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Fate of Cthulhu
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/07/2020 14:13:54

Fate of Cthulhu is a nifty new roleplaying game using the Fate rules, which I'm already a huge fan of. Fate is a game which emphasizes narrative and story-telling, making it a great choice if you like dynamic, fast-paced, action-oriented games about highly competent heroes doing heroic deeds. The rules for Fate of Cthulhu are completely self-contained, meaning that you don't have to own a copy of Fate Core to play this game.

If you're already familiar with the Cthulhu mythos, it's worth mentioning here what this game is NOT.

First of all, the Cthulhu mythos was directly inspired by the literature of H.P. Lovecraft and expanded upon by his fans and other authors. Lovecraft's distinct style and narrative voice have rightly been praised by generations of readers. As a distinct genre or subgenre of psychological horror, the mythos has had an outsized influence upon horror in several mediums, including literature, film, and roleplaying gaming. However, H.P. Lovecraft's legacy also poses a problem to modern readers: the man was an outspoken bigot and antisemite. So the first thing that this game is NOT is an endorsement of Lovecraft's views. The authors of this game made it a point to firmly call out Lovecraft's racism, distance themselves from it and disavow it in its entirety, and then go on to explore the world created by Lovecraft and others as a fantastic setting for their roleplaying game. Fate of Cthulhu tackles this elephant in Lovecraft's room directly and unambiguously, and good on them for doing so.

But even with that said, Fate of Cthulhu also takes a unique approach to this setting. It differs from most other mythos games in that it isn't about a group of scholars and investigators on the trail of unspeakable eldritch horror, gradually losing their grasp on sanity with each successive encounter with powerful alien intelligences, which only accelerate their descent into madness, hopelessness, and despair-- or something like that. Keep in mind, I've been a fan of the 'original' Cthulhu mythos roleplaying game since its debut back in 1982, so I'm not saying anything derogatory about that roleplaying experience: it's a blast!!! I'm just letting you know that this isn't that-- it's something different entirely. Fate of Cthulhu advances the storyline from the mythos' typically gloomy, hopelessly-doomed present, projecting that forward to a point a few centuries into an unspeakable future, where the Old Gods and their minions have triumphed over what remains of the human race, ruling earth with all of the insanity and cruel indifference you'd expect of them. This game BEGINS with utter hopelessness, instead of ENDING with it; instead of presenting a gradual slide into ultimate destruction, it begins at that point of utter devastation and then dangles the most poisonous substance imaginable: hope. You see, the player characters are servants (slaves?) of the Old Gods in this bleak future, but are given the opportunity, through the deus ex machina of time travel, to return to our present-day and set things right.

I've heard Fate of Cthulhu described, therefore, as "Terminator meets the Cthulhu mythos," a game where horribly corrupted and tortured souls from an unspeakable future travel back to our world to prevent that future from taking place.

I think a better analogy would be "the Cthulhu mythos meets 12 Monkeys," for those of you familiar with the TV show: an episodic set of missions undertaken to rewrite the past in hopes of averting an unbearable future.

Lastly, there's one other thing that this game is not. Unlike most other roleplaying forays into the Cthulhu mythos, it isn't a profile of inevitable, encroaching insanity. Evil Hat has long been an advocate for disabled players who enjoy roleplaying games, and there aren't any mandatory rules forcing players to roleplay insanity as a consequence of in-game plot events (though character insanity is presented as an option for groups which embrace this style of play).

So that's what this game is not: it isn't bigoted and doesn't condone racism; it isn't gloomy or hopeless, but is instead about a desperate gambit based upon the faintest glimmer of hope; and it doesn't force people to roleplay forms of mental disability unless they want to.

What this game IS, on the other hand, is a little more straight-forward, especially in terms of the story arc already described. The player characters are heroes from the future who have traveled back to our time in order to save both realities. The genius of this game, if you will, is in what it calls 'timelines,' which are key events which the players believe must take place in order to bring about their nightmare future. A Fate of Cthulhu campaign is essentially a race to prevent these events from taking place, although in many of the timelines provided, the player characters are misinformed about some of these events or misunderstand several important details surrounding them. Having multiple timelines for a GM to choose from prevents players from knowing, in advance, which story arc they will be following, and it also makes the game replayable.

So there you have it. Fate of Cthulhu uses a great system to tell an interesting story in a way which puts a new spin on the Cthluhlu mythos. It does so using clever timeline mechanics, which serve to increase replay value and diminish player foreknowledge of what is about to happen. And it does so in an honest and inclusive manner, rejecting Lovecraft's bigotry and racism and creating a safe space for gamers with mental disability.

