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Free RPG Day - Reviews


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#1 MDMann

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Posted 02 July 2009 - 01:13 AM

Well it's been a while, but I'm finally starting those reviews of ALL the products I received at FRPGD.  Just note, I've not played any of them due to time constraints, so that hasn't been evaluated.  I'll warn you some of this isn't pretty.
 

That said, I'll start with (everybody's favourite) Rogue Trader, Forsaken Bounty.  This review assumes some knowledge on the readers part on the RT universe and background (as I'm lazy). The others won't.
 

This is definitely the prettiest of the pieces on offer, with the most interesting artwork (and colour inserts) which really evoke the atmosphere.  We all know (here) what RT's about and this doesn't disappoint, with a smooth scenario that looks easy to run and is cross compatible with Dark Heresy.  You take on the role of a Rogue Trader a space buccaneer and merchant of opportunity and his trusted advisor's as they seek to salvage a valuable ship that went missing some time ago, to causes unknown.  The three pre-gen characters (a Rogue Trader, arch-militant and a seneschal) look solid, although this doesn't answer any questions on psychic careers and three isn't (nearly) enough for a demo.  This is addressed in the web supplement which provides two more characters, a missionary and a pilot.  These characters are more able than those in DH, being rank 3-5 with (much) better equipment, but are starting characters for RT.  A quick rules summary follows, which is quick and easy to read, with descriptions of the skills the PCs possess.  The short intro adventure follows, with a new (for DH) concept, Endeavours.  These work as plot hooks and goals, detailing how much wealth and renown (and therefore, influence and availability of cooler gubbins) the PC's possess.  Without giving too much of the plot away, you need to salvage a valuable vessel, lost in a dangerous area of space to unknown causes.  The reasons seem a touch contrived to have the RT personally attend the dangerous wreck once found, and the plot hooks are a touch wishy washy, but this does look a very good intro to the system with a few hints on how to expand the adventure.  It could have done with something to tie it in with DH, but it's understandable why the publishers (Fantasy Flight Games, with a license from Games Workshop) didn't.  It's nicely grim dark with plenty of opportunity to die horribly with a nice degree of pathos and humour.  I really like the look of this piece and give it:
 

5 out of 5 stars.
 

Needless to say, I'll doubtless purchase this when it comes out in full in August (I think).



#2 MDMann

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Posted 03 July 2009 - 01:03 AM

Well here comes review #2.

Heroes Handbook: Immortal Heroes is a D&D 4E supplement from Goodman Games.  It covers half the free book provided (Hearts of Chaos on the reverse covered next) and gives 9 new Epic destinies (character level 21 to 30) to use with 4E.  Three coupons (for use only on FRPGD) for Goodman Games products were also included, the middle one (with a die roll discount) was a good idea. The Destinies included are: Archfiend, Bladewind Dancer, Champion of Slaughter, Chosen of Mother Hyena, Knight of the Unfettered Path, Radiant Master, Sidhe, Winterheart Warlock and Wyrm Brother. Whilst the rules all seem to flow well, I have to say the new classes all struck me as uninspired and not very interesting.  There is no web supplement to this (a challenge to do I admit in this case) and I wasn't fond of the cover art (though it's OK). I don't think you need this to play your games and don't feel it adds over much to the setting. I will have to admit I've never player 4E (yet), but I (think I) hold no particular grudge against it, though I'm not fond of the high powered characters that this panders to, and can see some potential in the system, not least in furthering the spread of RPGs.

1 out of 5 stars.

I wouldn't purchase this, but it is totally free and had a few nice discounts.



#3 MDMann

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Posted 04 July 2009 - 01:38 PM

As promised here's review number 3:Hearts of Chaos.

This is an introductory adventure for Amethyst, by Dias Ex Machina, a campaign setting for D&D4E coming out this August. It's distributed by Goodman Games, and makes up the second half of their offering (on the reverse of Immortal Heroes) from Free RPG Day.
It essentially asks what would happen if magic (and elves, dwarfs, et al) returned to this world in the near future and was antithetical to technology? The time-line then skips forward a thousand or so years (with 80 - 90% of the earths original population wiped out), and the players have to deal with their world. The adventure (as is the core setting) is set in Canam (Canada/ America) near the Bastion of York (New York). Mankind has to choose between technology with electricity, automobiles, assault rifles and indoor plumbing and magic. Those who've chosen technology live in immense fortified cities called Bastions (there are only 5 in all of Canam), where all magic and magical races are excluded as they disrupt technology, causing everything to break. The more advanced the technology the more likely it is to break down.

Outside the Bastions, magic permeates everything as do the fey (elves, dwarves, goblins, bugbears etc.) making long distance communication impossible and the land is divided into various human or fey nations who war upon each other. Whilst PCs can choose to play any race supported by the setting, only humans (and gnomes occasionally) can use technology.  The intro provides a basic background and rules of play.  The PCs who are all techans (technologists) must track down and arrest or assassinate a raking military officer from their mercenary outfit, who's suspected of going rogue (and holds sensitive information).  Travelling into fantasy they must overcome various opposition and either slay or spare the colonel, who has joined (and been defending) an elvish village from goblinoids and a (young) undead dragon as their weapons are breaking down.  The rules are quite smooth and the encounters work well though the map tiles (not essential) are poor quality and low res (you can download better tiles).  The front cover is quite pretty though not to my taste (a bit nice) but I like the interior art, all which is well done (as is the front piece). You absolutely need to download the supplemental material from the website to play this module, as it contains the five pregen characters (and expands the adventure): a heavy weapons expert, a leader, a mechanic, a scout and a medic.

