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Thistle Hold - Wrath of the Warden
by Roger L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 10:33:07

https://www.teilzeithelden.de/2019/03/30/rezension-symbaroum-throne-of-thorns-auf-symbars-faehrte/

Abschnitt 1 – The Hunter’s Harbor Das Leuchtfeuer der Stadt Thistle Hold führt Schatzsucher, Abenteurer und die Waldläufer der Königin aus dem finsteren Davokar zurück auf zivilisierten Grund und Boden. Die immerwährende Verlockung von Reichtümern und mächtiger Jagdbeute, die es in den Schatten des Waldes zu finden gibt, prägt die befestigte und gepflegte Hochburg, die Repräsentanten aller Autoritäten Ambrias in sich beheimatet.

Thistle Hold – Wrath of the Warden stellt die gleichnamige Stadt wie auch das Vorstädtchen Blackmoor umfangreich vor. Es werden die wichtigsten Gasthäuser und Handelshäuser wie auch relevante Persönlichkeiten und Fraktionen aufgeführt.

The Hunter’s Harbor ist als separate PDF-Datei erhältlich. Da dieser Abschnitt der einzige ist, der nicht ausschließlich für die Augen des SL bestimmt ist, ist dies sehr hilfreich für Spieler, die nicht in Inhalte investieren möchten, die sie nicht einsehen sollten oder möchten. Gleiches gilt für die ersten Abschnitte der ebenfalls vorgestellten Werke Karvosti: The Witch Hammer und Yndaros: The Darkest Star.

Abschnitt 2 – Game Master’s Section Der sodann folgende Abschnitt bietet dem SL Informationen an, die an dieser Stelle kurz, aber spoilerfrei, vorgestellt werden. So beinhaltet Thistle Hold – Wrath of the Warden ein Kapitel über zielorientiertes Rollenspiel. Dies beschreibt den Typus Rollenspiel, bei dem einzig die Spieler den Handlungsverlauf bestimmen, indem sie ihre persönlichen und gemeinsamen Ziele zu erreichen versuchen. Es werden Vorschläge für derartige Ziele dargelegt, die konform mit dem Kampagnenverlauf von Throne of Thorns gehen.

Des Weiteren werden Ruinen innerhalb des Davokars beschrieben, die je nach Bedarf besucht oder eben nicht besucht werden können. Abschließend werden ergänzende Regeln wie beispielsweise Fähigkeiten für feindliche Kreaturen angeboten.

Auch Artefakte und Elixiere werden definiert und der SL erhält Tipps, wie er Nachforschungs- und Recherchearbeiten der SC handhaben kann.

Abschnitt 3 – Wrath of the Warden Thistle Hold – Wrath of the Warden endet mit dem ersten Teil der Throne of Thorns-Kampagne. Der Aufbau des ersten Abschnitts des Abenteuers sowie die handelnden Fraktionen werden vorgestellt. Positiv auffallend ist die enthaltene Adventure-Time-Line, die dem SL zu jeder Zeit darstellt, wo die Spieler sich gerade befinden – und wo sie hin müssen. Vor allem für unerfahrene SL ist dies eine große Unterstützung. Auch Handouts in Form von Briefen oder Notizen sind weiter hinten in der PDF-Datei hinterlegt – ein Umstand, der allen bisher erschienen Bänden der Kampagne zu eigen ist.

Erscheinungsbild Die PDF-Datei von Thistle Hold – Wrath of the Warden verfügt über 177 farbige Seiten. Der Textfluss ist durch Absätze, Unterüberschriften und farbige Einschübe ansprechend gestaltet. Alle Seiten sind in einem beigefarbenen warmen Ton gehalten, der das Lesen zu einer angenehmen Angelegenheit macht. Die Illustrationen sind – wie in anderen Symbaroum-Regelwerken auch – hochwertig und ästhetisch gehalten. Besonders hervorzuheben sind die vorbereiteten Handouts in Form vom Briefen bzw. Karten weiter hinten im Buch, die der SL im Rahmen des ersten Abenteuerabschnitts verwenden kann, ebenso wie auch die Portraits von wichtigen NSC.

Ein Index ist nicht vorhanden, jedoch ist ein Inhaltsverzeichnis zu Beginn des Buches.

