Mar 012013
 

1845710[1]By Shorty Monster

As a lot of my audience will know, this blog is set to start actually making me some money soon. Well, to be clear, not the blog per se, just the fact that I have built up an audience that includes a few people willing to pay a little bit for some of my writing. That being said, I still lack the kind of money that will allow me to go in on kickstarters that look amazing. What I do have though, is the aforementioned audience, and a willingness to tell every last one of you how much I like a product when I come across something that’s this rad (yes, I’m taking that word back from the late eighties).

Today then it’s time to turn our attention to Modiphius. A company that dropped onto my radar with two very intriguing words; Achtung! Cthulhu. Although I’m not a big Second World War aficionado, my interest running to military conflicts considerably earlier than that, I am a huge fan of horror gaming. That means that not being a fan of everything Lovecraftian would be a bit if a sin. So I had to take a closer look at this Kickstarter, and the whole line up of products. Before we get into the review, I want you all to head on over and check out the kickstarter. It’s already funded, so you know you’re going to get something out of it, and the rate they’re nailing stretch goals means that for putting up a bit more cash, you’re going to get some pretty sweet loot out of it. Are you back? How cool is all that swag? And now, on to the review.

Three Kings is the first of the Zero Point adventures, and apart from needing a core rule book, you have everything required to play the adventure within its pages. I personally have the the Call of Cthulhu version, although it is available for other systems, notably Savage Worlds and Trail of Cthulhu. All of this is a very good idea, as it quickly became clear that for most people, the game will be a lot more action oriented than the slow, more cerebral investigations CoC players may be used to. The fact that it’s set during one of the largest – and most defining – conflicts of the twentieth century should give you an idea that more than a slight tussle in a library might break out. Having read the adventure cover to cover though, this never takes away from the unknowable dread that marks out Lovecraftian horror games from the rest of the crowd.

The layout and art style used for this adventure are beyond beautiful; with cryptic messages scrawled into the margins and beneath some truly splendid maps, the care attention to detail shines through with even the most cursory of reads. As you get under the skin of the adventure, this obvious love of the source material – both Mythos based and inspired by actual stories of WWII – shines through. Time is taken to talk about the real life heroes of the war, and the deprivations of its worst villains. All this while keeping the story firmly grounded in the horror I’d expect from a product with the word Cthulhu on the cover.

The adventure itself is a well written narrative chain of events, without ever making the players feel railroaded into following a plot thread that wouldn’t make sense to them. From the beginning, the writer – Sarah Newton – takes the time to set up three ways for the adventure to begin, meaning that the players control just how combat/investigation heavy the plot will start out as. Sure, it’s likely to involve a bit more combat than I’d expect in CoC game, but even the more cerebral parties should have no problem circumventing a lot of conflict if they choose to do so. At several points throughout, it is made clear that the players should be allowed to dictate pace and mood to a certain degree, with the Keeper being told to go along with any reasonably well thought out solution that the Investigators come up. This should be a lot more common in published adventures, as it does a great job of empowering the players.

6844859-300x220[1]Although the investigators are free to generate their own characters, there is a selection in the back of the book that are better suited to a more military themed game, and I would advise Keepers to utilize them, at lest if they are relatively inexperienced with running CoC games. The other handouts are superb too. The maps and dossier that are available are of very high quality, and would help bring this game of espionage to life.

In conclusion, this is a cracking adventure, and really makes me itch to get a group together to play it. The following adventures in this series have already made their way to my wish list, and the addition of the keeper and Investigator guides would be ideal, as they then open up this wonderful world for groups to explore at their own pace, with stories created just for them. All in all, this is very highly recommended, and if you have the means, you should get on the Kickstarter while you have the chance.

Achtung! Cthulhu. Zero point Adventure: Three Kings is available from:

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Oct 062012
 

101161[1]By Thilo Graf

This pdf from White Haired Man is 34 pages long, 1 page front cover, 1 page blank inside the front cover, 1 page editorial/SRD, 1 page sketch token concept art, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving 28 pages of content, so let’s check this out!

The Kith’takharos-region is the mini-setting of White Haired Man and is essentially a trading post in an inhospitable swamp that lives off the sales off rare swamp plants. The adventure begins with the PCs arriving in the region and has the local arm of the law, Dorian Orsolova, explain the local laws to them – the few that exist, that is. One of them, e.g. is “Murder or attempted murder without fair cause is illegal”. While adventurer-friendly, this law in particular makes clear that Kith’takharos is anything but a safe place to be. It should be noted that some maps are provided of the overall region and the village, unfortunately with a map-key (letters and numbers), the bane of my existence.

