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Dragon World Hack 0.4
Publisher: Star Line Publishing
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/11/2018 23:11:12

This book is a freeware variant on "Dungeon World", which in turn is part of the Apocalypse rule system. I haven't gotten to play this one yet but it looks mercifully simple and story-driven, with all of the necessary rules here but no specific setting. (That's meant to be sold separately, but you don't really need one just to fool around with a fantasy adventure.) It is somewhat simpler than the default DW rules, for instance because it ditches the vestigal "make D&D stats, derive modifiers, then mostly ignore the stats themselves" rule. Hit points are abstracted out, too. The rules in general are desgined around giving the players tough choices like, "Your fire breath hurts the enemies, doesn't hurt your friends, and doesn't cause collateral damage... pick two." Or even "pick one", if you roll poorly!

The character types are pretty similar to DW's, but with sillier descriptions (eg. Paladin becomes Shiny Paladin, with character traits like "fantasy armor with lots of crystals") and shorter, simpler sets of moves. There's also a rule system about gathering Clues and MacGuffins to defeat powerful foes, which is a substitute for the fact that nobody actually has hit points. So, again, the focus is on simplicity and storytelling. I see that as a good thing, mostly. It should be possible to pull in aspects of the full DW rules if you ever feel like adding their more complex features like the design of villain organizations.

This book seems like both a good intro to DW itself, and a fun system to play in its own right. Looking forward to either.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dragon World Hack 0.4
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It's Not My Fault! (A Fate Accelerated Character & Situation Generator)
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/21/2018 13:53:01

(These comments apply to this product and to the "Fantastic" add-on.) I have now tried this product out twice: once to introduce a father and daughter as new players to the system, and once at a convention where around seven people wanted to play, some experienced with Fate. For the first group I threw together a simple battle using these cards, justified as part of an arena scenario. We stopped after the battle, but I later saw the father GMing a Fate session of his own. At the convention, we put together a scene where the heroes were being menaced by an evil priest and his Cage of Blood, as I tried to explain the system and use the cards to help people understand their characters. The players took to it quickly; the turning point came when the orc character decided he was going to "interrogate the lute" and spend a fate point to declare that it was capable of speech. We ended up putting on a fantasy death metal concert that led to a demon appearing in the mosh pit while our imp gadgeteer used a remarkably effective prince disguise to perform with the evil lute.

In other words, this product let my groups put together some fun little scenarios on the fly and introduce new players to the system easily. My only regret here is that I should have bought the actual printed cards, rather than trying to save by doing print-and-play (which ended up being more trouble than the savings were worth).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
It's Not My Fault! (A Fate Accelerated Character & Situation Generator)
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The Book of Dragons
Publisher: Mongoose
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/06/2018 23:19:31

Full of interesting ideas about how a dragon can be the center of a campaign rather than just a powerful monster. You can treat its territory as a set of concentric zones run by oppressed peasants, monsters or magical forces, and turn a dragon-hunt into an attempt to stealthily get past the hazards created by its magic and cunning. There are even tables suggesting how the dragon's minions can react to various events and alerts, and there's info on how to roleplay a Bilbo-like encounter of riddles and groveling and how to design a dragon lair as something more planned-out than a simple cave. This book helped inspire a writing project of my own.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Book of Dragons
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Ponyfinder - Mining to the Sky
Publisher: Silver Games LLC
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/18/2016 00:02:19

I was expecting something like Paizo's standard Pathfinder Society adventure writeups, which present specific context for the setting, a mildly interesting quest-giver, some other hook, and a statement of the expected party level (not just on the product's Web page). Instead, we get some phrasing that seems both vague and awkward. For instance, before the quest begins there's this description of what you did after it:

"Damage to the site is to be avoided at all costs, though any trinkets you spotted in the course of clearing it out was yours to have. If you claim something and don’t want it, they will pay top rate (55% instead of 50% of market value) for, provided it came from this place in particular." (sic)

The premise of the adventure is that the PCs have been hired to clear out a probably-dangerous dig site for archeologists. How was this site found? Passive voice just says it "was thought to be a gentle hill", so there's no interesting backstory. Who's hiring the PCs? It's "the hirers", so there's no Paizo-style cue to help set the scene. Late in the adventure there is a named NPC who was one of these employers the PCs might've met, so if I were running this I'd revise it to present her in scene one to give the players a named contact with a personality of sorts.