Whilst magic isn't included in this intro (a good 30 pages of setting can be downloaded from the site ( diasexmachina.com ) ) all spells (baring rare rituals) stop at level 6, with no resurrection and no transport or teleportation spells, which I like, lots.  The content is adult in that it deals with racism, fundamentalism (religion) and intolerance, but don't expect much nudity or sex. I don't (personally) buy that humans would tolerate each other more as the obviously alien fey abound (though I could see quite a lot of consolidation in religion) which increases xenophobia and intolerance markedly (which I do buy), but it makes sense for the setting, simplifying things immensely.  This isn't to say the human nations don't war against each other, they do, just their motivations are more (somewhat) rational.  All in all, I like the setting (and the free booklet), which though imperfect is very good.

5 out of 5 stars.

There's a good chance I'll purchase this when it comes out, even taking up 4E to give it a whirl.
 



#4 Psion

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Posted 04 July 2009 - 03:43 PM

Amethyst sounds interesting even though D&D 4th did not really make me feel hopeful for the franchise, I'll give it a closer look.



#5 MDMann

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Posted 06 July 2009 - 01:12 AM

I think so too.

Now review #4: Pathfinder, Bonus Bestiary.

This is a simple bestiary for use with the Pathfinder System that comes out in August (noticing a pattern anyone?) and the bestiary that releases in September.  Published by Paizo games using the 3.5 Ed OGL, it basically expands the current 3.5 setting and attempts to deal with a few of the issues from the system.  You can download an open beta from the website ( paizo.com ), but it's meant to be radically different from the published game. The beasts included in the free book are: an Allip, Ant Lion, Ascomoid, Axe Beak, Caryatid Column, Faerie Dragon, Dragonne, Annis Hag, Huecuva, Lammasu, Water Naga, Nixie and Shadow Mastiff.  The seem to run fairly well being standard D&D 3.5 Ed monsters. I don't like the art in the book finding it amateurish, and there's no explanation of the system or background. That said, it's straightforward and easy to use, though it gives next to no indication of how the Pathfinder system will run or work. I have to say I wasn't very impressed.

2 out of 5 stars.

I won't be buying it, but might just use one or two or the monsters if I'm stuck for inspiration, maybe.



#6 MDMann

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Posted 17 July 2009 - 02:38 AM

Review #5: Paranoia, Citizen's Guide to Surviving Alpha Complex.

The Computer is your friend, all hail the Computer! Paranoia is a post apocalyptic skit on role-playing games where the PCs play troubleshooters (they find trouble and then they shoot it) in an underground complex run by the computer (which is insane, as are many citizens, typically immediate superiors) and ruled by the High Programmers (who all hate each others guts).  However, everyone is happy, it's the law.

Their main mission is to route out secret societies (especially the red commie bas...d's) and mutants. Everyone is a member of a secret society, everybody is a mutant (including the PC's). Each PC has six clones (read lives) that can replace each character as it dies (especially if it's in an amusing manner - to the Computer, all hail the Computer! read the GM). To complicate matters each PC has a secondary (often more important) objective to the one set by their superiors, from their secret society, which the other players don't know. This often involves murdering (whilst laying the blame elsewhere) or looting the other PCs and their equipment or sabotaging the main mission (and getting away with it, although that's not important). Players are actively encouraged to stab each other in the back, pass the buck and toady to authority (without trusting anybody) provided they do so in a comical manner.

The skills are quite bizarre and can be highly customised (take ranks in "thinking up really clever excuses for my blunders" for example), together with secret (society) skills and (hidden) mutant powers. Each player starts with one tick or quirk, such as claustrophobia or kleptomania. Of course, knowing the rules is illegal (requiring termination) as the PC's don't have the security clearance (theirs is red). Clearances are based on a colour code, Infra-red (I - black 80% of citizenry), Red (R - 10 %), Orange (O), Yellow (Y), Green (G), Blue (B), Indigo (I), Violet (V - where you may know the rules), and Ultraviolet (U - White, the High Programmers). Each team is assigned a few experimental items from R&D for field testing (don't break it or lose it, do use it, report back on its performance, have a nice day), which can (always does) have drawbacks and unexpected side effects. It could prove useful (but probably won't).

A few of the secret society's are: Anti Mutant, Communists, Computer Phreaks, Corpore Metal, Death Leopard, First Church of Christ Computer Programmer, Frankenstein Destroyers, Free Enterprise, Humanists, Illuminati, Mystics, PURGE, Psion, Pro Tech, Romantics, Sierra Club. Some mutant powers are: Pyrokinesis, Telekinesis, Death Simulation, Electroshock, Adrenaline Control, Uncanny Luck, X-Ray Vision, Matter Eater. Levitation, Charm, Machine Empathy - all Hail the Comp...All Hail Ray!

This has been released in advance of the new edition of Paranoia (in ... drum roll ... August) and is full of amusing little asides in the free book. The adventure is a standard sewer (dungeon) romp where the troubleshooters have to clear a blocked pipe (and destroy some communist leaflets gumming up the system) and discover what happened to the previous three teams who all disappeared trying to do the same together with the security team sent to investigate. The rules are a little clunky (though should run well when they've become second nature - knowing the rules is illegal) and the art is poor (perhaps on purpose), but the adventure and system seems a riot (literally) with some very august designers (working with Mongoose publishing). There's nothing on the website (a mess) that I could find on this module, but there's lots of background information and free downloads.  The chances of survival are slim (and if so the GM's doing something wrong), but whilst having no potential for a long term campaign it should make a very enjoyable one shot or occasional diversion (say if a group member can't attend).

I liked this, despite (or because) of it's flaws, and would enjoy playing it occasionally, but there's little to no chance of me purchasing it.

4 out of 5 stars.






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