Other than a noxious, sulfurous green haze, a few tentacles, and a group of cultists trying to open a way which should never be opened, what more could you ask for? Strongly recommended.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fate of Cthulhu
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Creator Reply:
Thanks Jeff!
Tachyon Squadron • Inside the Dominion of Unity
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/11/2019 08:43:07

"Inside the Dominion of Unity" is the third supplement released for 'Tachyon Squadron,' which is a fantastic roleplaying game of starfighter combat using the Fate Core rules. The first of those supplements, "Those Who Were Here Before," is a scenario where the player characters and their fightercraft brush up against the dark between the stars, introducing an element of Lovecraftian horror to what is nominally a PEW!PEW!PEW! game about hotshot pilots and space dogfighting, and the fish-out-of-water element of that adventure really made it work. "Starfighter Academy," the second supplement released for this game, adds a new palette of story elements to your 'Tachyon Squadron' game, this time by allowing the players to roleplay newbies in training, building their characters organically through gameplay before your regular campaign even begins. "Inside the Dominion of Unity" stretches the scale and scope of a standard 'Tachyon Squadron' campaign again, this time by shifting its focus to the 'bad guys' in the setting: the evil Dominion itself.

Every tale of adventure needs a good villain, and the Dominion presented in this supplement fits the bill quite nicely. This enemy, it turns out, is an autocratic corporate state, complete with a computer-generated 'dear leader' personality whom the populace have been propagandized to adore. Political officers, institutional racism and systematic oppression of nonbinaries, indoctination sessions, black marks upon your citizenship records for noncompliance-- it's all here. The Dominion would make good baddies in any space opera worthy of the name.

Ah, but who would want to play hotshot fighter pilots in such an oppressive environment? Who would want to fight for such an evil police state? "Inside the Dominion of Unity" answers these questions with a new type of campaign for 'Tachyon Squadron.'

It turns out that there are two dissident resistance movements within the Dominion, fighting its tyrannical evil from within: the Red Fist and the Order of the Last. Player characters in a Dominion-centered campaign can still be heroes by risking everything as cell members of one of these clandestine groups. The Order of the Last is a secret network of dissidents who seek to bring down the Dominion with deliberate acts of sabotage and espionage; fighter pilots who belong to the Order might be tasked with monkeywrenching a mission, or even taking out an especially ruthless political officer in an 'accidental' friendly-fire incident, while still trying to maintain the facade of being loyal members of the Dominion military elite. The Red Fist, on the other hand, is an active rag-tag rebellion, engaging the Dominion on the margins of its territory with hit-and-run guerilla tactics, constantly on the run from Dominion retaliation and reprisals.

The expanded game option presented in this supplement are good stuff, but I also really liked that it provides rules for creating Dominion characters. This is useful even if you don't want to run a Dominion-centered campaign, because it allows you to flesh out the enemy aces and commanders for your normal 'Tachyon Squadron' setting.

This is another amazing supplement for 'Tachyon Squadron,' one of my favorite settings for Fate Core, and I highly recommend both the game and this supplement.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tachyon Squadron • Inside the Dominion of Unity
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Tachyon Squadron
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/26/2019 11:33:32

'Tachyon Squadron' is a setting for the Fate Core system. If you aren't familiar with Fate Core, you probably should be-- it's one of the easiest, fastest-playing, most versatile systems out there. If you already play Fate Core, you know what a fantastic system it is, and you should check out 'Tachyon Squadron,' too, especially if you grew up loving the tropes of rebellious hotshot pilots from TV shows like "Baa Baa Black Sheep" or "Battlestar Galactica" or films like "Top Gun" or even "Star Wars."

And man oh man does this rules set capture those tropes! There are a lot of tweaks from the default Fate rules set, and they all work together magnificently to facilitate a roleplaying game about the fighter pilot genre.

First off, character creation is slightly modified from standard Fate Core, using a streamlined skill and attribute set, but the biggest change is in the use of a 'decompression' Aspect. If you're already familiar with the Fate system, you need no introduction to Aspects, but for everyone else, we're talking about short descriptors of your character which define his or her personality and have an in-game effect during play. In 'Tachyon Squadron,' players have healthy and unhealthy means of decompressing, or dealing with the stress of constant stressful missions. One character might decompress in a healthy manner by spending quality family time with her husband and kids, but decompress in an unhealthy manner by drinking a bit too much on weekends. Another character might get healthy decompression working out between missions, but decompress in an unhealthy manner by raging and getting into fights with anyone who crosses him.

Another minor innovation is the ability to 'minimize' or 'maximize' an individual die in the Fate dice pool. While the rules for minimizing or maximizing die rolls seemed a little gimmicky to me upon first read, in actual play the system works swimmingly, allowing players to 'stack the deck' a bit by playing to their strengths. In other words, this mechanic allows players to think tactically and make strategic decisions during gameplay, splendidly setting the mood for dogfighting ship-to-ship combat.

