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Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
Publisher: R. Talsorian Games Inc.
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/02/2019 13:54:33

There's a whole heap of goodies in the download or in the box, depending on which version you have. Apparently the box also contains dice, otherwise there's no difference in the contents. Two books, reference cards, maps, pregenerated characters and some standees... everything you need to leap back into the near future.

Where to start? The 45-page Rulebook seems promising. This begins with The View From the Edge, an essay that sets out the stall of what it means to be cyberpunk. This paints the picture from the earliest days, when cyberpunk was the province of science-fiction authors, through the fictional alternate history that permeates the game from its first incarnation as Cyberpunk 2013 and then Cyberpunk 2020 - don't worry if you are not familiar with these games, you'll get the idea. However, the Fourth Corporate War has cut a swathe through everything, and much of what the cyberpunk of 2020 thought was normal is no more. Even Night City was a casualty, a nuke apparently. We're now in 2045, but there's still a place for the hip, freerolling, wired-in cyberpunk, operating more on the wrong side of the law than the right.

A brief precis of what a role-playing game is, for those who don't know, and a glossary of streetslang - you gotta sound right, choombatta, and then on to section 2: Soul and the New Machine. This takes a closer look at the philosophy, the look and feel, of cyberpunk... and reminds that, a major corporate war and the use of nuclear weapons later, there are few if any vestiges of civilization that would be familiar to people in society today. Players need to remember that it's personal, style over substance, attitude is everything, and you need to live on the edge. Oh, and rules are there to be broken. Then there's a look at Roles (read: character classes). There are nine: Rockerboys, Solos, Netrunners, Execs, Techs, Lawmen, Fixers, Medias, and Nomads (not all are covered in the Jumpstart). Next an overview of the character sheet, follwed by details of what everything means in terms of playing the character game mechanics-wise. The skills used for the pre-generated characters are explained.

Next up, 3: Lifepath. This is the system for generating a background for a character, and even with pre-generated ones there is scope for putting your own spin on the character that you are going to play. At each stage you may choose an option or roll for it. There's an example of how to do this, along with explanations of what this means for the player... and how it provides a bit of fun for the GM as well. All that backstory ready to exploit!

Then comes 4: Putting the Cyber into the Punk. This looks at the uses and abuses of cyberware, how to be stylish about your enhancements, and how the end-point of the exercise is survival - yours. With a few scary notes on cyberpsychosis, there are details of the various types of cybernetic enhancement you can have. Just remember: it's as much about fashion as it is about utility. We then move on to 5: Getting it Down. This covers how you actually play the game, when its time to use game mechanics rather than role-play to advance the plot. A lot covers combat because, let's face it, that's when you need to get the dice out... and of course it's a part of the game that most people enjoy. There's also a bit about task resolution, especially opposed tasks, when you want to use one of your skills to accomplish something.

Next, my favourite bit: 6: Netrunning in the Time of the Red. This explains the gear you need to go netrunning and how to use it, both in-game and in terms of game mechanics. This includes getting into brawls in the Net, which can be as deadly as doing so in the meat world. There are also times the Netrunner will have to go along with the rest of the infiltration team and brave the dangers of that sort of combat as well. This ends with an example Netrun, then back to real-world combat with 7: Thursday Night Throwdown, a variant on the original Friday Night Firefight rules. It's all an aid to streamline combat, to give you all the thrills without getting bogged down in the minutae of the rules. An alternate to brawling, the use of Reputation as a competitive sport, is also covered here. Finally there are summary cards of each of the pregenerated characters.

Speaking of pregenerated characters, there are 6 of them, with rather silly names - Torch the Tech, or Grease the Fixer... well, you may change those to something a bit more sensible if you prefer. Each comes with a page of backstory, character portrait and a full character sheet, as separate cards to give to each player.

The second book (or PDF) provided is the World Book. This provides 50-odd pages of background, setting, and adventure, starting with 1: Welcome to the Time of the Red. More detailed recent history explaining what the Fourth Corporate War was and how much damage it did to the world you now inhabit. The United States is fragmented, no longer a superpower. Night City, even 20 years later, is still a mess. The rest of the world is also in a state of flux. A good chance to make your mark, you might think, if you survive long enough, that is. Megacorps also suffered, but there are still corporations flexing the muscles pretty much unchecked. Then 2: Dark Future Countdown gives a detailed timeline of events from the 1990s onwards to the present day of 2045.