Fazit Mit Thistle Hold – Wrath of the Warden bietet Järnringen nicht nur den ersten Teil einer umfangreichen und stimmigen Kampagne an, sondern offeriert überdies Informationen, die auf den Inhalten des Grundregelwerks aufbauen. Die Welt wird sowohl inhaltlich als auch regeltechnisch ausgebaut; sie wächst. Die angebotenen Informationen helfen vor allem unerfahrenen SL, mit den Inhalten umzugehen und die Spieltermine entsprechend vorzubereiten. Viele der hiermit in Zusammenhang stehenden Inhalte sind für erfahrene SL jedoch redundant.

Das Regelwerk ist attraktiv gestaltet und weist weniger Fehler innerhalb der stimmungsvoll gehaltenen Texte auf. Der Einwand, dass ein Großteil des Bandes lediglich für den SL gedacht ist, wird damit abgewiegelt, dass der erste Abschnitt, Hunter’s Harbor, separat erhältlich ist und interessierte Spieler somit nicht für Inhalte zahlen, die sie nicht konsumieren möchten.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Thistle Hold - Wrath of the Warden
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Coriolis - The Third Horizon Core Book
by Monica G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/04/2019 11:51:40

Coriolis is a sci-fi/fantasy game published by Free League and Modiphius, that bills itself as 'Arabian Nights in space'. The game very much fits that description, being a setting that brings together a lot of the tropes from various space-oriented science-fantasy stories, such as Firefly, Star Wars, the Fifth Element, Pitch Black, Mass Effect, Dune, and many others. It takes place in a far-off galaxy. Long ago, thousands boarded a ship and traveled for centuries to reach the planets of the Kua system with the goal of being the first to colonize them. When they arrived, they found that the world had already been settled by colonizers who found faster passage through a wormhole (or portal) that had been built by a long-lost civilzation. The portal to their homeworld had since been destroyed, isolating these settlers to the 'third horizon'--an area of space that includes several galaxies interlinked by portals. After its centuries-long journey, the ship-- Coriolis--was turned into a space-station, becoming a hub of societal activity, and a central location for the game. The setting is a world shaped rival factions and wars, a shared polytheistic faith in the 'icons', and a facination with the sparse remnants of the ancient 'portal builders'.

The game has a rather simple system, with some very easy to use mechanics. Skills and combat are determined by rolling a number of D6 from a pool of dice related to your character's ability in a given skill, typically looking to roll a 6 for success. This is very simple and similar to any other D6-based system, such as Shadowrun. There are a few really nice features to the mechanics, such as 'the dark between the stars'--a mechanic that lets the game master track negative consequences that players have accrued to give them an eventual comeuppance. As well, the game includes rules for giving your players a spaceship from the start of the game, with good guidelines on customing it to their needs--and requiring it to have a flaw. The ship-building rules give a great number options for customization. There are also rules for space combat and travel, in which your ship-building decisions matter. The back of the book even has some sample ships and a useful space combat map.

Character creation is simple and has decent options with 11 character classes that include artist, data spider (hacker), fugitive, negotiator, operative, pilot, preacher, scientist, ship worker, soldier, and trailblazer. The options include rules for mystic powers and cybernetics, though this book only offers the basics. Character creation requires players to determine their physical features, personal problems, and their relationships to others--including their closest friend in the group. The process is easy enough and encourages players to build fleshed-out characters with a well-defined background. It also gives the game master the option of working character interactions into their adventures.

Aside from the core rules, the book contains everything you need to run the game. This includes the rich history of the setting and background information to help game masters build their adventures. There is information on the 10 major factions that players will encounter, the widely-worshiped nine icons, and the major groups of people. There are descriptions of many of the locations in the setting, with a heavy focus on the Coriolis space station. The book offers descriptions of 6 planets/orbital bodies that can serve as locations for adventures aside from the many locations in Coriolis itself. Chapter 14 is a 20-page section that includes a bestiary and a list of adventuring hazards. It even gives options for non-human player characters for game masters who wish to allow this in their game. Though brief, this section really provides some nice material for adventure writing. Even better, the book includes three brief scenarios that can be tied together with ease to get your campaign started.

Overall, Coriolis is a great book to pick up if you're looking for a space-faring science fiction game. This is one of the easiest games to get into if you are looking to branch out into a new system. The only real learning curve here is the background story, which might take a bit of research for game masters who wish to go deep into the setting, but it is otherwise easy to play without diving into backstory. Given that character and ship creation are relatively easy and the availability pre-written scenario in the core rulebook, this is a great game to jump into and start playing with little preparation.

