering. There are a handful of new feats presented here oriented around goblins building things from scrap material and tinkering with items. One of which improves the duration of repairs that they can make with their 'tinker' ability listed in Alien Archive. Others aid in crafting with speed, or allow you to break up items in to UBP, which are a universal building component that you can use to create other items. This is very useful stuff for an engineering-focused character. There are some combat abilities as well that allow you to deal extra damage at the cost of breaking or destroying their weapons. This can make combat a bit unpredictable in combat, but also more interesting.

Some of the other available feats are a bit more tactical, tapping into their experience scrounging around in junkyards, one of these feats allows space goblins to move through difficult terrain more easily. Technomancers who focus on 'junk' spells have access to feats that give them bonuses on some bonuses and extra spells. Their love of fire gives them the chance to take a feat that allows them to reduce explosive damage, and another that lets them do fire damage with any weapon--even if it doesn't normally do fire damage! Maybe that sounds a little crazy, but it can add some light-hearted comic relief to your game.

Overall, this is a nice little book for games with space goblins that can make things more interesting by adding a bit of silliness. All of the rules are pretty well-balanced, and the only issue you'll encounter is a few typos (in the edition I reviewed, goblins are referred to as formians as one point--a clear error). Otherwise, this book is a must-have if you want to play a space goblin to their fullest and silliest.

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Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Log.EM-057: Space Goblin Options
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Keeps & Towers
Publisher: Halfling Caravan Games
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2019 12:03:40

Keeps and Towers is a great little supplement for Dungeons and Dragons (and arguably other systems with similar monetary systems) that gives some very simple rules for building keeps, castles, towers, inns, shops, etc. For such a small book, it does a great job of providing general enough rules for constructing a pretty wide array of buildings. This is a huge help if you have the kind of players who wish to build their own keep as a base of operations--something not covered by the standard rules.

The book introduces some new, but very basic mechanics for construction in D&D. This includes, constructed spaces, which is used to determine size and a cost component, labor units--the cost of having the place built, and purposing--which determines the use of the space and costs associated wiht how it is used. The construction process includes determining the space, the material that it's constructed from (wood being cheaper than stone), and associated defenses, which are listed for an additional cost. Based on the construction units, you then add the labor costs, which may be mitigated by the casting of spells and other factors. Finally, apply a flat fee for the purpose of the room. For example if you are building a 20x20 stone blacksmith shop, you would pay for the 20x20 space made of stone (2000 gold pieces), 60 gp in labor, and then 250 gp to outfit the space with a forge, anvil, and other blacksmithing tools. This is all simple enough, but note that the book provides more detail than I can provide here.

As well, the book provides some nice examples with a breakdown of construction costs. The only issues that I've had with it is that the book only gives vague hints as to when to provide discounts to construction costs due to access to materials and some higher-level spells, and there could be clearer guidelines for such things. However, the dungeon master can easily make a ruling on material cost discounts in most cases depending on the situation in their own game. Veteran gamers who have used past Dungeons and Dragons supplements for building strongholds will find the book useful, though certainly much simpler than previous rule sets.

Overall, this is a great book for those looking for rules for building consruction in 5th edition D&D, which is something that has been lacking from the game's rules. Some players, typically in long campaigns wish to set up a base of operations, and this book is a great help for those who wish to do so. For the simplicity of the rules and ease of use this is a great book for any dungeon master who needs construction rules for their game.

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Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Keeps & Towers
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Creator Reply:
Thanks Monica!
Splicers®
Publisher: Palladium Books
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2019 11:58:35

Splicers is a game from Palladium Books that offers one of the most unique, interesting, and perhaps disturbing settings of any role-playing game that I have played. It is part of Palladium's megaverse--a shared universe of games that you can port characters between. Other such games include 'After the Bomb', 'Dead Reign', 'Rifts', the game of interdimensional adventures that is best known for tying the megaverse together. Splicers is set in a post-apocalyptic world in a far-off future perhaps on earth or on a human colony on another planet (no one is quite sure). Humanity struggles against an advanced computer intelligence known as NEXUS, that has conquered the world with its army of robots. Fairly standard sci-fi stuff so far--but with a few unique twists. The computer has unleashed a plague of nano-bots on the world that has infected all non-precious metals, it lies dormant, ready to infect and kill any human that even touches metal. Humans, being left without their standard metal-based weapons, turned to alien bio-engineering technologies to manufacture weapons to fight the robotic threat. Such weapons are grown by the so-called 'engineers' and 'librarians'--creatures that are part-human, part alien brain-shaped tentacle monsters connected to a 'gene pool'--a chemical bath that they use to engineer new life forms.