And that last bit is where 'Tachyon Squadron' really shines-- dogfights. In a game about pilots and the fighter craft that they fly, you obviously need a great system for dogfights, and 'Tachyon Squadron' manages to raise the bar here. Using a pretty simple zone system, author Clark Valentine created a really nifty mini-game within the game, where events are completely random and chaotic, yet players can make tactical decisions to gain the upper hand. This system is now my go-to for starfighter combat in any game; it really is THAT good.

Fate Core is a great roleplaying game because it plays fast and easy at the table, but still has a lot of gears and levers that GM's can adjust to change the way things work and feel during play. 'Tachyon Squadron' is a prime example of how those settings can be adjusted to create something new and innovative. If you're like me and your toes curl at the thought of playing a hotshot pilot in a game of starfighting combat, you're really missing the boat if you aren't playing this game!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tachyon Squadron
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Tachyon Squadron • Starfighter Academy
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/25/2019 12:04:33

With 'Starfighter Academy,' game designer Clark Valentine has hit another home run for the "Tachyon Squadron" RPG for FATE Core.

This supplement takes player character trainees through the paces as raw recruits at the titular Academy. Demanding instructors and competitive classmates add to the tension of one challenging training mission after another. Upon graduation, one member of the class-- perhaps even one of the player characters-- will be honored with a coveted award, and then it's off to war for the newly-minted combat pilots. Designed as a four-session mini-campaign, but easily expandable into something longer, 'Starfighter Academy' allows players to gradually build their newbie trainees into the seasoned hotshot pilots that they'll play in an extended "Tachyon Squadron" campaign. Perhaps there will even be some beach sand vollyball along the way!

'Starfighter Academy' is an absolutely fantastic supplement. You can play "Tachyon Squadron" without using this material as a prelude-- indeed, you could even run the 'Starfighter Academy' mini-campaign without going on to play a regular "Tachyon Squadron" game afterwards-- but why would you? The mini-campaign in this supplement flows so seamlessly into the default game setting of "Tachyon Squadron" that one is yin to the other's yang.

"Tachyon Squadron" is already one of the coolest games around. If you aren't playing it now, 'Starfighter Academy' is just another reason why you should be.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tachyon Squadron • Starfighter Academy
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The King Is Dead
Publisher: lumpley games
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/13/2019 22:53:33

The King Is Dead is a party roleplaying game for 3-5 players which can be enjoyed in a single evening, requiring up to a few hours of game time (depending upon the number of players). No GM or Referee is needed, since each player has their own copy of the rules which explains everything and tells them exactly what to do. Replay value is pretty high, since the specific story details of each session are provided by the players themselves during gameplay.

Essentially, the king is dead, leaving no clear adult successor. Players name themselves, choose from among the five great Houses which rule the land-- you can have more than one player from the same House-- and then they take turns initiating a series of 'games' which will determine who will ascend to the nation's throne.

'Games' which can be played include having a simple dinner with other players; pursuing another player, either on foot or on horseback; crossing blades for a little bloody violence; taking troops into the field for a full-fledged battle; and finally, an endgame which tallies things up and determines the game's outcome. There are something like 10 or 12 distinct games in the rulebook, including the endgame, and since each player chooses which game they want to initiate on their turn, the number and variety of stories which can be told in each session of The King Is Dead is nearly infinite. No two games will ever be alike!

The game mechanics of The King Is Dead are pretty simple. The outcome of each mini-game is determined by drawing a card from a standard deck, following a few prompts in the game book which might bring additional cards into play, and then comparing the value of cards drawn. The results of each mini-game determine which new cards wind up in the player's hand for scoring purposes, and then the score of the player's hand during the endgame phase determines the game's outcome. Essentially, from a purely mechanical point of view, The King Is Dead is a hand-building game.

Mechanics aside, though, the real joy of this game comes from the creative story details which players provide while following the prompts found in their copy of the rules during each mini-game. Everyone taking part in each mini-game contributes to the game's narrative, helping to define "what happened" when Lord Baffrey matched wits with Lady Slawana during a rather salty dish of roast pheasant. This is the part of the game that story details emerge from.

We've had a few amusing sessions with this game. I'd describe The King Is Dead as one of those games that comes in really handy when you have friends to entertain. Its nerd factor is low enough that you can spring it on creative friends who aren't necessariy gamers, but still high enough that your friends who are gamers can get that roleplaying itch scratched through gameplay.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The King Is Dead
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Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse
Publisher: Shoreless Skies Publishing
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/13/2019 22:13:49

Getcher mota runnin' (LOUD GUITAR) Head out on da highway (LOUD GUITAR) Lookin for adventcha (LOUD GUITAR) 'N whateva comes my way-ay-ay....

Yes, this is a review for Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse, the roleplaying game where you play a mouse biker in a mouse gang and do mouse motorcycle stuff. And it's BRILLIANT!!! Picture "The Mouse and the Motorcycle" meets "Sons of Anarchy" and you're really, really close to understanding what this game is about.