Read the full review at Geeksagogo.com!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon Core Book
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Forbidden Lands Quickstart
by Addramyr P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/05/2019 15:28:19

152 page "quick" start!

It explains the system, the skills, combat rules and even the whole Journeys system (that's a must read by itself). It leaves out the talents (including the magic talents, professions and equipment) but add pregens (all rules for them are included) and some of the stuff from the GM book (theres only a few encounters presented) so that you have all you need to run a FREE session.

This is an excellent move from Fria Ligan. Gives a FREE entry point to those who want to discover this wonderful game.

You have no excuse not to, it's a superb game!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands Quickstart
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Forbidden Lands Quickstart
by Joseph B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/02/2019 22:47:40

This might just be the greatest RPG of all-time. That's saying a lot from me, as I'm a huge fan of dozens of RPG's and have been GMing a diverse array of systems and settings since the 90's. Forbidden Lands is just that damn good. It pays tribute to traditional, old-school fantasy RPG’s and breaks new ground with stunning innovations and simplifications at the same time. It will sweep the Ennies and Golden Geek - MARK MY WORDS!

The production and value of the Core Boxed Set is unmatched in RPG history. For $45, you get two pho-leather, hardcover, gilded rule books with attached ribbons for bookmarking your pages: The Player's Handbook and the Gamemaster's Guide. You also get a third softcover book, a gigantic color hex-map of the Forbidden Lands, and a sticker set to place on the map as your players explore. And this is all contained in the boxed set, which is nice and sturdy with beautiful art on the cover.

The game uses the award-winning and simple "Year Zero" engine from Fria Ligan's other RPG's, which includes Mutant: Year Zero, Coriolis, and Tales from the Loop. I love the mechanics, because it's not just a binary succeed or fail system. There is meaningful decision-making involved in almost every step of the game for the players to mitigate their chance of failure in a fun way (opposed to just rolling a d20 and hoping for the best, at the complete mercy of the dice). Additionally, there are degrees of both failure and success presented in a very straight-forward way that doesn't add unnecessary complexity. If your combat encounters take longer than 20 minutes, you're doing something wrong. As a boardgamer who likes controlling my chance of success with easy to understand strategy and tactics without unnecessary complication, this is the RPG I've been waiting for.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands Quickstart
by Matthew T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/28/2019 09:46:40

If there was one thing "wrong" with the Forbidden Lands Core set, its that there was a not a quickstart or taster product. That has been solved with this PDF release.

A massive 152 pages long, this free sampler gives you a tase of every aspect of the game to show you the designers intent and gibe you and your friends a great few hours of fun.

The introductory chapter tells you about: the principles behind the game; the world of the Forbidden Lands; and the tools of the game, both what your need, and what is nice to have. There are effectively two chapters on your character that, while they doesn't enable you to make one of your own, explain everything you need to know about the pregens.

The rules are explained over three chapters covering skill rolls, combat and journeys (the hex crawl being an important aspect of the game). There is even a stripped down version of the random encounter system, to show how it can create narrative, not just "n creatures" to fight.

The adventure itself is a complete one from the books, which, I will warn you, does not go easy on a careless party. the pregens are fun and somewhat customisable. The only ommission is the rules on magic, which makes the spells that one character has a lot less damgerous to use thatnthey are in the actual game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
MUTANT: Year Zero - Roleplaying At The End Of Days
by Tom B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/21/2019 16:04:51

One of my favorite RPGs Nice simple system that tempts risk from players. I feel that this game gives you just the right amount of hand holding for running it's campain but with enough freedom to take it where you and your groupe want to go. Character turnover can be somewhat high, but its post-apocalypse so what do you expect? I would sugest buying the cards for this game as they do make things somewhat easer mid game. I really love this game and would recomend it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
MUTANT: Year Zero - Roleplaying At The End Of Days
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Forbidden Lands Core Game
by Jeffrey S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/20/2018 00:23:24

Forbidden Lands is perhaps the best iteration to date of the Year Zero rules system by Free League Publishing, paired with a setting that brings forth scenes and scenarios reminiscent of certain black metal or old school prog rock album covers' art. As a Kickstarter backer, I had been eagerly awaiting the game for some time, and after my first full session running the game yesterday, I'm glad to report that it does not disappoint.