Human society is organized into houses run by powerful warlords that maintain armies to fight the robotic threat. Players in Splicers play a warrior in one of the human armies. They fight against the robotic threat in one of three ways: with the use of bio-engineered weapons, by modifying their own bodies to make themselves into powerful bio-weapons, or in a few cases, by being one of the lucky few who are immune to the nano-bot plague and using the robots' own weapons against them. The first group of warriors includes occupational character classes (called OCC's) that wear living suits of armor that give them incredible abilities. This includes archangels, who wear light armor that gives them the power of flight, roughnecks--who serve as the infantry of the human armies, and dreadguard--heavily armed and armored troops. The self- modified classes include bionics--societal outcasts turned into living weapons. Then we have some of the weirder OCCs that help make this game really interesting: skinjobs--stealth experts who have volunteered to be flayed and have their skin replaced with skin like that of a chamelon. There are the scarecrows--powerful enforcers who drink the librarians' brain fluid to gain incredible power of speed, strength, and near-invulnerability. Then there the game's healing class, saints. Not your typical healers, saints have volunteered to have their abdomens torn out and replaced with an alien brain monster that will some day grow into a librarian. Like I said, this is not your typical sci-fi RPG. And to round out the OCC list, there are also the technojackers--humans immune to the nanobot plague who wield traditional, metal-based technology.

The character creation process is rather involved in this game. Palladium games have a mostly universal system for the character creation process, which has a detailed list of specialized skills that players can pick from. Splicers has this as well, but with the addition of skill 'profiles' by which players choose a set of core skills relevant to their character, before picking individual skills. This can make character creation a bit easier. Though, the process does take time and preparation, it lends itself well to making characters for longer campaigns, with a well fleshed-out background. Characters wearing bio-armor suits in Splicers also experience the unique process of creating suits of living armor--a process that is highly customizable and lets your imagination run wild. Those with OCCs such as Dreadguard are able to create a suit of armor with a pool of bio-energy points with a wide range of options for combat, movement, defense, sensory, survival, etc. Ever want a suit of armor with hooved feet and tentacles that shoots webs, with echo-location and electric resistance? This is the game for you. You can even give it some tiger stripes for a few extra bio-energy points. Overall, Splicers is one of the craziest and most interesting games I've ever played. It does a great job of building a rich and original world with minimal detail that leaves the game master a lot of flexibility to add their own touch. This is a great game for a long campaign, and it is well worth the investment of time that character creation takes. If you're looking for a game that's more sophisticated and creative than the typical fantasy or sci-fi setting, Splicers is something to take a look at. Though the rules are a bit more sophisticated and in-depth than the simpler systems we see these days, it is a truly unique and rewarding role-playing experience.

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Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Splicers®
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Starfarer's Codex: Legacy Dragonrider
Publisher: Rogue Genius Games
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2019 11:54:39

Starfarers Codex: Legacy Dragonrider is a book that simply provides rules for a character class that is focused on riding dragons. Have you ever been in a game where a player asked, 'Hey, can my character have a pet dragon to ride on?' Of course you have! It happens all the time in role-playing games set in fantasy settings--and this book actually provide some great rules that allow players to ride a dragon into combat that aren't game-breaking. The dragon rider class presented in this book is a playable class just like any other in Starfinder. It high a high attack bonus and good reflex, will, and fortitude saves. The class gets a few spell-like abilities that choose from pre-existing class spell lists depending on the type of the dragon that the character rides. They also get some sensory abilities, such as low- light vision, darkvision, etc that progress with the character, as well as energy resistance tied to dragon type. The class is weak in a few spots: only being proficient with light armor and some limited weapons, and lacking any special abilities that are really useful in combat, aside from energy resistance. To make up for this, they do get to ride a dragon and have it fight by their side--with some limits.

Of course, when introducing dragons as a player option in a game in any capacity, there is the concern that they may be too powerful. The rules for this class are designed with that concern in mind, and they do a fairly good job of letting a player have a dragon in a way that won't break your game. Players selecting this class are allowed to pick their dragon's type, starting with a young dragon that grows in size and power as the character advances. There are stats for all of the standard chromatic dragons (black, blue, green, red, white), and metallic dragons (brass, bronze, copper, gold, silver), as well as outer dragons (lunar, solar, time, void, vortex). These dragons show up in the Starfinder Alien Archive books, though you don't need those books to use this character class. The dragons have been alerted from the standard monster stats to make them more balanced. Each dragon has different abilities that may include different move speeds, movement types (some can swim or burrow), different starting size (some dragons start off too small to ride), different attack damage, and breath weapon abilities. These rules are close enough to dragons as described in the Alien Archives, but nerfed enough to make them playable, though still some dragons are more powerful than others. To deal with the power discrepency between dragon types, this book adds a mechanic called 'mystic focus' that determines the character's ability to get the dragon to do what they want. The more powerful the dragon, the harder it is to control, and it requires more of the dragon rider's time each round to control it. If a character doesn't spend time each round controlling their dragon, it takes only move actions. Thus, if your character has one of the more powerful dragons, you will be able to do little else than direct it each round. At higher levels, mystic focus takes up less time each round, and it really brings balance to what might seem like an over-powered class, especially at lower levels.