It may be battered, but Night City is still there, according to section 3. This gives a potted history from its foundation in 1994 to the present, bombs included. It's in the middle of a veritable fury of rebuilding, plenty of opportunity there. Just avoid the Hot Zone Wasteland, where the central business district used to be. Plenty here on politics, public services and law and order... yes, there is some! The next section 4: Everyday Things gives the lowdown on living there, aimed particularly at newcomers (which players will be, even if their characters are not... it's often best to play the characters as new arrivals too, so both can learn together about their new home). Vehicles, weapons, getting the news, shopping, it's all here. The food sounds terrible, though.

We then move into GM territory with 5: Running Cyberpunk Red. Plenty of good ideas about how to make the environment come to life for your group, opposition they might face, activities they can engage in. There are some sample encounters you can throw in whatever is happening, whatever the characters are trying to do. Finally, there is a fully-fledged adventure, The Apartment. The basic idea is that all the characters in the soon-to-become party live in the same apartment block, one of the few privately-owned (by one of them) blocks in the entire city. Someone wants to change that, gobble it up... and so the party needs to unite and fight for their home. There are notes on the other residents, and suggestions as to what might happen: pick and mix as you choose. There are some plans too. But that's not all. A collection of Screamsheets present more ideas for further adventures which you'll have to flesh out, three of them.

This contains all you need to get going, to see if the new version of Cyberpunk appeals. It doesn't matter if you don't know the original game, but if you do it moves the timeline along in a logical and believable manner. If you don't, just jump in and enjoy the delights that await!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cyberpunk Red Jumpstart Kit
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Star Trek Adventures: Call Back Yesterday
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/01/2019 14:31:57

The Adventure Synopsis explains what happens, it all starts with a distress call from an abandoned planet called Zeta Gruis VII, where the away team will find a deserted alien city - or is it? Meanwhile the ship in orbit is harassed by another vessel. Intended for The Next Generation era, quite precisely dated to the second season, but there's scope for variation although earlier could be a bit tricky with races and artefacts as yet unencountered in the show.

Part of the adventure focuses on characters reliving past events - an opportunity to bring critical elements from each character's Lifepath up, or to explore unrecorded parts of their history, challenge values or look at inter-character relationships. Then there is an investigation to discover why here and now? Plenty to keep the party on their toes.

The first Act covers exploration of the alien city and attacks by alien wildlife... and then the hallucinations begin. The GM is advised to be sneaky about this, to introduce them slowly and to attempt to split the party up before unleasing the full force... and this moves smoothly into Act 2. It might be a bit tricky to run, as each character has their own memories replayed. It's suggested that separate scenes are run for each, although they're actually all happening at the same time. Hopefully at least some will manage to break free from the effect before the local wildlife catches up with them (although they too are affected!)... but that is when the enemy forces reveal themselves, in overwhelming numbers. The sun is rising too, which takes the temperature to unbearable levels. This is a set-up: it's intended for the characters to be captured to further the plot.

Act 3 provides the final stand-off between the party and their captors, mirrored by their ship overhead dealing with the vessel that is jamming their sensors. The party may try a spot of social engineering or break out by force, or - if their ship is successful in its conflict, a rescue party may arrive.

Overall this is a rather railroaded adventure, and one that some groups may find too psychological, too personal and introspective. Decide with care whether or not it will appeal to your players: with the right ones, though, it could prove memorable.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: Call Back Yesterday
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Star Trek Adventures: Remnants
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/28/2019 14:36:14

This adventure opens with the party's ship in Vulcan space when they are tasked with answering a distress call from a research vessel, the Sirius, somewhere near the Arachnid Nebula. The Adventure Synopsis explains what happens when they get there. Whilst written with the Original Series (2254–2269) in mind, this adventure would work in any era as there is really only one very futuristic technology that might cause issues... and as those issues are more likely to result in problems for the party, all this means is some consideration and planning might be needed to handle them.