The game is focused on exploration, with hex-crawl style play, punctuated by visits to villages and strongholds as well as dungeons and ruined castles. The exploration rules remind some players of a lighter version of The One Ring's travel rules, with different roles to be fulfilled in terms of one player character using survival skills to lead the way through the wilderness to avoid the party getting lost or running into hazards, and one player character keeping watch to avoid ambushes and make any random encounters along the way optional. There's some light resource management (you don't track individual units of rations or water but rather roll resource dice with each use to see if your supplies are running out) that may prompt other party members to forage, hunt or fish to avoid conditions like Hunger and Thirst. Party members might also fulfill important roles such as cooking the food others have caught or found (otherwise it won't last to become a resource), making camp (if a campsite isn't built in a good place or done well, you might wind up getting soggy or setting up your tent on an insect colony), and other chores. With each 10 kilometer hex you enter, you roll to see if you safely navigated the wilderness and if the lookout will spot any random encounters that the gamemaster might have rolled up, but there's plenty for everyone to do in this mode of play, although it's probably a good idea to make sure everyone is involved in decision making.

The map of Ravenland, the titular Forbidden Lands, is covered in icons where a hex will have a village, castle, or dungeon. It is up to the gamemaster to place the highly detailed adventure locations Free League and freelancers working on the game have come up with in those hexes. There are three locations in the Gamemaster's Guide, one each of a village, a dungeon and a castle. These can be used on their own, but they also play into the Raven's Purge campaign, which can be bought separately and has a great deal more locations. They say that the gamemaster can place these locations anywhere there's a corresponding icon on the map, and technically you can (technically, you can do anything you want at your game table) but every location has a legend and a history, and might have geographical features or suggestions for where it should be placed that in some cases - if carefully considered - lend the location to being placed in only one or two places on the map. Narrowing things further, the gamemaster's guide has a map showing where each Kin (fantasy race or subrace/clan) has settled. For example, if you're placing the laboratory and stronghold of a certain villain who called forth demons from a demonic portal, there's only one castle icon on the map adjacent to where history tells you there's a demonic portal. If you had a village that was a burial ground for officers killed in the Alder Wars that should be along a river, well, you've got several villages along rivers on the map, but there's a certain area between which Zygofer's forces would probably have met Alderland's in battle. Some locations are more flexible than others, if you want someone who understands the full history and context of the location to feel it makes any sense. This is possibly my one semi-criticism of the game, although the lack of labels on the map adds to the replayability of the campaign and makes it easy to reskin the game world as you please.

The feeling that only certain spots on the map felt appropriate for certain locations hardly mattered to me, though, because reading through the lore scattered throughout the gamemaster's guide and figuring out where best to place all of the locations in Raven's Purge and the Gamemaster's Guide was probably the most entertaining game prepration I've ever done. The history of the Forbidden Lands is full of secrets, betrayals, false narratives, unreliable narrators and legends that contain only a shadow of the truth. The native inhabitants of Ravenland were the elves and dwarves, with humans arriving later on as interlopers reluctantly given half of the land to keep the peace, negotiated via what's considered a protector god. Of course, humans being humans, they soon find themselves transgressing into the half of the land that is still reserved for elves, dwarves and other Kin due to religious persecution, overpopulation, a long period of poor growing seasons, in pursuit of the persecuted, and so forth. A series of migrations, wars and intrigues occurs over hundreds of years, up to the point where a demonic Blood Mist stretches across the land, devouring anyone who wanders from home and hearth at night. The Blood Mist rises each night for 300 years, until just several years before gameplay begins. This is why the lands are unknown to their inhabitants, and where all the constant exploration comes in. The player characters are among the first brave souls to go out to the wilderness and seek fortune, fame, knowledge, or even just a break in the monotony of not being able to leave the lands your family has lived on for 300 years, where your restless dead ancestors moan and mill about your family burial plot or the village graveyard, and you spend your life farming turnips.

