Caladon Falls by Vicky A. Beaver, Steve Dean, Curtis & Sarah Lyon. RPG reviewComments Off
Reviewed by I O’Reilly
“Caladon Falls” is a campaign setting that fits perfectly into the “Savage Suzerain” game line. Another well-crafted book standing at 148 pages and with the type of artwork and design that we’ve come to expect from the Savage Mojo studios. Like a lot of the “Suzerain” products this book is exciting and eager to encourage you into its world; one in which your Demi-God characters are this time everyday heroes from the fantasy world of Relic when it is plunged into a war.
Covering a few new races, some extra Edges and Hindrances more suitable to the fantasy world of Relic, you get the sense that Relic is probably the preferred de facto starting point for a “Savage Suzerain” campaign, before the game line launches you into the other realms of “Shanghai Vampocalypse” or “Noir Knights”. This particular campaign (the start of the War of the Wild cycle) takes your Demi-God characters up to at least Veteran or Heroic Rank, thus allowing you to start exploring the other Suzerain products with a bit more of a developed character.
As a campaign setting “Caladon Falls” is a pretty darn good fantasy setting, rich in flavour, closely modelled on a kind of European Dark Ages/Classical period (although I have a few quibbles about the naming conventions such as Penryth, Portagusta etc). The theme and the mood is well pitched too: the action kicks off straight away as Caladon is attacked by the ‘Warlocks of the Wild’ and the players are asked to get involved either as footsoldiers to the army, or as scouts, or messengers and guards. It’s nice to see a game which is unafraid of chucking the players into the middle of the narrative straight away, getting them hooked into the mechanics of the society from the word go.
The book as a whole is separated into two sections: ‘For Players’ and ‘For GM’s,’ with a nice fat campaign and a host of even more adventure ideas in the GM’s section under ‘Savage Tales’. The background material provided in the Players Section on each Noble House of Caladon, on the Church of the Trinity (the major religion of Caladon) and the history of Relic is nice, but I’d like to see more (and be willing to pay for it). More cults, religious and political groups, and a whole lot more information on the Trader Imperium would round the setting off well and give the GM’s a little more to get their teeth into.
On the whole, “Caladon Falls” is worth your money; just for the ideas and the setting if nothing else. It has a great mood and offers an interesting direction to take your campaigns in.
Shanghai Vampocalypse by Jennifer Brozek & Alan Bundock. RPG reviewComments Off
Reviewed by I O’Reilly
‘ “Shanghai Vampocalypse” is the kind of game that unfolds in layers like a mystical onion’
Okay, you got me already. Although, probably any game that uses the phrase ‘mystical onion’ is going to get my vote, so what else do we have to judge?
Vampires. Ancient martial arts. People with big farty guns.
Again, everything is ticking those little mental boxes loud and clear. “Shanghai Vampocalypse”, as you have probably guessed already does not try to take itself too seriously. Set in the “Suzerain” setting, where the characters play Demigods/astral heroes/defenders of reality who jump dimensions and time streams to combat nasty kinks in the reality-matrix-doodahd, you can see why. In this campaign setting we see our characters been plunged forward to an alternate Shanghai of circa 2058, where another evil Demigod is warping reality and trying to unleash a plague of nano-virus vampires on the world.
Given its wackiness, it’s the kind of setting and game that I would generally read through for inspiration but generally never play with a group. However, the enthusiasm the Suzerain team have got is definitely infectious. Helped along by the gorgeous artwork (every page is fully designed and illustrated), “Shanghai Vampocalyse” is the sort of game that grabs you by the ears and makes you interested.
The setting for the campaign is pretty well detailed too. The future Shanghai is set in a reality where the Cold War has ended and China has won. Half of the planet is apparently a war torn waste, and the powers that be have created mutant ‘nano-virus’ soldiers who, unsurprisingly, have managed to escape their cages and their duties. These are the super-fast “Twenty-Eight Days” sort of vampires, not the Bela Lugosi ones (although that might have been a whole lot funnier). As a campaign setting the book is beefed out with some more Edges and Hindrances (as its based on the Savage Mojo System), and a bucketful of extra encounters and NPC’s to play with.