The first Act involves them meeting with the Sirius and discovering that they are drifting dangerously close to some asteroids in the Arachnid Nebula, their impulse engines having failed. Life support and main power is not in a good way either, and there are some hull breaches, so it's a chance for any PC engineers to shine. Due to the Nebula's influence, sensors don't work too well so they will have to get close, as transporting may be a bit chancy! Details of the repairs and other assistance required are laid out clearly, along with notes on the appropriate game mechanics to apply. The researchers are excited about a massive gravimetric anomaly they've detected within the nebula and even as their ship is patched up, they are asking the Starfleet Captain to aid their research... the anomaly is moving unnaturally fast and they'd like for the party's ship to give chase...

Act 2 opens once they've found the anomaly and started to investigate. It's not safe to stay for long despite some intriguing artefacts, so samples are grabbed and everyone returns to the ship, where the scientists set up an improptu laboratory in one of the cargo holds. And that, of course, is when the fun starts...

... or at least the bloody remains of an Ensign are found, and a muder investigation begins. The fun and games continue throughout the rest of Act 2 and into Act 3. Once the party discovers what is behind the odd events and, yes, violent acts, they then have to decide what to do about it. It's nowhere near as black and white as it may seem given the murders and it should prove interesting to see what the party comes up with.

It all makes for an exciting, tense, and thought-provoking adventure that should leave the party with plenty to think about. Definitely true to the scope of Starfleet's core mission to explore.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: Remnants
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Star Trek Adventures: Ends and Means
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/21/2019 14:01:55

This mission, presented in three acts and a conclusion, sees the party's ship dispatched to the Federation protectorate world of Tolen IV to help mediate a disagreement between two factions. One faction wants to join the Federation as a full member world, the other wants out. The Federation hopes they'll stay, not only on general principles but because of the system's strategic location on the fringes of the Romulan Neutral Zone, not to mention their natural resources - the place is rich in dilithium and other useful ores. This may be a time for full-dress uniforms and cocktail parties, but assorted skulduggery will provide opportunities for combat and investigation as well. The adventure is intended for New Era games, but is easy to modify if you prefer the times of the Original Series.

The first part involves a diplomatic reception aboard ship, to which both sides in the dispute are invited along with other notables. It's a chance to meet some of the personalities involved (and check up on them if anyone fancies some database delving). Some players may find this a bit tedeous - well, so do some Starfleet officers! - but it's worth persevering, there is useful background material to be gathered, and anyone hoping for starship command in the future needs to be able to cope with the diplomatic side of the job, and so here is a chance to demonstrate that ability.

The second act holds more promise, with the party sent planetside and tasked with the security of the negotiations, which are to be held in a convention centre in the capital city of Tolen IV. They will have to be there early to get set up, with the scope to organise security as they see fit (with some helpful suggestions for you to pass on via NPCs if they seem stuck). Naturally they have access to Starfleet technology to do this... and of course there are protestors and dubious characters wandering around for them to investigate. The talks begin... but it's not long before all hell breaks loose!

The party will have to deal with it. Possible outcomes and how to handle them are included - be familiar with these so as to be ready to react to whatever they decide to do. There are plenty of distractions, complications, and surprises as they cope with the incident at hand and then try to investigate what's actually going on. It really creates the sort of chaotic scenes security people have to deal with. There is plenty of detail to help you run the investigations, whichever way the party turns. Several tense situations serve to keep the party on their toes.

The third act deals with a confrontation between the party and the individual to whom all the evidence gathered points as being behind all the unpleasantness. Needless to say, said individual will not come quietly. Two conclusions are provided: one if they capture the individual and one if they escape; and there are some notes for possible future adventures.

This makes for a tense, realistic adventure that's a little out of the ordinary, yet retains a strong Star Trek feel. One outcome that isn't covered is the death of the individual, best to modify the 'capture' conclusion if that occurs. This should prove a memorable mission for all involved. Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott (TOS) may have reckoned that "The best diplomat I know is a fully activated phaser bank!" - here is your group's chance to prove him wrong!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: Ends and Means
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Star Trek Adventures: A Star Beyond the Stars
Publisher: Modiphius
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/20/2019 13:57:58

Billed as a 'starter campaign', this work presents three interlinked missions to get any Star Trek Adventures game off to a flying start. The intent is that a novice game master should be able to run it, never mind players new to this particular game system, and as such it introduces various aspects of the game mechanics in an orderly and easy to understand fashion.