The system is similar to Mutant Year Zero, also by Free League. The dice system can be punishing, but in actual experience not as punishing as one might think when first reading it. Each character has attributes, skills, and equipment that lend dice to a pool of d6s. Only sixes are successes. You can 'push' a roll, representing your character pushing themselves body and/or mind to succeed at a task where they must, re-rolling all dice except for sixes and ones. However, any dice that came up as ones on your attribute dice also cause harm to that attribute. You strain your muscles, tire yourself out, become frustrated or mentally fatigued. But the desire to triumph over adversity also gives you the rare resource Willpower, and you gain one for each 1 rolled on an attribute die in a pushed roll. So you damage yourself, but also gain a certain sense of determination. "Yeah, I did that, I'm capable of pushing myself to the limit if need be." Unless your party builds a stronghold and stays the night there, this is the only way that you will get Willpower. Willpower is used for racial abilities, professional (class) talents, and for all magic. If anyone is playing a druid or a sorcerer, they're going to want to push rolls right away.

The system works well if the gamemaster moderates it and heeds the game's advice. Don't let that spellcaster do every silly thing they can to roll dice and push themselves. They should get a decent amount of willpower from regular gameplay. My partner played a druid, and wanted to push his first roll even though he had a basic success. I told him not to, there was no need. He still had willpower when it came time to use the Path of Healing to save another PC, pretty early on. Likewise, as a sidebar early in the game says, you don't need to roll for everything. Think of this like an old-school fantasy roleplaying game without skills, even though this system is based on skills. In other words, think OSR, think basic D&D. Don't do "perception" based checks to search rooms and find things... if the party needs to find something to move the plot along, they should. Otherwise, they should tell you specifically where they're looking (I look in the wardrobe, I look in the desk), and if something is there you tell them about it. Use the Scouting skill (the perception-like skill) as directed to keep watch, oppose stealth, or otherwise as outlined in the book. You should only roll where there are consequences for failure, and if someone rolls and fails, there should absolutely be consequences for failure. Unlike the way modern D&D is often played, if someone rolls to climb a wall and fails, they aren't just standing at the base of the wall going 'unnnhhhh, can't reach' and unable to begin. They probably got partway up the wall and fell at some point, perhaps painfully or making noise. All of the advice for running the game, while brief and to the point with little exposition on why it should be done, is worth heeding: the core principles of the game, advice sidebars like don't roll for everything, rolls have consequences, etc. This will make or break this game system (and honestly, it can only improve other systems you apply these principles to, as well.)

There are random tables for generating monsters, villages, castles, and dungeons that are actually surprisingly good. You'll have a few dozen monsters in the gamemaster's guide, but the thing to understand there is that (1) monsters are a big deal, they follow their own rules and if PCs don't approach things very carefully and with preparation, they will probably die, so monsters should be used sparingly, (2) the conflict of the Forbidden Lands is such that you'll probably be facing humanoids built similarly to the player characters more often than monsters, (3) locations detailed in the campaign and various other places will have their own monsters, and (4) monsters are easy to come up with or convert for the system, even without the random generator, as it's not hard to see how everything works in this system. There's no hidden balance to break per se.

Legends and Adventurers, the handout included in the core set, also includes an alternative method to randomly generate a player character that I was shocked every single one of my players used, sticking with the characters as they rolled them randomly for the most part. It also includes tables for a gamemaster to randomly come up with a legend for a person, place or artifact. Most of these tables are d66 (roll 2d6s, one is the tens digit and the other is the singles digit), but surprisingly flexible and providing a good number of options.

The combat system is decent, but fast and brutal, and you might see character death from time to time. If a fight is one humanoid person vs another humanoid person, there is an alternative advanced melee system that adds some more dynamism to combat, involving combat cards. A character in arm's length of another, with a full set of actions available to them, can force the character they're engaged with into advanced combat, if the gamemaster agrees. Both characters act at the same time, picking two cards to represent their actions. The attacker reveals his first action, and resolves it, then the defender, then the attacker, then the defender. This can "lock down" a combatant, forcing them to defend themselves or spend their actions fleeing melee or trying to fight back when they may not be much of a close combatant, and thereby allow someone to 'tank' an enemy. I have a feeling this will lead to a lot of people trying to immediately melee sorcerers and druids. However, the tables can be turned on the attacker if the defender throws caution to the wind and decides to fight back, because if one or the other side is hit first, pain prevents them from attacking later in the same round of combat. I only got to use this mode of combat for one exchange, as the bandits I had attacking the PCs and a caravan started attacking at range, and then went down quickly. I tried to manuever the NPCs into a situation where advanced combat could be invoked to demonstrate it to the group.