It's also odd that these archeologists don't care if the PCs loot the place for valuables, which seems like it defeats the purpose. The oddity could've been fixed with some talk about "you can keep stuff after you let us examine everything you found!" All the more reason to give us an NPC for the players to talk to.

The PCs get attacked by bandits, who have claw attacks despite being ponies and not having any claw-like weapons. Are they connected to the endgame? I have no idea from reading the adventure. If they are, I don't see how, and if not, what are they doing there? When did they show up? It's a missed roleplaying opportunity that could involve bluffing and backstabbing, if given an explanation.

I feel this adventure needed another round of proofreading and some rethinking of its logic. Some of these problems would be simple to fix.

The positive aspects? It's nice to see Ponyfinder content. I do like that there's a special rule in play here (trying to limit collateral damage) and an encounter with something probably non-hostile. There's an event at the end that presumably leads to other adventures, though we're not given adventure seeds for what those might be and it says something about Everglow's history that may make players say "wait, this is canon?" You may find that good or bad.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Ponyfinder - Mining to the Sky
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Creator Reply:
Hello there, Thanks for the review! The entirely invalid rend has been fixed to require 2 hoof strikes instead of 2 claw strikes, that they don't even have. As for the 'is this canon?' part, grab Forgotten Past for more details on those things that I will not go into detail for sake of spoilers. Thanks again for the feedback, and happy adventuring.
The Truce 2D10
Publisher: Mystic Ages Publishing
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/21/2016 23:10:39

With a single page A whole conflict and a town Worth hours of fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Truce 2D10
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Nest • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/26/2016 00:59:41

A fun premise with three memorable villains and independently, three styles and three major quest areas, to produce substantially different campaigns. Two of the possible villains have a twist that could lead to a reconciliation in the end, while the third could easily spill over into Earth. Learning exactly what these villains are, along with the nature of their minions, is a significant part of the game that can give the heroes an advantage.

The character advancement system works a little differently than standard Fate, with milestones based on events like taking severe injuries or scoring a substantial blow against the Enemy. The setting has a "Neverending Story" feel, which is a good thing. No maps, but there's a detailed description of a key Enemy base and some NPCs who are usually the world's villains but might become allies. A sort of threat meter suggests how to raise the level of each new encounter based on a storyteller's sense of rising tension and the common sense of the enemies being more on alert if you defeat them by force.

One thing to note here is that the setting is arranged for one specific campaign -- a group of former heroes being pulled back to fantasy-land to fight a new threat -- and doesn't lend itself well to an introductory, one-session adventure. Unless you make one up for the people that the main game's PCs used to be!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Nest • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Stars over Landria Contract
Publisher: Weapons Grade Funk
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/25/2016 17:41:22

Haven't actually played/run this yet, but I'd like to. This book is a straightforward adventure to get a thing and get out in a hurry, of course with something going wrong along the way. (Looks like it was inspired by Vernor Vinge, which is a good thing.) I had to flip around in it to figure out where everything was -- room tags like "A1" might have helped -- but otherwise it's laid out well. The writer spells out alternate endings, a red herring, and ways to blackmail your employer or tie this story into a larger plot, and those things are marked with convenient icons. So, this adventure would work well as a one-shot or as part of a campaign. It's also written to work as an intro to the game, partly because of how the payment works: "Here, borrow this starter equipment and you can buy it at half price afterward if you want." (That, and it doesn't rely on knowing a lot about the setting in advance.) A good adventure at a low price.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stars over Landria Contract
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Deep Dark Blue • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/24/2016 21:16:52

The good: This short book contains interesting mechanics for applying undersea exploration and combat to Fate. There are rules for various types of submarine and how to treat damage in terms of conditions (specific problems like damaged life support) rather than consequences or generic stress. There are three pages of write-ups for several locations in a near-future setting where ocean mining and undersea bases are common. I like the suggested skill list as a good starting point for science-fiction Fate in general. The book also has interesting rules for applying teamwork/morale to a crew's performance, which encourages the character interaction that makes a ship-based SF story like Firefly or Star Trek so interesting.