Some of the best pieces of the book once again are the Savage Tales (as in the “Savage Suzerain” core); useful mini-adventures, NPC’s and fillers to either flesh out the main plot point Vampocalypse campaign or to chuck into your Suzerain dimension-hopping game. The only problems I have with the book is that it’s remit is almost too limited. At times it feels like “Shanghai Vampocalypse” is attempting to be the ‘Sci Fi’ Suzerain setting, but it sadly doesn’t provide enough in terms of Edges, Hindrances and tech to qualify. It has some nifty ideas on nano-technology which could be expanded a whole lot more; for example the Gripswarm idea is brilliant but how about a nano-swarm that added armour? Metallized natural weaponry? My other gripe is that is doesn’t have in depth maps, and when we’re talking futuristic cities and laboratory installations and military checkpoints, I would have loved to see some sample hex maps.
On the whole, “Shanghai Vampocalypse” is a brilliant campaign supplement, and worth the money. A bag of ideas and encounters that could keep your players happy until well after they’ve run through the campaign, but could do with a little expansion.
Savage Suzerain by Zach Welhouse & Alan Bundock. RPG reviewComments Off
Reviewed by I O’Reilly
Savage Suzerain is Savage Mojo’s introduction of the Suzerain setting for the Savage Worlds Multiverse, introducing a new rank for Character development: ‘Demigod’ and a whole bucketful of new Edges, encounters, rules and ideas.
The idea of playing the Super-character has now become one of the modern favourites in RPG’s, with games like ‘Exalted’ and ‘Nobili’s proving ever popular. Are you tired of waiting months for your gutter thief to be able to cut it as a Master Assassin? Or your Thrud the Barbarian has to wade through mountains of Kobolds before they even get near beating a dragon? Well, Suzerain chucks your character’s in at the top level: you start as Demigod’s or are a “Pantheon in the Making”. You have some sort of connection to your divinity (called your Telesmae), and as you meter out Justice you can be plucked from your daily reality and sent off to new worlds, alternate dimensions and new game universes at the behest of your Gods.
Suzerain uses the Savage World’s rules system, so for starter’s you’ll need a copy of Savage Worlds in order to play, but the book also manages to give its own unique take on the system by introducing several new features. It tweaks the Savage rules a little to make them more in keeping with its high-powered setting (expanding the Fatigue Boxes and adding a ‘Debilitated’ condition), as well as giving the Demigod characters a d8 Wild Die and improved Soak roles. This coupled with the new Edges that your character can take on at demigod Rank looks good for some more serious action in-game.
One of the things I enjoyed most from Suzerain was the new Setting: describing the Maelstrom (the realms in between the dimensions), the rules for navigating it, as well as the description of all the possible God Realms that your characters could end up in. Alongside this, and possibly the best feature of the whole book are the ideas for running games that include time travel and inter-dimensional portal hopping. Suzerain suggests that your characters ‘work up’ from Legendary or Heroic rank, before they start playing with inter-dimensional forces, which adds a neat twist to what you could do with very powerful characters from other Savage Worlds Campaigns.
The latter half of the book includes detailed campaign and plot point settings; ‘Savage Tales’ which you can guide your characters through, and use as fillers for a Savage Campaign. Based on the ‘Relic’ setting these Tales are probably the best developed and described bits of the whole book, providing a good blend of history, background, interesting NPC’s and action to keep the players busy.
The artwork and the layout to Savage Suzerain is sumptuous throughout, vibrant and rich in colour and evocative of the super-powered setting. The actual writing of the book is refreshingly optimistic, at a time when a lot of RPG’s attempt to be ‘gritty’ or cynical, with Suzerain you can hear the enthusiasm that the team obviously had for their project clearly reflecting in every paragraph.
On the whole, I think Savage Suzerain is pure brain-fodder for any epic fantasy GM. It manages to add some interesting tweaks to the original Savage Worlds rules, and offers a lot of interesting material to spice up your campaign (especially if your players are beginning to get super powerful, and under-matched by their opponents). A small quibble I would have about the game is that whilst it claims to be usable for any setting, the new Edges and Pulse Paths do not seem to gel as readily with the Modern, Scifi or Super’s setting as it does for Fantasy, but if you intend using it alongside a fantasy campaign then I would say it adds a fresh and innovative direction for Savage Worlds.