In the first mission, called The Alcubierre, the party is sent as part of a starship crew to retrieve an experimental ship that was testing out a new warp drive. The adventure is introduced neatly, by providing an entry from the captain's log to be read aloud (much as in many episodes of the TV show) that sets the scene and states the mission. As the players' ship approaches, you are talked through the likely sensor rolls that could be made - and there's even advice for dealing with failed rolls. Eventually, an away team will take a shuttlecraft over to the ship and enter to discover why it's drifting in space. Unfortunately when they get there, they discover that they are not the only people trying to salvage it. The backstory of what went wrong is laid out clearly, the characters of course will have to discover it through investigation, as well as dealing with the intruders. Everything is explained as you go along, so there is no need to be completely familiar with the rules before you start... both you and your players will have the hang of them by the end. There's a lot of exploring, and the chance for combat, before the ship is under the party's control, the engines repaired and you're ready to move on to the next mission.

The next mission is called We Are Not Ourselves, and involves the party being sent to investigate a Klingon station that has gone dark. The evidence unearthed there leads them on to a nearby planetary system, where they can begin to get to the bottom of what is going on in both this and the previous mission...

Everything comes together in the final mission, The Pierced Veil, with high excitement as a Romulan Warbird arrives, negotiates with the Federation ship... and then exploders. It's not long before another Warbird turns up and quite naturally leaps to the conclusion that the Federation blew it up... oh, and the party's ship has somehow acquired a computer viruse which must be dealt with before the second Warbird can be beaten off. This provides opportunity to learn more rules, including those for starship combat, in a situation that should have the players on the edge of their seats.

There's a lot to get your head around here, yet it is done so skillfully that everything comes naturally, and the main effect is just of a cracking good adventure rather than a set-piece designed to teach the rules. There's enough hand-holding for even a novice GM - one new to GMing, never mind this game system - to be able to handle it with confidence, yet it's not so intrusive that a more experienced one feels patronised. There are no easy outcomes to the plot, however, giving the players some nice moral issues with which to wrestle, and likely repercussions are covered ready for you to apply them in future events. This should get your voyages off to a flying start, an excellent introduction to the game!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: A Star Beyond the Stars
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Into the Black: A Guide to Below
Publisher: Bastion Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/28/2019 09:34:28

It's called DUNGEONS and Dragons, yet how much thought do most of us put into what lies underground beyond traps to circumvent, monsters to kill and treasure to loot? What's going on down there when there are no adventurers poking around and generally making nuisances of themselves? Now is a chance to find out... with notes on the ecology of the subterranean world and the particular challenges that those creatures living there face, as well as more detailed information on several different types of underground space.

From there, we move on to four chapters which cover four distinct underground environments: caverns, catacombs, mines and sewers. For each there are notes on what makes that particular environment distinctive and detailed accounts of the plants and animals to be found there. There are sections on the rocks and minerals you can find there (of particular note in the mines chapter, but you never know what you might find elsewhere), the hazards to be faced and a collection of monsters.

Next comes a chapter of New Equipment. This includes useful items like flameless means of illumination (to avoid setting off explosive gases) and hip waders... and even a mask to guard against the horrible smells to be found in the likes of sewers. There are a few magic items that might come in handy as well, and a few new minerals and other materials are introduced. The final chapter is a collection of spells with an underground theme, provided for all magic-using classes. Most look pretty useful for quite mudane tasks such as detecting poisonous gases or potentially useful minerals or even shoring up a roof that looks as if it might come down. Or you may prefer to turn an enemy into a pillar of salt!

It's all written in a fairly academic style, but really empowers you to turn the 'dungeons' of your game into alternate realities in their own right rather than merely a backdrop to the party's killing and looting. Recommended if you like to make your campaign world as realistic as possible.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Black: A Guide to Below
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Into the Blue
Publisher: Bastion Press
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/27/2019 09:55:09

This book is designed to help you make the seas in your campaign world more than blue patches on the map that the party may occasionally travel across in a boat. Most adventurers, after all, are accustomed to breathing air and walking on land, and to do anything else (bar a bit of splashing around in the shallows) is going require magic or technology to accomplish. But what about those intelligent - perhaps even sentient - creatures that live there? Might you run adventures involving them? Or ever a campaign in which they, rather than the more conventional land-dwellers, are the party?