The bad: There's not a whole lot of material to go on, either in terms of "fluff" or "crunch". For instance, we get lists of specific damage conditions, but the rules for the rest of sub combat are half a page long. Combat aboard subs gets two paragraphs and a nice illustration. No suggested seabase/sub layouts even in the deliberately vague Fate style. There's basically two pages of setting backstory and three about specific sites. To use this book I'd need to do most of the work in designing the setting.

The character writeups and sample adventure deserve special mention. There are six pages devoted to a sample crew of six, not counting two more half-page illustrations. The adventure is eleven pages long, of which seven pages are also full-page character sheets consisting half of illustrations. This total means that most of the sample adventure and a large share of the whole book is just a list of characters -- which your players won't want to play as, since they typically like making their own. I would have liked, say, another three pages about places to go and things to see at the cost of losing some sample crewmembers, cramming two descriptions onto a page without pictures, or taking the D&D/Pathfinder route and describing a few people in terms like "5th level Lawful Good paladin of Soandso".

Are these really great characters, then? No, there's a weird focus on filling in diversity checkboxes. The adventure's villains are a white man, a white woman, and a maybe-white man. The heroes are a Hispanic woman, a Hispanic man, a biracial man (explicitly stated for two of them because it's important, apparently) and a "petite, nonbinary-identified person who uses they/them pronouns". The sample crew is also diversity-focused, including an Asian woman (?) in a wheelchair. Trifecta! Now, Fate rules are about having interesting character aspects that can be good or bad, so this last lady has an aspect like "Wheelchair-Bound", right? Nope, it's nowhere on the character sheet. So either the writer and artist didn't talk, or somebody said, "We must promote maximum political correctness by including a differently-abled person where this has zero effect on their physically demanding job in a confined space!" If you're going to have characters' tribal identity and appearance be so prominent, write that into the setting and mechanics like an RPG like "World Tree" or "Hc Svnt Dracones". Instead, this kind of design goes beyond inclusive into just plain silly.

So, there's some merit to the book, and it's cheap, but you could also get much of the benefit just from looking at the Fate System Toolkit (free online).



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Dark Blue • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Mini Six: Bare Bones Edition
Publisher: AntiPaladin Games
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/16/2015 21:47:07

A good, simple game system, with the actual rules taking up only a few pages and most of the rest being devoted to rules variants, creatures, and sample settings. I like rules that are easy to learn and focus on roleplaying rather than detailed dice mechanics, and that's what you get here. Particularly good for pick-up games at conventions where players won't already know how to play.

Roughly: You have four stats measured in how many D6s you roll; skills are each some stat plus extra D6s representing the specialty; most rolls are just (Skill)D6 vs. target number. Damage works in an interesting way by imposing increasing penalties (similar to White Wolf's system) rather than having hit points. Instead of having an elaborate system for balancing disadvantages, Mini Six just offers suggested disadvantages and says you get experience bonuses whenever they make your life harder. Good idea.

Optional rules include suggestions for handling vehicles and magic, a clever way of handling size differences in combat, and ways of making this system more like the full OpenD6 system if you want. For me, OpenD6 is as complex as D20 without the virtue of being well supported, but at least the option is out there. The sample settings give good examples of how to recreate those space wars movies, the TV show with the firefly, a campy 70s cop show, and a sort of Lovecraft / Victorian ghost-busting campaign, plus a standard fantasy setting. These sample settings also have their own specialized rules to inspire you, like ways of handling small races or in-system space travel.

The rules for when the different types of defense rating are applicable could be a bit clearer, and the book's brevity makes me wish for more examples, but it's simple enough to work well without much explanation.

Glad to see it available again! I even wrote a PDF supplement for a fantasy setting of my own, inspired by the 2-4 page style of this book's.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Mini Six: Bare Bones Edition
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Ponyfinder - Tower of Misery
Publisher: Silver Games LLC
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/28/2015 01:46:21

I ran an adaptation of this with Fate Accelerated Edition rules, with three players, and they enjoyed it. (My bias is toward rules-light systems.) My impression is that it's a decent Pathfinder-style adventure, similar to Paizo's "Master of the Fallen Fortress": a standard dungeon crawl with an obvious goal, a few battles, and various rooms to loot. It's also nice to see it laid out as a structure that someone actually used, as opposed to a maze seemingly designed just to challenge adventurers.