The game itself uses lightly modified Fate rules. It's completely self-contained, though, so you don't need a copy of Fate Core or any other gaming books. All you need is the Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse rule book and you're set to play.

Fate does use specialized dice: six-siders with two blank sides, two '+' sides, and two '-' sides. You can approximate this with normal six-siders where a 1-2 = blank, a 3-4 = '+.' and a 5-6 = '-,' or some such convention, but honestly, it's a lot more fun using Fate dice, which are inexpensive and available at most game shops.

This would be an excellent game for beginning roleplayers, especially beginning roleplayers of the adolescent or pre-teen variety. Nothing in the game setting is so inherently adult that it couldn't be run 'as is' for just about any group of bright kids.

On the other hand, the idea of mice biker gangs carousing, being up to no good, getting into brawls, and running from the law is also delicious enough to keep even the crustiest and most jaded grognards in your gaming group entertained.

BORN TO BE MI-I-I-I-ICE.... BORN TO BE MIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIICE....

(MORE LOUD GUITAR)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Heavy Metal Thunder Mouse
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Tachyon Squadron • Those Who Were Here Before
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/14/2019 11:54:57

"Those Who Were Here Before" is a nifty little supplement for 'Tachyon Squadron,' which is itself a setting for the Fate Core system. If you aren't familiar with Fate Core, you probably should be-- it's one of the easiest, fastest-playing, most versatile systems out there. If you play Fate Core, you should really check out 'Tachyon Squadron,' too, especially if you grew up loving the tropes of rebellious hotshot pilots from TV shows like "Baa Baa Black Sheep" or "Battlestar Galactica" or films like "Top Gun" or even "Star Wars." And finally, if you already play 'Tachyon Squadron,' you should pick up a PDF copy of "Those Who Were Here Before" for your game.

With "Those Who Were Here Before," author Clark Valentine pulls a nifty trick-- he expands the emotional and thematic palette of 'Tachyon Squadron,' giving GMs the opportunity to introduce scenes right out of "Aliens" or add elements of Lovecraftian horror to their games, and to do so without derailing an existing game focused on PEW! PEW! PEW! starfighter combat. This scenario essentially introduces the possibility of alien horror to a standard 'Tachyon Squadron' game, framing that possibility as an incredibly rare encounter which might be a one-off experience for your pilots-- or might be the sign of more horrific things to come. It's your game, and "Those Who Were There Before" allows you to season it to taste.

I really like this supplement. Buy it now, or your name isn't Goooooooooooooose!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tachyon Squadron • Those Who Were Here Before
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Grimoire • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/07/2018 18:18:41

I generally find that some FATE worlds do it for me, and some don't, but just about every FATE world has something that I can borrow (steal?) for my game.

"Grimoire" was a pleasant surprise, all the way around. There isn't anything about this setting that I didn't like. Recognizing, though, that not everyone shares my exact tastes, here's a quick review. Yes, I'm a fan of this one, but I hope my review will suffice to let you know if "Grimoire" will do it for you-- or if it won't.

The most interesting mechanical twist in "Grimoire" is that it provides an entirely new spin on magic for FATE Core! If you're of a certain age (read: 'old'), you might remember the Eternal Champions line of fantasy roleplaying games by Chaosium, "Stormbringer" and "Hawkmoon," both based upon the fiction of Michael Moorecock. What set these games apart (mumble mumble, handwave) years ago is that their magic system was entirely based upon summoning extraplanar entities, beings which were generally much more powerful than the player characters, and then either bargaining with them or magically compelling them to serve you. This form of sorcery was dangerous, often as dangerous as anything else in the game, and that danger factor resulted in immensely powerful characters who were often doomed for dabbling in dark forces which they couldn't entirely control (mwaaa-hwaaa-haaaa, sinister laugh, and CUT!, fade to black).

Well, the magic system in "Grimoire" is a lot like that. Here, of course, the entities in question are reflected by Aspects, rather than a series of godlike numbers which dwarf the characters' own attribute ratings, making the imbalance of power between summonee and summoner a bit less daunting... at first. You see, "Grimoire" also introduces rules for 'indebtedness' to these malignant entities, so while the astral bugaboos that you summoned for protection might or might not pose a dire risk to you at the very outset, calling upon them for additional services does give them a bit of added leverage over you. These beings are a form of immense power, bottled up in your back pocket, which you hope to be able to use sparingly, if at all, all the while remaining mindful that the imbalance of power which leans in your favor today could shift away from you at almost any given time once you let the genie out of the bottle.