Overall, this book presents some fantastic rules for allowing a player to have a dragon in your game. As a long-time game master, I've had many players wanting their character to have a dragon, and balanced rules for allowing this are very much welcomed and appreciated. The rules strike a good balance between allowing players to have something powerful, but at the same time restrict their use of it so as to not make it game-breaking. Starfarers Codex: Legacy Dragonrider does an amazing job of this, and I hope to see these rules adapted to similar fantasy games.

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Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Starfarer's Codex: Legacy Dragonrider
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The Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos Magic
Publisher: Chaosium
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2019 11:52:35

Call of Cthulhu is a classic role-playing game that has been around since the 1980s. It's one of the most unique RPGs out there, given that instead of fighting monsters for treasure, players are often fighting for their lives against alien horrors. Call of Cthulhu is a horror game, and magic in this game is often something frightening that involves horror elements such as human sacrifice, summoning hideous monsters, and giving up one's sanity. Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos Magic is a guide to the magic system of Call of Cthulhu that compiles all spells from across sourcebooks and editions and puts them into one large volume for convenient reference.

To start off, this book isn't an absolute requirement for running Call of Cthulhu, but it is a great resource when you are running a campaign, and especially when you are writing your own adventures. The Grimoire collects any spell that has appeared in the core rules, sourcebooks, and adventures from Chaosium's offical Call of Cthulhu materials. Veteran players will be happy to know that some of the spells from previous editions that had been removed from the core rulebook can be found here. Spells like 'Hands of Calubra' (one of my favorites), which didn't find its way into the 7th edition core rules, is available here. Some spells may have been known by other names in other editions or books, but you can find them all here--perhaps under the list of alternate names for each spell. Though, the core rules lists alternate names for some spells, they sometimes don't match the list of alternate names in this book, which has more of a focus on tying spells to earlier editions. Like the core rulebook, this book includes explanatations of similar spells in aggregate, such as sections on contacting deities, summoning monsters, and enchanment spells--though with larger lists of spells than get from the core rules. As well, some spells here offer a 'deeper magic' version as in the core rulebook, which gives an alertnate, more powerful version of some spells. In this book, you'll find more spells with deeper magic versions, for example, the core rules has the spell 'Dread Curse of Azathoth', but only the Grand Grimoire has the deep magic rules for this spell.

Much of the appeal of this book is in the extra details and the expanded spell list. The core rules may have a few dozen spells--but the Grand Grimoire has hundreds. It includes spells related to the Dreamlands (an alertnate dimension that exists in dreams), and low-level 'folk' magic that is more practical and has less horrifying effects than other spells. In fact, the spells are organized with a series of icons next to each spell name that tells you what kind of spell it is (enchantment, dreamlands, communication, travel, folk, harmful, protection, etc). On top of all of these extras, this book also offers some expanded general rules for using magic in Call of Cthulhu. This is great for adding details about magic use to your adventures, as you should in this game. This includes charts of spell components, lists of magical effects by day of the week and phase of the moon, and a handly list of pagan holidays. There is also information on magical effects associated with locations, such as ley lines, and places of residual magic effects. Not to mention, we also get a few sample NPC magic users that might make a good addition to your game.

Overall, the Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos Magic is a great supplement for Call of Cthulhu game keepers. It's full of supplemental magic rules and a ton of spells beyond what you get in the basic core rules. It's useful if your characters have picked up a spell from an adventure, and you want to reference it without finding it in the scenario book. It's useful if you're looking for a spell to surprise your players with. With a bit of planning and creativity, you can even use the rules to add some details about magic rituals to your game. This book may not be an essential guide for Call of Cthulhu ,but it is very handy for bringing your campaigns to the next level.