The first chapter, Ocean Life, looks at general aspects of life under the sea, starting with the sort of things that are familiar if you're a SCUBA-diver - depth, pressure, light levels, the chill of the depths, and just thinking in three dimensions in a way the land-based rarely do (except, perhaps, if you can fly). In general oceans are dark, cold, dangerous places and most residents therein are likely to want to eat you. Here we also learn about algal blooms and the problems they can pose, buoyancy - which controls how well you can hold your position at the depth you want to be at - currents, light level and even why it's not a good idea to drink seawater. There's a word about storms, and a note about looking after your spellbooks - regular land-dwellers' ones are likely to fall apart when submerged. Aquatic magic users make theirs out of coral and bone and similar more durable substances, but they tend to be large, cumbersome and heavy - especially if you try to take one onto dry land. Tides and tsunamis can alter the environment, and even fantasy worlds can suffer pollution!

There are some general notes on aquatic plants and animals, but these are covered more thoroughly in the next three chapters. These look at coastal waters, the open sea, and deep water. In each chapter there are notes on more than just plants and animals with hazards and a selection of monsters presented. The Open Sea chapter also talks about floating cities. The monsters are quite innovative and include undead as well as monstrous variants of actual sea creatures and some really strange things as well. Did you know that some seafarers claim that you shouldn't rescue anyone who falls overboard because the sea takes who it pleases. Only some people fall in by accident (or because someone shoved them in) when the sea didn't want them at all, but don't get rescued by superstitious sailors... and become the Unwanted, roaming the oceans seeking to kill the living and sink their ships. Suggestions for adventures or even whole campaigns are scattered throughout; and some of the monsters are sentient and there are notes on using them as NPCs or even player-characters.

Assuming that you'll mostly be dealing with land-dwellers exploring the ocean, Chapter 6: Equipment sets out to enable them to find the gear they'll need to survive, if not thrive, underwater. It also looks at what those who live underwater make and use for themselves, which may be of interest to enterprising explorers who realise that things made in an environment may well be best suited to that environment. There's a note that most underwater communities operate by barter rather than using money, so explorers need to come prepared to trade for what they need. There are some interesting ingredients for those who practise alchemy, including some particularly potent poisons.

Finally, Chapter 6: Spells attends to all your magical requirements. It's the main way in which surface dwellers survive underwater, or for that matter sea-dwellers survive on land. A range of spells for bards, clerics, druids, rangers, and wizards are provided, with spell lists and full details of each spell provided. There's even a spell to allow a bard to perform underwater! Appendices provide random encounter tables for all parts of the ocean.

A useful work if you think your adventures might be heading out to and particularly under the sea. Perhaps the next ocean voyage won't be plain sailing, with the characters having to survive in and under the open ocean until they are rescued or can make their way ashore. Ideas and concepts will work whatever ruleset you are using, even if you need to tweak the mechanics a bit!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Blue
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Shrine of the Wolf Maidens
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/17/2019 09:07:29

After the standard account of the state of the setting (chiefly for those new to Odysseys and Overlords) we get the background to the adventure: a merchant called Madeina Ilrekar hired an adventurer, a fellow called Jorasco Vinn, to go into the Untamed Gauntlet to prospect for precious metals. Apparently he didn't do very well, when he returned he spoke of an ancient shrine, the name of which is lost to antiquity. Now Madeina's daughter has vanished, and she thinks that Vinn has kidnapped her with an eye to reviving the practice of human sacrifice at the shrine he discovered!

This is where the party comes in. Perhaps they have heard about the daughter's disappearance, or maybe Madeina hires them to go in search of her... she is, it transpires, of marriageable age, and Madeina has a few potential suitors in mind. There's an optional opening encounter with Madeina, or you can start the adventure with the party already travelling through the Untamed Gauntlet. One encounter is provided for the journey, you may wish to add others of your own devising.

The main part of the adventure is the exploration of the shrine. This starts with a puzzle to unravel to get in which is very well presented. You get the puzzle itself (and its solution - not all GMs are puzzle fanatics, after all!) and suggestions about how to use die rolls to help the party crack the code and gain admission, if they don't figure it out on their own. The few rooms are described clearly, along with contents and inhabitants, and the party ought to find out what happened to the daughter. Every possible outcome is covered, depending on what they decide to do about the situation.

Overall, it's a neat little adventure. Can the party save the daughter? Only you and your group can tell!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shrine of the Wolf Maidens
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Wyvernseeker Rock
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/10/2019 08:58:27

This jumps straight in with the party travelling through the Untamed Gauntlet on other business, when the stream they are following abruptly ends in a cliff with a waterfall. It's too steep and slippery to climb up, the obvious route up is through an opening beside the waterfall.