Eventually, we started off a round with two combatants in arm's length, and I decided on what the NPC would do and drew cards, and the player did as well. It turns out we both wanted to shove the other to the ground with the first action, me because I decided the NPC was panicking as the last bandit standing and the player because his PC was hurt and had diminished strength with which to attack, and wanted an easier target. The PC missed their shove attempt, I hit with mine, so the wounded PC and the scared bandit grappled briefly, and the bandit threw the PC to the ground. Then, we revealed our second actions. Unfortunately, the PC had chosen to attack, and couldn't do so while prone. The bandit's second action was to run. So he knocked the PC down and tried to flee. That sort of thing could happen in any system, but the simultaneous struggle, the PC's frustration at being unable to stop the last bandit, that came out of the advanced combat system.

Four bandits versus four PCs, resolved in just few minutes, with all the players describing their actions. As they 'broke' each of their opponents (taking them out by reducing an attribute to zero with an attack) I let them roll on the critical charts to give them something to work with in terms of describing how they took down the opponent. (Later in the game, a PC would take out a named Rust Brother (evil priests who gather sacrifices from villages) with a single arrow to the groin at a village, and I let it ride because it was just too perfect. It will also complicate things for that village.) Everyone was happy with the combat, but eager to buy more armor and some shields, and placing orders with the first blacksmith they met.

Overall, my first session running the Forbidden Lands took a group that mostly wanted to talk about Dungeons and Dragons 90% of the time, and engaged them in an old school, more narrative game of exploration, intrigue and gritty combat, and they were happy when it was done, ready to come back for more. I was probably more satisfied having run the session than I ever have been running games, which I've been doing for decades with a large collection of RPGs. The session went in directions I wasn't prepared for, but it was easy to read out whatever encounter or location the players had taken us to without disrupting the game. As the players have begun to explore and discover this new fantasy world, I got to experience their story, the unique order of events that sprung up from their explorations, what they decided to engage with, the consequences of their actions and rolls, and how they decided to deal with various NPCs and places. It gave me the kind of experience I feel every GM should get from running a game. In all RPGs, the gamemaster is another player at the table, but a lot of games can make the gamemaster's role feel like work. This game lets you feel like you're also a player at the table, in somewhat different ways than things like the Powered by the Apocalypse system or Modiphius' 2d20 system, but in a completely satisfying way.

If you like the One Ring this can give a dark fantasy change of pace. If you like OSR games, this feels like an old school gold box RPG cranked up to an HBO original series level of 'Woah, WTF?". If you like gritty combat... the combat monster among my group of players started out the first encounter cracking a man's skull and shattering another man's leg, then got nearly sliced in half by a broadsword. If you like intrigue and complicated plots and narrative games, there's something for you in here, too. If you like survival games, this is definitely something to get into. If you just need a change of pace from your group visiting another magically cosmopolitan, Disneyland version of a medieval fantasy metropolis, check this out. It does 'points of light setting' in a way that the game franchise that introduced us all to the phrase 'points of light setting' never did.

Highly recommended. Trust the game and its advice and you'll have a great experience. DriveThruRPG, please increase the scale for reviews so I can give this 10 out of 10 stars.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands Core Game
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Forbidden Lands Core Game
by Darren S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/18/2018 03:00:19

I wish this book could have existed 20 years ago when I was first introduced to roleplay. I think it would remain my favorite to this day. Not to dismiss it compared to today's standards, but I believe this game is a love-letter to old school gaming.

For those players who reminisce about the "good old days" of roleplay and try to recreate the experience of classic gaming, this game is definitely for you. I don't think the visual style and pacing would appeal as much to younger gamers who grew up with video games and movies that spoiled their imagination (no offense intended), but for a gamer my age or older (I'm 38) this game is a true treasure. I love the black and white artwork - it inspires me and fills me with wonderful nostalgia.

While I encourage you to purchase the PDF to review the game yourself, I strongly recommend purchasing the printed box set, as the actual books are beautiful and charming. Check out a video on Youtube of someone else opening the set to understand what I mean.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands Core Game
by Matthew T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/07/2018 05:30:17

I would recommend it for two audiences. For many around my age, the team at Free League have created the game were wishing for back when we were twelve. All the possibilities that the games of the early eighties offered us, are here finally realized. Intuitive mechanics make combat gritty and heroic, magic thrilling and even resource management entertaining and fun. For people starting out in the hobby, this is an excellent value box, that gives you everything you need (apart from dice and a pencil) to build your very own world of adventure.