The Random Esoteric Creature Generator by James Edward Raggi IV. RPG reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Patrick Henry Downs
The Random Esoteric Creature Generator is a very slim 32-page volume, easy to pass over on a shelf, but with every page packed with concise information and helpful advice you may find yourself wondering how it never existed before now. The book is designed to help you create a unique monster using an assortment of attractively laid out tables and descriptions. The book starts with a simple introduction and mission statement of shaking things up at the gaming table, and of reintroducing mystery and fear to players. The final five pages are an author’s essay of advice on how to use the book with some illuminating suggestions about how to present your creations to the players of your gaming group. Everything is generic enough to be applied to any gaming system, which might sound intimidating for stat hungry GMs but it is actually the simplest resource I’ve ever used. The hardest part of using the book is switching what kind of dice you are rolling to flesh out your monster.
Allow me to illustrate the usefulness of this book by walking you through the creation of a creature using this book. The first roll involves the basic body type of the creature, my roll gives me a combination of biped and quadruped, much like a centaur it will walk on four limbs and have two additional limbs for manipulation. Next I determine the basic characteristics of the body. I end up with avian, or specifically vulture, a result which gives the creature a bonus to its armor and covers the body in feathers. Already we have a rather unusual monster! The next two tables determine size and movement. From my rolls I’ve determined this creature is human-sized and wall-crawling. The next roll is for the monster’s main method of attacking, which results in claw attacks. Nothing surprising there but with all of these results I’m envisioning a creature with very sharp talons that it uses to latch onto stone walls and these talons probably are the creature’s main attack. But we’re not done, next up is a distinctive features table which can give the monster a unique feel, and I end up with the result of boiling/steaming body. My creation doesn’t have a special attack method, which was also determined randomly, so the only thing left is to quantify the monsters combat tactics. Rolling on two tables, this creature will attack the least armored opponent and is parasitic, turning its victims into creatures like itself. However I’ve decided this doesn’t make any sense. This is where the book ends and my imagination as a GM comes into play. Putting it all together I’ve decided that my six-limbed vulture-creature with boiling blood won’t have a head, instead it lives through a psionic gestalt which it maintains by clawing an infectious and magical disease into it’s victims. People afflicted with the disease are slowly taken over by the parasite and become part of ‘the brain’ by which this creature thrives. I see players having to kill or cure the parasite’s hosts in order to truly destroy the creature itself. It looks like my monster doesn’t even need a special attack because with a little creative push this book has given me a terrifying monster that any player could easily underestimate.
This book is an invaluable and amazing resource. The only shortcoming is that the author does assume you are familiar with typical D&D terminology, it describes itself as systems neutral but makes references to armor class and hit dice. I think the format alone just assumes you’re playing some version or imitation of D&D that exists on the market, but the book is written generically enough that it could be used for any system. GURPS, L5R, Call of Cthulhu, Traveller, or even World of Darkness or Shadowrun, every GM’s favored system could use the information supplied by this supplement. The book is surprisingly enjoyable to use, it’s easy to read, and I can see myself using it for monsters in all of my games for the foreseeable future.
Mindjammer Press launches to provide a new home for MindjammerComments Off
Mindjammer returns! Mindjammer Press, a new roleplaying and fiction imprint, has announced its plans to publish the Mindjammer roleplaying game, the far future transhuman space opera setting, and fiction lines.
“This is a very exciting opportunity,” said Sarah Newton, owner of Mindjammer Press and author of the ENnie Award-winning setting and fiction line. “We’ve taken the decision to bring all the Mindjammer fiction and RPG projects under a single umbrella, to allow us to concentrate on producing the new second edition and its supplements, as well as future novels in the Mindjammer series. We’re looking forward to a regular release of products to support the Mindjammer setting and community, beginning this week with a re-launch of Mindjammer, the first novel in the series.”