Honestly, you could port these rules over to any fantasy setting and have a complete magical system, ready-to-run, as long as you aren't hung up on the idea that magic = spells. If that's your thing, or if you want a magic system where the players have a more primary role in creating magical effects (as oppsed to the more secondary, behind-the-scenes role of conjuring and attempting to compel the entities which fill that more primary magical role), "Grimoire" might not be for you.

Setting-wise, the game does what it needs to do. Player characters are warlocks, capable of summoning daemons, malignant extraplanar entities, and that makes them valuable assets for the rich and powerful. A few factions are detailed in somewhat cursory manner, several places are described, and a couple of NPCs are identified. This should be more than enough background info for most FATE GMs to jump into. Character creation rules are suitably modified to support the rules for warlock magic and to support the setting presented.

Really, the meat of "Grimoire" is its unique magic system, which fully delivers upon its particular concept of how magic works in this game. The focus of this world is 100% about warlocks, who serve as a weapon in the arsenal of a powerful elite. You won't find elves or dwarves here, although of course it'd be a simple matter to Aspect some up if that's your thing. If you're looking for a dungeon crawl, or want something with an old-school D&D feel to it, I'd suggest the FATE Freeport Companion. But if you want a refreshingly different type of fantasy game-- one where magic is dark, mysterious, unpredictable, menacing, and more than a little dangerous-- this is a nifty little FATE world which stands tall on its own merits.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Grimoire • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
Publisher: Green Ronin Publishing
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/05/2018 07:32:24

The AGE system (short for 'Adventure Gaming Engine') was originally the set of rules used in Green Ronin's Dragon AGE, and later used in Will Wheaton's Titansgrave campaign podcast. It's a great little game system: easy-to-learn, rules-light, and fast-playing. The Fantasy AGE Basic Rules takes the AGE system and strips away all background and setting information, giving players and Game Masters a complete set of rules-- everything they need to enjoy their own unique campaign settings, in 120 short pages.

Did I mention that this book is only 120 pages long? That's an important point. Without any setting or background info, there isn't a lot of fluff here. If you're a Game Master looking for a set of rules to power your original campaign, this book is perfect, because you won't need to disentangle any setting information from the rules provided as you build your campaign from the ground up. On the plus side, it can be very liberating to work from a blank slate when you're creating a campaign from scratch, and the AGE system is so simple that it's easy peasy to create scads of unique obstacles, opponents, and NPCs for your players to vanquish; on the other hand, though, Fantasy AGE doesn't provide you with a setting that can be used right out of the box.

So what do you get in this book? As mentioned earlier, the AGE system is extremely rules-light, and almost every rule in the game is summarized on a single page of this book (page 6). Without any background information, and without needing to dedicate much page count to rules systems, the Fantasy AGE Basic Rules still pack a lot into 120 pages. There's a chapter on character creation, a full chapter going into more depth on the rules (which, as I mentioned, were previously summarized on page 6), a chapter on character options, a chapter on money and equipment, a chapter explaining how magic works in the AGE system, a chapter on stunts (really the best part of the game-- see below), a chapter about how to Game Master, a chapter with suggestions for the GM about how to implement the rules in the book, a short selection of adversaries/monsters (with advice about how to create/modify entries for original adversaries in your game), guidance on player rewards, advice on adding setting to the game, and a full adventure-- plus a glossary of game terms and an index.

For 120 pages, that's a lot of terrain covered.

The system itself is really easy. Characters have 9 different ability scores, which are generally rated from -2 to 4. For any test in the game, players roll 3D6, add the appropriate ability score, add any modifiers, and compare the result to a predetermined difficulty number. The 'meat and potatoes' of the game are in its "stunt" mechanism; one of the three dice rolled should be of a different color than the other two, and whenever a successful 3D6 roll results in doubles (on any of the 3 dice), that player gets as many "stunt points" as the odd-colored die's result. These "stunt points" can be spent to purchase a variety of special game effects-- perhaps knocking an opponent prone in combat, or gaining an extra attack, or doing additional damage. Since players get to spend their own "stunt points" to achieve whatever effects they desire the most-- and if they have enough points to spend, they can even select more than one-- this mechanism gives players a degree of agency within the game's narrative.

As of this review's date, there are three supplements available for Fantasy AGE. The Fantasy AGE Bestiary expands upon the selection of monsters from the basic rule book, and the Fantasy AGE Game Masters Kit includes a GM screen, a couple of reference cards for players, and an initiative tracker. The Fantasy AGE Companion is going to expand upon character options even further, with rules for chases and a mass combat system.