There's a top-down view, a plan of the pathway through the cliff, and descriptions of the five chambers therein. To enter, the party needs to solve a puzzle: instructions for the die rolls required to solve it are given, but there's no actual puzzle given. Personally I prefer to let the party at the puzzle, and suggest die rolls if they get nowhere with it. Once they get in, there's a long spiral staircase going up (and down, but that's another story) which will let them get to the top of the cliff, provided they get past the monsters and other hazards.

Once they reach the top, they've actually come out at the top of a rocky peak even higher than the cliff. Here there's a cunning device that you can use to provide a hook into further adventures, a vision that gives them some inkling as to what is in store...

This is a rather thin 'something to happen along the way' which rather leaves you wondering why. Quite nice if you struggle to find ways to make wilderness travel interesting apart from reaching for the wandering monsters table. It could possibly be strung out into a complete session (2-3 hours) but that would be a bit of a struggle.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wyvernseeker Rock
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The Idol of Bala
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/06/2019 08:28:51

This 'dungeon crawl' for 2nd-3rd level characters opens with the standard overview of the setting, useful for those who don't have any other Odysseys and Overlords material - it works with any OSR ruleset, but best with The Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game. We then get on to the background for this adventure, being a discussion of how people turned to worship other deities when the local mob decided all-out war between themselves was a good idea. One such was called Bala, who was mildly popular with creative folk for a few years before falling out of favour again. However centuries later a rumour arose that Bala's followers had discovered the secret of eternal life, only by then nobody could remember where any temples to Bala were. The hunt was on...

... and this adventure begins with the discovery in the Untamed Gauntlet of a tablet whose inscription, according to a priest called Dendefsha (who worships another deity), contains directions to one hidden deep in the Gauntlet. He wastes no time in hiring a party of adventurers to go and take a look. Of course, other interested parties are also looking for the temple. Who'll find it first?

The adventure proper begins with the party standing on the doorstep of the temple. Actually finding it is an adventure you'll have to provide or, if wilderness adventures aren't your thing, just give the party sufficient background and start the game here. The first trick is figuring out how to get in, and it doesn't get much better thereafter: there are tricks and puzzles galore as you explore onwards. As well as rivals for the idol, which is said to be carved with Bala's secrets, there are some creatures to contend with as well.

Although small - there are only three main chambers - the temple is well-described. Details of all the traps or effects are explained clearly, with notes on relevant mechanics, saves to make, and so on, and all monsters come with a stat block to enable you to run them effectively. Player and GM versions of the map are included. The conclusion assumes that the party is successful, but does give the possibility of future allies and enemies that can be woven into further adventures.

This is a classic 'delve' adventure, with monsters to kill and loot to acquire... being short and sweet it could be a good filler or one-off adventure, or even an introduction to OSR play. It's nicely-done, however, and there are concepts here worthy of expansion should it suit your campaign to do so.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Idol of Bala
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Odysseys & Overlords Character Record Sheet
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2019 13:39:51

The unsung hero of game resources, a character sheet can help you organise the details of your character in - with a good one - a way that facilitates your navigation around the game mechanics of the system you are using. If you're lucky it looks good at the same time... and if you are really fortunate there's a form-fillable PDF version as well (a godsend for me as I cannot write longhand due to a stroke, but still touchtype!)

So, in this free download you get 3 versions: the full one, a printer friendly one and, yes, a form-fillable one. The layout is standard on all three. The basics at the top: name, genus, class, gender, etc. and a space for player name. Then three columns: stats, saving throws, and a combat column with armour class and hit points at the top with space for you to list your weapons and important stuff like how much damage they do below. The most important numbers are written in large boxes, makes them hard to miss however excited you are. Then there is space at the bottom for spells and abilities, items carried, cash and languages spoken.