Mindjammer Press’ plans for the setting include the immediate release of the Mindjammer novel, and the publication of Mindjammer: The Expansionary Era, the second edition Mindjammer core book, in spring 2013. The new edition will see vastly expanded content, new and detailed background material, and all new artwork, and will be fully compatible with the FATE 3 Core rules. It will be followed later in 2013 by the Solenine campaign pack, based on the setting for the first novel, a new and revamped Black Zone campaign, and Transcendence, the second novel in the Mindjammer series. Mindjammer Press plans 3-4 releases per year thereafter.
Sarah, who will be lead writer and production manager on the Mindjammer lines, concluded: “We’ve had a lot of material waiting in the wings for several years and, with the imminent launch of the FATE 3 Core rules, I can’t think of a better time to produce the second edition. We’re looking forward to providing the Mindjammer fans with an expanding line of transhuman space opera adventures, supplements, and fiction.”
Dungeon Crawl Classics by Joseph Goodman. RPG reviewComments Off
DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS RPG by Joseph Goodman. Goodman Games, £15.96 – pdf price on rpgnow.com
Reviewed by Patrick Henry Downs
The Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG is part of the Old School Renaissance. A game that doesn’t model itself on a previous system of Dungeons & Dragons but uses the concepts of modern D&D and manages to cut away the fat of the last thirty years, then adds seasoning and spices that evoke the flavors of playing a 1st edition AD&D game with a GM who loved using Judges’ Guild and other third party supplements wisely and judiciously. The DCC RPG assumes the reader has a working knowledge of RPGs and the conventions of modern D&D. As the author lays out the rules in each chapter he also includes explanations for why the rules are designed in such seemingly incongruous methods, which certainly helps a reader who might be confused about the subject matter, but the further you delve into the book the more you see that these methods are actually harmonious with the larger work.
During character creation a player randomly generates four 0-level characters along with a few meager items and copper pieces and it is assumed during the first adventure or two that you will gradually lose “extra” characters to death and misfortune. After reading the 0-level adventure included with the rulebook I can safely say it is a party killer. If the party of adventurers plows their way through the rooms aggressively looking for treasure and stomping on anything that gets in their way, they will all die. But if the characters are smart and wily, if they take their time and examine their surroundings, they can overcome the minions and traps of this small dungeon and temper themselves into budding adventurers. Not heroes, the tagline on the back cover makes that clear, moral ambiguity rides shotgun with the adventurers of this game.
The only other thing I will mention is the demons and devils. This game has them in spades. They are not only antagonists, but they are also included as potential allies for those characters willing to risk the corruption that comes along with making dark pacts to foul hellspawn. It’s refreshing to see a slick, big budget game that doesn’t try to soften or diminish the role that evil plays within a harsh, cruel world. In this way DCC RPG manages to remind me of Warhammer, and how alien and aloof the divine powers of that game could be.
The book itself is a lot of fun to read and the older style of artwork can tickle nostalgia as much as it can reignite the imagination. I don’t think this game will appeal to everyone. In my own gaming group the players are split down the middle with budding interest and dismissive ambivalence. I think anybody who gives this game a chance will find it to be a lot of wild and dark fun. I begrudgingly gave it a chance, and I’ve fallen in love with Dungeon Crawl Classics.
ACHTUNG! Cthulhu: Three Kings by Sarah Newton. RPG reviewComments Off
Reviewed By Steve Dean
As you might have guessed, this is an adventure for the Call Of Cthulhu rules, set in the days leading up to the second world war. As such it requires the 6th edition rulebook to play.
The plot revolves around the dastardly goings on inside Castle Karlstein, near Prague, in what was then Czechoslovakia. The players are sent to investigate the strange goings on, children disappearing and screams in the night from the Nazi occupied castle.
This is a standalone adventure, but links in with a planned series, creating a whole campaign. Everything you need to play is here, except the main rule book, of course. There is a decent amount of background material, historical references and such. This really adds to the flavour, but isn’t so much that it becomes over-powering. The author has certainly done her homework.
Otherwise, we have an introduction, the adventure itself, split into manageable episodes, the stats for allies and enemies, and some pre-generated characters so you can get stuck into play as soon as possible. There are also a few new rules to add to the fun, including a trio of new skills.