Fantasy AGE is a great system for fast, rules-light roleplaying, particularly for GM's who want to create their own unique campaigns without getting bogged down creating complicated stat blocks. Well worth checking out!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fantasy AGE Basic Rulebook
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Firefly: Ghosts in the Black
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2015 21:05:10

I was really excited when I heard that award-winning game designer Robin Laws was writing a five-adventure story arc for one of my favorite games, the 'Firefly' RPG. For those of you who may not be familiar with Mr. Laws, he has many fine games to his credit, but is probably best know for his book about storytelling, "Hamlet's Hit Points," which deconstructs several famous works of fiction (including the titular Sakespearian play) to show how their pacing set the story's tone. This book really shook things up in the professional writing and game publishing communities-- and its author was turning his expertise towards one of MY favorite games!!! I was ecstatic.

The adventures in "Ghosts in the Black" are great, bearing Robin Laws' unmistakable stamp-- but they also made me realize how good most of the other published adventures for the 'Firefly' line are! All totaled, there is one adventure in the core rulebook, four adventures in the "Echoes of War" supplement, two adventures in "The Smuggler's Guide to the Rim," two adventures in "Things Don't Go Smooth," and one adventure only available online in PDF format-- so, with the addition of the five adventures in "Ghosts In the Black," there are now a whopping FIFTEEN published adventures for the 'Firefly' game, and most of them maintain the same high standards that Robin Laws generally attained in this book. Not bad for an independent game with only five titles in print, eh?

To avoid spoilers, I'm not going to go into adventure details in this review. I will, however, say a few words about each in turn.

In "Six Cylinders Make a Right," the crew is more or less hired to commit an act of revenge for events which took place years ago. In my opinion this adventure, which sets the other events in this book in motion, is the least compelling adventure in the book. Stories about providing an act of vengeance for somebody else aren't quite as compelling as stories which engage player characters in a more visceral way. This isn't really THEIR story; they're simply somebody else's instruments. But this is easily enough rewritten so that the target double-crossed the players, and instead of employing them directly, the story's protagonist is helping them gain their own revenge. Not a disaster, but still, I expected more from somebody with Robin Law's resume in the gaming industry.

"Prisoner 3012Y," on the other hand, has one of the best premises I've ever seen in a roleplaying game scenario. The players are hired to deliver a Hannibal-esque serial killer to an Alliance prison-- what can possibly go wrong? I still had to fiddle with this adventure a bit before I was completely satisfied with it, but this adventure was much more in line with my (high) expectations.

"Tombstone Bullets and a Graveyard Mind" knocked it out of the park AGAIN. In this adventure, the crew discovers something that had been lost since the Unification War, and in the middle of a backwater range war they're forced to take an ethical responsibility for that discovery. ...What's that you say? Your crew ain't exactly the 'ethical' sort? No worries-- I think I forgot to mention that there's also an enormous treasure at stake.

"The Hellhound Trail" fell into the 'good, not great' category. This adventure is essentially a treasure hunt-- a shot in the dark, with Alliance agents in hot pursuit. While I thought the adventure itself was fine enough, this story requires the storyteller to sustain a sense of tension for an extended period, and this can be difficult with a lot of roleplaying groups. With some preparation-- and a little bit of fiddling-- the storyteller should be able to keep the crew engaged.

"The Big Dark" is a suitable climax for a story with such an epic arc, with one slight spoiler coming-- please skip ahead if you plan on playing, although I'll try to keep things a bit vague anyway. It turns out that the players' goal-- the thing they've been pursuing-- isn't exactly what they were previously led to believe it to be. I found this to be a bit anticlimactic, but it was easily fixable by altering the 'rewards' offered at the story's conclusion.

Anyway, I had big expectations for this supplement. These expectations were mostly, but not entirely, met. However, if you're looking for good 'Firefly' adventures, or ESPECIALLY if you need a good campaign to run, "Ghosts in the Black" is well worth picking up.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly: Ghosts in the Black
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Firefly: Things Don't Go Smooth
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2015 20:07:25

"Things Don't Go Smooth" is an essential product in the 'Firefly' RPG product line. It's a must-have for 'Firefly' storytellers, in particular. I strongly recommend getting this supplement after picking up a copy of the rules (available in either the core rulebook or the "Echoes of War" supplement-- see my reviews) and after acquiring the "Smuggler's Guide to the Rim." While those titles will expand the rules set you're playing with, this book focuses on dirty tricks for the storyteller to use when challenging a crew.

The first section in this supplement deals with Antagonists-- recurring villains to oppose and annoy the crew across one or more complete story arcs in an extended 'Firefly' campaign. This part of "Things Don't Go Smooth" covers how to create an effective Antagonist, how to conceal their identities and obscure their true role in things, and even how to expand upon established Antagonists so that they can continue to oppose even the most experienced crews. Best of all, this section includes examples of five complete Antagonists who are ready to drop into your existing game.

The next section of "Things Don't Go Smooth" introduces the idea of Rivals-- not necessarily villains (though they can certainly be villainous), but more like stiff competitors who aim to make the crew work overtime for their pay. Once again, this supplement contains game stats and descriptions for four different Rival groups which can be thrown at your crew with little modification.