Read the full review at Geeksagogo.com



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Grand Grimoire of Cthulhu Mythos Magic
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Coriolis - The Third Horizon Core Book
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/04/2019 11:51:40

Coriolis is a sci-fi/fantasy game published by Free League and Modiphius, that bills itself as 'Arabian Nights in space'. The game very much fits that description, being a setting that brings together a lot of the tropes from various space-oriented science-fantasy stories, such as Firefly, Star Wars, the Fifth Element, Pitch Black, Mass Effect, Dune, and many others. It takes place in a far-off galaxy. Long ago, thousands boarded a ship and traveled for centuries to reach the planets of the Kua system with the goal of being the first to colonize them. When they arrived, they found that the world had already been settled by colonizers who found faster passage through a wormhole (or portal) that had been built by a long-lost civilzation. The portal to their homeworld had since been destroyed, isolating these settlers to the 'third horizon'--an area of space that includes several galaxies interlinked by portals. After its centuries-long journey, the ship-- Coriolis--was turned into a space-station, becoming a hub of societal activity, and a central location for the game. The setting is a world shaped rival factions and wars, a shared polytheistic faith in the 'icons', and a facination with the sparse remnants of the ancient 'portal builders'.

The game has a rather simple system, with some very easy to use mechanics. Skills and combat are determined by rolling a number of D6 from a pool of dice related to your character's ability in a given skill, typically looking to roll a 6 for success. This is very simple and similar to any other D6-based system, such as Shadowrun. There are a few really nice features to the mechanics, such as 'the dark between the stars'--a mechanic that lets the game master track negative consequences that players have accrued to give them an eventual comeuppance. As well, the game includes rules for giving your players a spaceship from the start of the game, with good guidelines on customing it to their needs--and requiring it to have a flaw. The ship-building rules give a great number options for customization. There are also rules for space combat and travel, in which your ship-building decisions matter. The back of the book even has some sample ships and a useful space combat map.

Character creation is simple and has decent options with 11 character classes that include artist, data spider (hacker), fugitive, negotiator, operative, pilot, preacher, scientist, ship worker, soldier, and trailblazer. The options include rules for mystic powers and cybernetics, though this book only offers the basics. Character creation requires players to determine their physical features, personal problems, and their relationships to others--including their closest friend in the group. The process is easy enough and encourages players to build fleshed-out characters with a well-defined background. It also gives the game master the option of working character interactions into their adventures.

Aside from the core rules, the book contains everything you need to run the game. This includes the rich history of the setting and background information to help game masters build their adventures. There is information on the 10 major factions that players will encounter, the widely-worshiped nine icons, and the major groups of people. There are descriptions of many of the locations in the setting, with a heavy focus on the Coriolis space station. The book offers descriptions of 6 planets/orbital bodies that can serve as locations for adventures aside from the many locations in Coriolis itself. Chapter 14 is a 20-page section that includes a bestiary and a list of adventuring hazards. It even gives options for non-human player characters for game masters who wish to allow this in their game. Though brief, this section really provides some nice material for adventure writing. Even better, the book includes three brief scenarios that can be tied together with ease to get your campaign started.

Overall, Coriolis is a great book to pick up if you're looking for a space-faring science fiction game. This is one of the easiest games to get into if you are looking to branch out into a new system. The only real learning curve here is the background story, which might take a bit of research for game masters who wish to go deep into the setting, but it is otherwise easy to play without diving into backstory. Given that character and ship creation are relatively easy and the availability pre-written scenario in the core rulebook, this is a great game to jump into and start playing with little preparation.

Read the full review at Geeksagogo.com!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon Core Book
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Swashbuckler - For 5th Edition
Publisher: Terran Empire Publishing
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/02/2019 13:08:55

Swashbuckler is a book that presents a new class for use in Dungeons and Dragons 5th edition. It's part of a line of books from Terran Empire press that have rules for new classes not found in the offical source material, and like the others, this is another great addition to the game that really brings some interesting things to the table. Swashbuckler is a combat-focused class that makes a good 'medium' fighter--somewhere between a fighter and a rogue. They rely on finesse and skill to fight, they wear medium armor, and are skilled with light and martial weapons. They have some nice features like adding charisma to damage, and the ability to target opponents' body parts. In combat, swashbucklers have a pool of 'flair points' which they can spend on combat abilities, much like how a sorceror spends sorcery points on metamagic abilities. Though, the swashbuckler doesn't need to purchase abilities like a sorceror purchases metamagic abilities. The swashbucker has access to a list of 7 abilities on which they can spend points to activate in combat. None of these are really over-powered, and grant things like short-term immunity from opportunity attacks and the ability to finish off enemies that are at less than 10% of their hit point total. This long list of abilities makes this class very flexible, so dungeon masters running a game for players of this class should keep these abilities in mind when planning combat. Some of the other features of swashbucklers are the 'panache' ability at 3rd level, which allows for a critical hit on a 19-20, and in addition to that critical hit damage, allows the expenditure of flair points to blind, stun, disarm, or trip your enemy. This is very reminiscent of abilities from earlier editions of D&D, and veteran players may enjoy playing a swashbuckler for this reason. At later levels, swashbucklers also gain access to special feats, much like the combat master fighter. As well, there are a couple of aura-based abilities that give allies bonuses in combat. At the highest levels, swashbucklers can use their charisma to make enemies think twice about attacking them, and do triple damage on critical hits. Overall, the swashbuckler is an awesome new class that combines some elements of fighter and rogue into something new and unique. This is a very versatile class that has a wide range of combat abilities that can deal some real damage. The toughest part about playing or running a game with this class is remembering all of the tricks that they may have up their sleeve. Dungeon masters should definitely take note so as not to be caught off gaurd when running a game. This is a great book, however, for dungeon masters and players who want to introduce something new to the game.