The adventure itself is varied and would suit the whole variety of Cthulhu characters. The players will need to deal with ordinary citizens, resistance fighters, soldiers, Nazi scientists and mad priests along the way, as well as stay alive without going bonkers.
There’s plenty of opportunity to link this adventure to your own, to customise it as you see fit, and to expand along either your own lines, or to continue with the future releases.
The presentation is very good, interesting and varied but always readable.
Overall then, don’t let the somewhat sensationalised title put you off, this is a professional and well-crafted adventure, one I’m sure will only gain in popularity as more modules and expansions are added.
Rifts:Path of the Storm by Matthew Clements. RPG supplement reviewComments Off
Reviewed by Steve Dean
Something different from Palladium this time, a film script, or movie screenplay if you prefer. It’s based on the Rifts RPG of course, and the material within could be used in a campaign of your own, pretty much scene for scene I would have thought.
David and Katie are playing in the woods near their house when a Rift opens and a shed load of angry demons pops through for some friendly maiming and killing. Their father is killed, and David becomes separated from his mum and sister.
Years later, and David is now a special forces soldier. During a raid, which goes horribly wrong, David is rescued by a group of magic users. It turns out they are hunting the same person, a nasty and very powerful mage. They team up, unofficially of course, and set off to hunt down the mage.
Although this is a script and therefore in screenplay format with minimal descriptions, I found it to be very readable. It has everything the reader needs to understand the story, and the rest is filled in by your imagination, which is how it should be.
Would it make a good film? I certainly think so, although, as it says in the introduction, funding is always a problem. I’m sure it would have a wider appeal than just Rifts fans, if only we could persuade the accountants that run the film industry that different is not a bad word. Maybe they could make it in CGI as per Beowolf.
I for one would certainly go and see it, and let’s face it, anything is better than yet another dreary, jelly-mould vampire franchise.
Romark Entertainment acquire film / TV rights to RPG SLA IndustriesComments Off
Romark Entertainment has acquired the film and television rights to the critically acclaimed role-playing game, SLA Industries, from publisher Nightfall Games. As part of the acquisition, Romark and SLA Industries creators Dave Allsop and Jared Earle are also announcing a partnership that will see the two sides come together under one banner to focus exclusively on the expansion of the 20-year running series into the comic book, video game and art worlds.
Independently released in 1993, SLA Industries is set in a futuristic dystopia where players, wielding advanced weaponry and arcane abilities, take on the roles of Operatives working for an omnipresent and ruthless corporation hellbent on controlling the universe. In the game, appearance, style and branding are emphasized just as much as combat, politics and subterfuge. After the overwhelming success of their first year on the market, the franchise was picked up by Magic: The Gathering creators, Wizards of the Coast, and was intended to be their follow up franchise before the focus at Wizards shifted away from role-playing games and into collectible card games. In 1997 Allsop and Earle reacquired the series from Wizards and returned to the independent market, releasing another 10 books over the following decade, and allowing SLA Industries to become one of the longest-running, and most resilient role-playing franchises in history.
For more information and links, visit the website, where news and other information will be presented as this venture progresses.
From RPG to books – Cubicle 7 FictionComments Off
“Having already conquered the world of roleplaying games, one of the most dynamic RPG publishers in Britain is now advancing into the world of fiction. Cubicle 7 is pleased to announce the launch of its new fiction imprint – Cubicle 7 Fiction. In cooperation with the established and successful Solaris and Abaddon Books imprints, Cubicle 7 Fiction will publish between three and five novels and anthologies a year based upon its terrific science fiction, fantasy, and speculative properties.
The first title is Sarah Newton’s far future adventure, Mindjammer. The novel and its universe can be explored at the new website HERE. Mindjammer has been released in ebook format, with a release of physical print edition to follow. Additional titles will be announced in the months to come.
Cubicle 7 has already earned a stellar reputation thanks to the quality of its RPG games, which range from aliens and trans-humans to vistas of a far-flung future and Steampunk dystopias peopled by Frankensteinian monsters. Its stable of imagination-fuelled intellectual properties has inspired and driven numerous roleplaying game lines.”