The next broad category of opposition presented in "Things Don't Go Smooth" is referred to as 'the Unexplained.' The Unexplained are elements of mystery which can recur periodically throughout a long campaign, possibly even forming the basis for their own story arc at some point. In keeping with previous sections of this book, the section on the Unexplained present several fully-fleshed examples which can be used to intrigue your players right away. Best of all, this section of the book finally contains the rules for REAVERS!!!

There are several more chapters containing GM tips and suggestions, and these are as good as I've seen in any roleplaying supplement over the years, but particularly useful for running games in the 'Firefly' setting.

Finally, "Things Don't Go Smooth" concludes with two fine adventures, which also include brief chance encounters with some of the Antagonists, Rivals, and Unexplained phenomena from previous chapters. These encounters don't necessarily establish those NPC's in recurring roles, although their appearances here easily allow storytellers to reintroduce them in future adventures if desired.

All in all, "Things Don't Go Smooth" places a rather nifty set of tools into a 'Firefly' storyteller's hands. This supplement is well worth having.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly: Things Don't Go Smooth
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Firefly: Smugglers Guide to the Rim
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2015 19:24:27

If you've never played the 'Firefly' RPG before, you need to start by picking up a copy of the rules, which are available in two different products. I'll briefly describe each of those below. After you've acquired the rules, though, the "Smuggler's Guide to the Rim" is probably the next book in the product line that you should pick up. I'll explain why below.

First, a word about the 'Firefly' rules. These are available in two different books: the game's core rulebook and the "Echoes of War" supplement. "Echoes of War" contains most of the basic rules mechanics found in the core rulebook, plus four complete adventures in which players are assumed to play characters from the TV show or one of several "character archetypes" presented (although the adventures can be run with the players' own characters, if desired). The core rules, on the other hand, add a detailed system for character and ship creation, information on the planetary systems of the 'Firefly' setting, GM advice for running longer campaigns, and a number of additional rules that you'll want to have if you love this setting and system as much as I do.

As I mentioned earlier, once you have a copy of the rules in one of these two books, the "Smuggler's Guide to the Rim" is probably the next item you should pick up. Here's why. This supplement presents the only major rules expansion to the 'Firefly' RPG, in the form of rules for character reputation-- and these rules greatly expand upon the 'feel' of the television series which this game already captures so well. In the 'Firefly' RPG, reputation allows your character to have some standing with certain segments of 'verse society, from the underworld to corporations, or from Browncoat rebels to senior members of the Alliance Parliament. Even better, these rules allow your character to have poor standing with many of these same groups. Essentially, the reputation rules in this book expand the characters' roles beyond their own crew and the small list of contacts that they may have on the ground; these rules give them a defined place in the 'verse, making them a part of it.

The second section of this book-- the "Shepherd's Run"-- details a nav route favored by smugglers and criminals, including detailed settings and NPC's for eight world along that run. This section is incredibly useful for players and storytellers alike, giving players a place to hang their hats and storytellers a number of setting for future adventures. Since the system information in this book utilizes the new reputation rules, it's also easy for all parties to know where they might expect a warm welcome from the locals-- and where they should plan for a hasty exit, just in case.

Finally, the "Smuggler's Guide to the Rim" continues the product line's amazing run of solid published adventures. Two ready-to-run adventures complete the material that it contains.

The "Smuggler's Guide" is a must-have for 'Firefly' gamers. If you're a roleplaying enthusiast who enjoys the game, this title is something you really ought to add to your game library.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly: Smugglers Guide to the Rim
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Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2015 11:45:18

The 'Firefly' RPG is a great game with a strikingly different design philosophy from many other RPG's (and it's also worth mentioning that the game mechanic used in the 'Firefly' RPG is significantly different from the system used in the 'Serenity' RPG a few years ago, also published by Margaret Weis Productions). In fact, this game system is so different from most other roleplaying games that many experienced gamers struggle a bit with its basic concepts, while people new to roleplaying often 'get' it almost immediately. Essentially, the difference is that die rolls drive the game's narrative-- creating character advantages or complications in the process which can become major plot elements in their own right-- instead of simply determining success or failure and then leaving it to the GM to weave that result into his or her existing narrative. This very slight tweak does a couple of interesting things. First, the prospect of gaining complications actually makes the game better-- don't ask me how, but the game just seems to get more fun as your character gets hosed by multiple complications. This is the thing that veteran players seem to have the most difficulty with when they play 'Firefly' for the first time, but if you've ever seen the TV show, it makes perfect sense: the show is at its best when things don't go as planned. You don't get to be a big damn hero unless you face unexpected wrinkles and complications, and building random setbacks into the game somehow tends to make characters all the more epic. This runs against the grain of most gamers' previous game experiences, since the norm in roleplaying games is to try to stack the deck so that your character always has a winning hand. The other thing that this mechanic does is that the process of assigning assets and complications through gameplay gives the players a degree of agency within the storyteller's overall narrative, which isn't as disruptive as it might sound, but also invests players in the way that story develops and unfolds. This system has a unique feel to it, making roleplaying a much more collaborative experience, but admittedly it isn't for everyone. People who take a very analytic, numbers-oriented approach to roleplaying-- experiencing it as a game-- will probably like it less than narrative- or character-driven players who primarily see roleplaying as a story.