That's it. Sweet and simple (a bit like Odysseys and Overlords itself). But there's more. The 'full' version boasts a coloured border and game logo, but also has extra pages with an overview of the setting, brief notes on the character classes and genera available, and a plain version of the character sheet if you don't want to print the coloured one. Interestingly, the form-fillable version uses the plain character sheet to facilitate ease of printing. It's simply a nicely put together package to make playing straightforward.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Odysseys & Overlords Character Record Sheet
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From the Mouth of Babes
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/04/2019 08:31:51

There's the standard thumbnail background of the Odysseys and Overlords setting and notes about suitable rules (handy if you've just picked this up without reading anything else in this game line), then we're off with the background to the adventure itself. It seems a bunch of goblins has been hanging out on the edge of an area of wilderness hoping to pick off adventurers going there to explore (or even better, coming back with their loot!) but a leadership dispute led to the loss of a magic dagger... which fell into their watersource, with dire results.

The party first find out about all this when they, like any adventurers worthy of the name, head into the wilderness - or snap up one of the plot hooks provided - and are accosted by a couple of hungry, grubby goblin youngsters who ask for help. This encounter should prove entertaining. Provision is made for it taking place either in the day or during the night, and there's plenty of detail to help you role-play it to the hilt.

Hopefully, with an optional encounter on the way, the party with the youngsters guiding them should arrive at the goblin lair. It's even smellier than the words 'goblin lair' suggest, for reasons that should become apparent as the delve into its depths proceeds. Everything is laid out clearly, with ample description, stat blocks/hit point check boxes for all encounters and other game mechanical information as necessary.

As with the young goblins in the opening encounter, it pays to try talking with at least some of the inhabitants of the lair, for if the party does so, they will be able to piece together what has been going on, as well as undertake the expected exploration, killing and looting. Whatever the party decides to do about the goblins, there are other monsters to slay and loot to be had.

Everything is left quite open ended. The party might help the goblins and continue exploring the wilderness, or they might - especially if you used one of the plot hooks provided - want to go back to town. There are suggestions for some further adventures and a welcome selection of 'story-based' XP awards that you can make based on the party's actions. There are a couple of new items and a new monster, and maps for both players and the GM.

Whilst OSR in essence, this has a welcome range of options for interaction and role-play, and is well-resourced to enable you to cope with just about anything your players might decide to do.



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From the Mouth of Babes
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Spire of the Kobolds
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/03/2019 08:18:48

This adventure for 1st-2nd level characters opens with the standard overview of the history of the land (in case you've picked up the adventure without looking at any other Odysseys and Overlords material) and then gives a brief note about the background to the adventure. It's designed to toss the party straight into the action when they are in some wild country called the Untamed Gauntlet.

Interestingly, the party has not been sent to the Spire, a known but mysterious landmark in the Untamed Gauntlet - the intention is that they are going elsewhere when they notice activity there and presumably decide to investigate. In case they don't, there's a kobold hunting party wandering around that might decide to have a go at them. From there it's into the Spire proper and a room-to-room description follows.

Two maps are provided, one for the GM and one for the players. They are nice and clear, but the only difference between them appears to be the room numbers (which the players don't get). The room descriptions are good, providing details of what's there along with stat blocks for who/whatever is in there - complete with checkboxes to mark off their hit points as they die, a neat addition - and relevant mechanics for any traps.

There's enough going on in this small space, with several of the kobolds potentially willing to interact rather than just fight to the death (although they mostly will, if not running away, should the party not be inclined to conversation. Overall, it's a nice introductory adventure that brings out the essence of the 'OSR' style of play.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Spire of the Kobolds
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Odysseys & Overlords Game Master's Guide
Publisher: Aegis Studios
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/28/2019 09:36:58

This opens with exactly the same overview of the background and current state of the setting as is to be found in the Player's Guide, along with the note that it designed to be used with The Basic Fantasy Role-playing Game ruleset, but that any OSR rules will do. There's also mention that this is for the Game Master and that although they will need to consult the Player's Guide occasionally, this will be their main reference.

The first topic to be explored is encounters, divided up into dungeon, wilderness and urban ones. The use of random tables is encouraged, which will of course be different depending on which environment you are in... indeed, you may well find it useful to construct several for different places in each environment type, as well as according to party level, time of day (at least, when outside) and the like. There are plenty here to be going on with, complete with explanations of what each list entry signifies. From this, we move on to how to create a group of NPCs, including adventuring parties, brigands/bandits, pirates and all manner of undesirables as well as groups of merchants, nobles and pilgrims. Some might be friendly, but that's rather brushed aside as "making things too easy for the players"! This includes allocation of magic items and using non-humans.