After the PCs have somewhat gotten used to the used environment, they get to listen to an old man’s rather long and interesting narrative and the get a job offer.

This being an adventure-review, the following paragraphs contain SPOILERS. Potential players may wish to jump to the conclusion.

Still here? All right! The PCs encounter a new contact, a man called Meryl Dunestal who works for one of the factions, the rather unscrupulous Transit Guild which negotiates and is a partner and rival for power of the Order of Jade Leaves. Meryl want the PCs to locate a missing man named Almus, who essentially was operating outside Kith’takharos’ law on behalf of the guild. Locating him, his route and whatever he has learned is the PC’s task. Boarding a skiff, they set out through the marshlands and hopefully avert the attack of the local rather deadly member of the wildlife in the form of a giant lizard at the locale of Almus’ boat. After following the trail, the PCs will have an encounter with the Swamp Men, a type of Lizardfolk that is not necessarily hostile and follow the trail to one of the scarce freshwater springs in the marshland.

There, the rare F’maso plant grows (which btw. gets its own b/w-artwork and might be interesting to the guilds) and the trail runs cold in a splatter of blood and signs of conflict – a swamp man-skeleton draped to a tree serves as another grim warning and then the PCs find an old temple, including a bloodied altar in the jungle. It should be noticed that the old temple comes with a player-friendly version of the map – commendable and something I’d love to see in more adventures. The exploration of the temple is neat – the players have to fight blood mosquito swarms and finally defeat a cultist of a dark god. It should be noted that both the swarm and the cultist come with rather extensive text to paraphrase to your players. Unfortunately, though, not all is well here: In one room, the PCs have to make ref-saves to balance (something usually done via acrobatics-checks in PFRPG) and in another room, there’s a 50% chance that the PCs get damaged by cold damage – a rather strange and clunky mechanic that is not per se conform with design standards. And then there’s the Blood Priest’s magic item: The staff is a quarterstaff +2, grants +3 to saves and enables the user to share pain thrice per day: I.e. for some rounds, an opponent takes the same damage the wielder does on a failed will save. This is the reward for a LEVEL 1 ADVENTURE! NO EFFIN’ WAY! First “Crypt of the Sun Lord” and now this one – for the challenges this adventure has for the PCs, the reward is utterly off the charts! A Ring of protection +3, e.g. is the equivalent of 18.000 GP and this staff is BETTER. Oh, but the staff also lacks crafting information or the like. While the staff needs to be activated via a gruesome sacrifice, this is STILL a very potent item and less scrupulous PCs will actively look for an NPC that is vile enough to warrant sacrifice. I’d encourage any DM to let this item vanish once the dark priest is vanquished, lest it tempt all but the good adventurers.

Upon their return, the adventure concludes with some suggestions for following up adventures and even a potential conflict with the Jade Leaf or an improved standing with the Transit Guild. Resourceful PCs could smell smuggling opportunities and should by now have a good idea of this mini-setting and its components.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, though some slightly awkward wordings sometimes disturb the otherwise nice flow of the long (players might get bored listening to that much text) narratives. Layout adheres to a rather printer-friendly, 2-column standard and comes with quite a bunch of artworks for several key-scenes and figures, which I quite frankly didn’t expect at this price-point. The pdf comes with bookmarks and the full color maps are neat – especially the player-friendly map is a nice bonus at this low price point. It should also be noted that the pdf is linked, so you can easily jump from paragraph to images etc. Kith’takharos is an interesting location and this adventure is a neat introduction to the locale that gets the players involved in the local politics. While the locale, narratives etc. are nice, it is obvious that this pdf is a first offering for PFRPG in that it breaks a couple of design-standards and mechanics, as mentioned in my review. Thus, in spite of an overall good presentation and ok exposition/writing, I’d settle for a verdict of 2.5 stars and round down, for a final verdict of 2 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.

Well Met in Kith’takharos is available from:

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Jul 272011
 

totemsofdead[1]By Tommy Brownell

I recently got a chance to take an advance look at Totems of the Dead by Gun Metal Games, makers of Interface Zero. Showing diversity in their publishing plans, Totems of the Dead is nothing at all like Interface Zero, which is a great cyberpunk setting for Savage Worlds. Totems of the Dead, on the other hand, is a swords and sorcery setting based on Native American myths and culture.
In addition to 14 different subcultures of humans, each with their own in-born Edges and Hindrances based off of their lifestyle, including Atlantean Outcasts (descendants of Atlantean rebels), Skadians (an expy for Vikings in the setting) and Grandfather Mountains Tribesmen (who begin with d6 in Climbing, due to their home region), there are also two completely new races: Feral Ones, who organize in packs and can quickly give into a berserker rage, and Skinwalkers, who can assume an animal form through the power of a Talisman.
A number of new Edges are included, among them combat manoeuvres like Pounce of the Jaguar (mechanically similar to a Wild Attack, but from a distance) and Wolf Pack Tactics, which can be beneficial for gang-up tactics. A new Leadership Edge will even allow other Leadership Edges to apply to animal allies.
An impressive seven new Legendary Edges will also be provided to round out the ranks.
And here is a sample character, a Feral One named Terk, who is a starting Seasoned character (default for the setting). I’m not going into HARD details about the new stuff because, well, buy the book for that stuff.
TERK
Agility d8
Smarts d6
Spirit d6
Strength d8
Vigor d6

Climbing d4
Fighting d10
Guts d6
Intimidation d6
Knowledge (Religion) d4
Notice d6
Swimming d4
Survival d6
Tracking d8

Charisma: 0
Pace: 6″
Parry: 7
Toughness: 5

Hindrances
Arrogant
Illiterate
Loyal
Outsider
Spartan (Poverty Hindrance)
Vengeful (Minor)

Edges
Berserk (Berserk Edge)
Keen Senses (+2 Notice)
Mark of the Warrior (+2 to Intimidation and Taunt)
Pounce of the Jaguar (Wild Attack at half-Pace range)
Survival Instinct (d6 in Tracking and Survival)
War Cry (Free Intimidation roll in Combat)

Next time, we’ll take a look at the magic system in the book, and I’ll bash out a magic-using character to go with it.

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May 292011
 

91669[1]By KImberly Moser

The Path of Kane by Pinnacle Entertainment Group is part of the Savage World campaign setting which is based on the work of Robert Howard. This particular product is 225 pages of adventure goodness. The aesthetics of the work are beautiful. The typesetting and graphic design are bold and endearing. The artwork is brilliantly selected – it is raw and untamed which reflects the setting.

The Path of Kane is a collection of tales which are plot point adventures. These are insertable into the Savage Worlds campaign without upsetting the balance of play or interfering too greatly with the broad tasks the DM may be broiling for the players. The book is separated into seven distinct sections: The Table of Contents/Prologue, Introduction, Europe, The Dark Continent, The New World, Cathay and the Orient, and the Index.

The table of contents is clearly laid out and easy to use. This is followed by a short two page prologue introducing the reader to the setting by relating a short story based in the Savage World. It is dark, hopeful and fatalistic. This was a very good flavour piece and was very well written.

The introduction explains how to use the material found in the product and describes the chronology the Savage Worlds campaign is based upon. It also introduces game masters to the history based portion of the background and encourages outside reading to increase understanding of the culture and setting on which the game is based. The introduction also discusses the adventure links and rumours included within many of the adventures. Adventure links are common elements that some adventures may have – though each adventure is designed to stand on its own. Rumours are sidebars that seed to other adventures or are simply gossip that may be gleaned on the streets.

The next four chapters are the actual adventures. They are set in Europe, The Dark Continent, the New World, Cathay and the Orient. Each particular section begins with a wide overview of the continent and then within each chapter are smaller divisions for a few countries or cities of note. Superstitions and culture points are offset from the regular text in boxes similar to rumours and adventure links.

The actual adventures are about three pages in length and are cut and dried instructions about who the PCs are to meet, their tasks and the crunchy bits each bad guy or monster has to invoke. Within the text, set off in boxes, are special notes, artefacts or adventure maps. Everything needed for the scene is provided. The plots are straightforward, go in – kill this person and everyone around him and another mark is erased from your soul and redemption gets one step closer. These are the bulk of the product and run for 214 pages.

The index is surprisingly thorough and includes entries for the different countries, monsters, adventure links, rumours and artefacts. This part of the product is only a single page but is set in four columns.

The product is set after the Solomon Kane stories, so having read the books is not a hindrance. In fact it could help as it gives a deeper understanding of the setting and the drive for redemption. The product does not provide much in the way of story flavour and it will take a skilled game master to evoke the proper mood. This one negative I found in the product. The game master is instructed on the bare minimum for each adventure. This becomes very formulaic and one adventure reads much like the next and the next and so on. The voice in the writing was more like an instruction manual rather than a gaming guide. It would be nice to have a little more ‘show’ and not all ‘tell’.

This is a very nice product and is definitely in-line with the core book. With just the core book and this product I am confident a Savage Worlds campaign will thrive for many months maybe even years. I give this an eight out of ten stars (or four out of five). This is a solid, well-researched and thought provoking product and highly recommended.

The Path of Kane is available from:

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