Because of this "not for everyone" factor, it's worth noting that another product in this game line-- "Echoes of War"-- contains most of the basic rules mechanics found in the core rulebook, plus four complete adventures in which players are assumed to play characters from the TV show (but can be run with the players' own characters, if desired). Picking up "Echoes of War" is a great way to give the game a try without too much of a financial investment. The core rules, on the other hand, add a system for character and ship creation, information on the planetary systems of the 'Firefly' setting, GM advice for running longer campaigns, and a number of additional rules that you'll want to have if you love this setting and system as much as I do.

Every now and then an RPG for a media franchise comes out which really captures the flavor of that setting. The 'Firefly' RPG does this almost effortlessly, with rules which make it seem like the 'verse is out to get you sometimes. Those are also the times when your players will get to be big damn heroes. Do yourself a favor and pick up the 'Firefly' game, so that you can do a job, get paid, and keep flying.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Role-Playing Game Corebook
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Firefly Echoes of War: Thrillin' Heroics
Publisher: Margaret Weis Productions
by Jeff P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2015 09:45:47

Let me start out by explaining what this game is, so that you know what you'll be getting for your dollar. "Echoes of War" contains basic rules for the 'Firefly' RPG, stats for the characters from the TV show, and four complete adventures for the game. In short, it contains everything your crew needs to do a job, get paid, and keep flying.

The 'Firefly' RPG itself is a great game, with strikingly different gaming philosophy than you see in most other RPG's. It's also worth mentioning that the game mechanic used in the 'Firefly' RPG is significantly different from the system used in the 'Serenity' RPG a few years ago (which was also published by Margaret Weis Productions). This system is different enough from most other roleplaying games, in fact, that experienced gamers often struggle a bit with its basic concept, while people new to roleplaying often 'get' it almost immediately. Essentially, the difference is that die rolls drive the game's narrative-- creating character advantages or complications in the process which can become major plot elements in their own right-- instead of simply determining success or failure and leaving it to the GM to weave that result into his or her existing narrative. This does a couple of interesting things. First, the prospect of gaining complications actually makes the game better-- don't ask me how, but the game just seems to get better and better the more your character gets hosed by multiple complications. This is the thing that veteran players seem to have the most difficulty with when they play 'Firefly' for the first time, but if you've ever seen the TV show, it makes perfect sense: the show is at its best when things don't go as planned. You don't get to be a big damn hero unless you face unexpected wrinkles and complications, and building random setbacks into the game somehow tends to make characters all the more epic. This runs against the grain of most gamers' experience set, since in other games players try to stack the deck so that their characters always have the winning hand. The other thing that this mechanic does is that the process of assigning assets and complications through gameplay gives the players a degree of agency within the storyteller's overall narrative, which isn't as disruptive as it might sound, but also invests players in the way that story develops and unfolds. This system has a unique feel to it, making roleplaying a much more collaborative experience, but admittedly it isn't for everyone. People who take a very analytic, numbers-oriented approach to roleplaying-- experiencing it as a game-- will probably like it less than narrative- or character-driven players who primarily see roleplaying as a story.

That "not for everyone" quality is part of what makes "Echoes of War" such a great way to experience the 'Firefly' RPG for the first time. The buy-in price for this product (currently $12.99) is relatively cheap for a roleplaying product. While "Echoes of War" doesn't contain the full rules set, it's still more than just a quickstart adventure featuring a streamlined version of the system. Everything you need to play the game is contained within these covers-- and with four complete adventures included, you and your gaming friends ought to have plenty of material to cover to decide whether this game is for you.

The adventures themselves are above-average, with fully fleshed-out NPC's and settings and enough background information provided that the GM is well-prepared to handle situations which don't go quite as expected. As the title suggests, the adventures in "Echoes of War" are all built around the theme of how the Unification War marked and continues to haunt each of the cast members from the TV show. Since they're written for players and storytellers who may not be familiar with the game's full rules set, these adventures also do a great job of suggesting how to apply the game's rules to any number of circumstances which might pop up while playing them.

Browncoats unite! This product is a great way to try out one of the best games around right now, allowing you and your players to step into one of television's greatest science fiction settings ever. So pick it up, do a job, get paid, and keep flying today!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Firefly Echoes of War: Thrillin' Heroics
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