Next comes a section entitled Dealing with Players. This begins with how to deal with players who don't like the statistics they've rolled for their character then moves on to the acquisition of spells including how clerics may be limited according to the deity they revere and how magic-users gain their spells. Also touched upon is what happens if a character uses armour or weapons that are 'prohibited' for them. There's a fair bit of discussion of advancement and how to deal with character death as well. We then move on to magical research with plenty on creating new spells or magic items as well as enchanting weapons.

This is followed by advice on how to create adventures, beginning with that classic, the dungeon adventure. The first thing to decide is why they party wants to go into a dungeon in the first place. (I remember asking that the very first game of D&D I played... the rest of the party had no real answer for me - might have helped if they'd read this!) Once you've decided why they are going there, decide where 'there' is, decide what monsters to use and draw a map. Then 'stock' the dungeon - assigning contents (including monsters) to each room, not forgetting puzzles and traps as well as monsters to kill and treasures to loot. Some sample traps are provided. Wilderness adventures then get a similar treatment, with an area map rather than a detailed floor plan, and this leads neatly into strongholds, as those might be found in the wilderness. This discussion includes building costs (maybe your party wants to construct a base) and a note that a stronghold might have a dungeon underneath it, as well as a few notes on laying siege to the place. In some ways it's all very basic and obvious, but if you are new to GMing could prove invaluable.

Next up, Monsters. There are notes on how they are described, and then a selection of them (including plenty of dragons!) ready for you to use. Some are sentient, like gnomes or giants, others are of animal intelligence or lower, like the gelatinous cube. Of course some, like ghosts, are undead, and lycanthropy is also covered.

Monsters dealt with, the discussion moves on Treasure. Plenty of charts to help you determine what there is to loot... and a section on using magic items once you have laid hands on them. Lists of magic armour, magic weapons, potions, scrolls, rings and other items follow, covering what they do and what benefits (or otherwise, if they are cursed) they confer.

Finally, there are thumbnail sketches of various kingdoms and other lands within the setting. I'm crying out for a map here... although this book is well-illustrated I like a map to get oriented! The descriptions are good, though, bringing each polity into vivid life.

This work provides a wealth of basic material to set you off on a path to running effective adventures. Whilst much work remains to be done, the scaffolding is here to aid you in developing places and adventures to happen in them. Have fun!



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Odysseys & Overlords Game Master's Guide
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AM8: Kromosome Game
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Megan R. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/27/2019 08:49:12

This 'universe book' for Amazing Engine opens with the complete core ruleset as described in the Amazing Engine System Guide (so you don't need to buy that) and so can be regarded as a complete game. You do, however, have to create a Player Core if you don't already have one before making your Player Character - the Player Core is a high-level overview of the type of character you prefer to play (the assumption being that you go for the same type all the time and irrespective of setting) which allows you, for example, to transfer experience between your characters in different universes (as defined by the various universe books)... even though you cannot actually transfer an entire character from one universe to another.

The remainder of the book, the actual setting or 'universe' part, is made up of two parts. One, marked 'Players' (but GMs need to read it as well) covers common knowledge about the setting, character creation, equipment, and the game mechanics pertaining to combat and net-running. The second part, for Game Masters only, provides notes on the sorts of campaigns and adventures you can run, talks about the various power groups involved, and has a collection of NPCs (including AIs), as well as sample locations.

The notes on the setting present a confusing picture of a world beset by many problems yet with great potential for progress. Much of the world as we know it is decaying and collapsing, automation taking over, plagues rampant, economic warfare wreaking havoc, and ecosystems collapsing. Terrorist action introduced computer viruses into the banking system that brought it down. Genetic manipulation and implantation technology twist the very basis of nature. Glimmers of hope include AIs taking over governance (surely they'll do a better job that politicians!), raw materials flowing in from the asteroid belt, and electronic communities restoring communications between people. The player-characters are supposed to be part of a microcorporation attempting to survive amidst the turmoil, troubleshooters seeking to overturn dystopia and restore hope for a future fair to all.

There's a lot of information to take in, but it paints a vivid picture of a dystopian future. The netrunning rules are particularly impressive, with a wide array of options and a slick system for dealing with hacking and online combat. The GM section includes loads of adventure ideas, but they'll need to be developed into a fullscale scenario before use.

It all makes for an exciting world in which to adventure...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
AM8: Kromosome Game
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