What I don't like is that for me, there was nothing that made me think, "Everglow is a unique and interesting fantasy setting I should buy the book for," or even "That one cartoon lends itself well to a tabletop RPG adventure". The only real nod to the fact that the PCs are ponies is an area with a low ceiling, which might matter. The fact that your PCs might have wings for skipping to the upper floor isn't addressed. In fact, I don't see a mention in there of what species the tower's owner and his friends were; were they ponies or what? Does it matter? So, the adventure doesn't hook me the way it was probably meant to do, but you may still enjoy it.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Ponyfinder - Tower of Misery
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The Compass of Celestial Directions, Vol. VI - Autochthonia [SUBSCRIPTION]
Publisher: White Wolf
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/11/2011 14:43:56

(Based on reading parts 1 and 2, those available so far.)

This is great setting material. At least these parts are not endless flow-charts showing what powers you can get, but descriptions of dangerous places to go adventuring and what life is like for people other than the Exalted. Autocthonia is a unique, frightening setting where magitech cyborg champions of warring communist dystopias battle each other, and horrible robo-cancer monsters, inside the planet-size body of a dying machine god.

What you get in this product is detail that fleshes out the Eight Nations as interesting places facing various levels of doom. There's enough detail that even a mortal-level campaign would be interesting. The obvious thing to do with this setting is to wage a campaign that opens a gateway to Creation, the main Exalted setting, so the book gives several ways that could happen and describes who would immediately backstab who in the process. In other words there's enough information to make this setting playable in its own right, even before contact with Creation.

You're going to want the "Alchemicals" book as well to talk about the basics of this world and its unique Exalted type. You could adapt this material to an Exalted or other game, though, so long as you know the general concepts. (Eg. five Alchemical castes based on the magic materials; steampunk-themed Charms that can be installed and removed easily; no Great Curse but Dr. Manhattan-style "Clarity" and the chance of getting infectious evil "Dissonance"; defined role as champions of the people rather than rulers. There; you know what you need to know.)

What this product is missing is a map! Yes, the nations move, but why not attempt one anyway?



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Compass of Celestial Directions, Vol. VI - Autochthonia [SUBSCRIPTION]
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Savage Seas
Publisher: White Wolf
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/11/2011 14:29:49

I was hoping for a description of how to run a sea-based campaign in the world of Exalted, but was disappointed. Mainly what this is, is a description of ordinary sailing life as seen through the lens of Exalted. Eg. there's a bit about sea navigation when you have compasses that point toward the center of the world, and how sailors' superstitions are combined with actual negotiation with water spirits. And there are sections about the various naval forces of the world and a few NPCs, and stats for a few kinds of ships. But the close-to-reality sailing material seemed like filler that I could've looked up elsewhere, and there was nothing that stood out as being the basis for an adventure or a campaign.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Savage Seas
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Under the Rose
Publisher: White Wolf
by Kris S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/11/2011 14:24:24

I got this product and a Pathfinder sample adventure on the same day, and they're very different. Where the PFRPG scenario was basically a list of rooms and what monsters and items are in each, "Under the Rose" is more a list of cool things to put in an adventure. In a way that's bad, because there's no map or official series of encounters. But if you can use your imagination as a GM, you'll find some impressive ideas for spectacle, wonder and challenge for an adventure.

The trouble with this scenario is that it's a terrible intro to Exalted. You'll have no idea what's going on if you haven't read the game's convoluted backstory, and won't appreciate the importance of this incredibly powerful fortress you're raiding. And since the premise is that you're going there to take advantage of a massive terrorist attack (!) before the villain arrives, there's no time to actually use the cool stuff in the facility. Eg. there's a great library of war manned by reverent spirits, but you have no time to study.

This product would be most useful if you're already familiar with Exalted and want to use the Imperial Manse as part of a longer adventure culminating in the heroes taking it over. Otherwise, what's the point for giving detailed mass combat stats for the legions of elementals that the palace can launch to "rain unimaginable destruction on any or all points in Creation simultaneously"? It's all very over the top, but that's normal for Exalted. If you want an introductory adventure, try a fan-made work like "Forgotten Suns". But if you want a list of cool things to put into any RPG, you'll find that here. And you can't beat the price!



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Under the Rose
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