Read our full review at Geeks A Gogo



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Swashbuckler - For 5th Edition
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Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
Publisher: Kobold Press
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/24/2019 14:54:54

Tome of Beasts is an incredible supplement for 5th edition Dungeons and Dragons. This book is one of the biggest collections of monsters and villains for 5th edition D&D. Though it was published by a 3rd-party publisher, Kobold Press, this book has come to be something of an unofficial standard Dungeons and Dragons rulebook. If you are a dungeon master who uses adventures published by 3rd party publishers (and you should), there is a good chance that you'll see some of the monsters in this book republished in some form.

As for the content of the book, it's simply a massive list of enemies to pit your players against when you're running a D&D game. This includes monsters of all levels, and some individual NPC characters that serve as great villains. At over 400 pages, this book has something for nearly any situation and every level of the play. If you're looking for an interesting, low-powered construct, undead, or ooze to throw at a first-level party, then you'll find it here. When your party is higher in level and you need to put them up against a creature they've never fought before, you will be able to find something here. There is plenty to challeng mid-level parties, including new versions of classic monsters. For example, there are 30 pages of material dedicated to new types of dragons, including things like mithral, void, and cave dragons. By the time your party reaches higher levels and travels to other planes of existence, you can pit them against the new types of devils and demons that appear in this book. But not only are there new fiends, there are new arch-devils and demon princes that make for great high-level villains for your campaign. Looking for something else to do with your players at high levels? You can have them tangle with one of this book's seven Fey lords and ladies, the powerful fey creatures that range in challenge rating from 12-21. There is even a handful of Lovecraftian monsters, such as deep ones and migo.

Kobold Press is known for their fantasy setting, Midgard. A well-established setting that is playable in D&D and Pathfinder, with a ton of supplements backing it. It should be noted that Tome of Beasts is something of a Midgard supplement--but stands entirely on its own. If you run a Midgard game, you'll be happy to see that some creatures presented in this book come with a little blurb about their place in Midgard. This is extra information that is entirely separate from the stats and background information given about the creature. It's simply something extra for those running a Midgard campaign to add some flavor. This book can really be applied to any D&D setting, especially given the variety of creatures it presents.

Given the wealth of information in Tome of Beasts, this book is a fantastic resource for any dungeon master. It's bigger and has more material than any of the official individual monster supplements for D&D, and it offers a great variety of monsters and non-player characters that can provide you with years worth of material for your game. Given that Tome of Beasts has become a somewhat standard part of the D&D library, with it providing material for several 3rd party modules, buying this book is no-brainer for any DM.

Read our full review at Geeksagogo.com!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tome of Beasts for 5th Edition
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Alessia Promo PDF - Seirye Qin, Captain of the Skyship Amethyst Myst.
Publisher: Storm Bunny Studios
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/26/2019 12:21:12

Let me start with a disclaimer: I have several friends at Storm Bunny studios who worked on the World of Alessia and I ended up backing the Kickstarter. With that being said, I've also played some of the test material, and I'm really looking forward to it. Alessia is an awesome blend of sword-and-sorcery type fantasy with some elements of science fiction nicely worked in. All of that includes some beautiful stylized artwork that has something of an anime/Blizard sort of feel to it that ties everything together in a consistent way. The rules are going to be compatible with 5th edition D&D and Starfinder, which will make its a flexible game for players of different systems.

This promo PDF will give you a good overview of what is to come, but the setting and the system itself is much more rich and datailed than a promo can show. It's shaping up to be a really exciting setting, and I can't wait to play it once it's released!

My website did an interview with game developer Jaye Sonia a while back. Have a look for more details.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Alessia Promo PDF - Seirye Qin, Captain of the Skyship Amethyst Myst.
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