I was a Kickstarter backer and so have had early drafts, completed PDF's and now the physical product for a little while, so I may be predisposed to liking this game. And I am. But my expectations were high, and I have not been disappointed. Yes, obviously I would recommend this game. We played a one-off scenario, and my players wanted more. One of the starts running his own campaign on Monday.

Design Physical versions are sold a boxed game, a conceit that reflects its origins. In Sweden many games RPGs are still boxed, in the way that early Dungeons and Dragons, Runequest and Traveller were. The publishers, Free league (or Fria Ligan), set out to create a modern take on the classic games that some of us remember from the early eighties. So by boxing this game, they are not just conforming to the Swedish market, but also asking the rest of the world to remember the good old days. Which brings me to the illustrations. In creating their modern but retro game, Free League were inspired by the black and white drawings of Nils Gulliksson, who illustrated the first Swedish language RPG, a Runequest clone called Drakar och Demoner. Indeed most of the illustations are classics from the early days of Swedish gaming, complimented with newly commissioned pieces from the same artist. These have a certain beauty which younger gamers might find difficult to fully comprehend, especially when compared with the exquisite full-colour work of Martin Grip in Free League's other fantasy game, Symbaroum. There is certainly a degree of nostalgia in their appeal. What it means for PDF purchasers though is a small file size, speedy and responsive, and printing bits out own't drain your colour ink. The Swedish format also gives you a small page size, ideally suited to tablets.

Playing the game The heart of the system will be familiar with players of Mutant: Year Zero; Coriolis; and Tales from the Loop. Of the three, its closest to MY0. Which is entirely appropriate because it is a game of survival, in a fantasy world that has had its own apocalypse of sorts. Like that game, it is best played with enough dice of three different colours. There is a custom set available (more on that in another post) but MY0 veterans can play with those, and lets face it d6 are not something most gamers are short of. Most rolls are made by pooling a number of "base" d6 for your attribute, with a number for your skill and maybe one or two for your gear, and rolling. All you need to succeed is one six (which is marked with crossed swords on the custom dice) to succeed, but more successes improve the effect of your action - more damage in a fight, for example. If you fail, or if you want more successes, you can "push" the dice, rolling again. But the cost of this can be harsh - you can not re-roll any base dice or gear dice which came up one. And these, plus any more ones you roll on your base or gear dice, will do you, or your gear, damage.

This version of the dice pool might seem complicated at first, to those who have come from Coriolis or Tales from the Loop, but you soon get the hang of it, and it creates a wonderfully nuanced and narrative flow to the game.

Unlike MY0 or its sister games, Forbidden Lands also uses d8, d10, and d12, mostly for magical artefacts, but I particularly like the Pride mechanic, which enables a player to name one thing they are very good at. Once per game session, when a player has failed a vital role even after pushing their dice, if they can explain how their pride applies, they get to roll the d12. This has a greater than 50% chance of turning your failure into success, and not just one, but up to four success, which could mean a critical effect. The catch is, if you roll 1-5, your pride was obviously a false one. You strike it from your character sheet and must play a whole session before you can pick something to replace it.

Its a tough combat system, your strength attribute is your "hit points", and only the most exceptional character will ever have as many as six. Given even a glancing blow from a heavy axe can deal three, your players will find combat short, gritty, exciting, and something to be avoided. A quarter day's rest will restore all your attributes, but if you are broken in combat, you also take a critical hit, for the possibility of permanent damage, a slow death or, if you are lucky, a quick one. My advice to players is hit first, hit hard, wear armour, and take up archery.

Character generation is speedy and fun, especially if you use the random system found in the Legends and Adventurers booklet. If you do though, note that unfortunately a number of talents are named in that booklet that don't appear in the Players Handbook. In Horseback Archer becomes Horseback Fighter, and we had to replace Scrounger with Quartermaster. I guess the talents named were in an earlier draft. If random generation isn't your thing, then there is a simple point-buy alternative. One feature I particularly like is that you can start out, young, adult, or old (unless you are an elf - elves are ageless). As you get older you loose attribute points but gain skills and talents. Talents I should say, are specialisms and abilities that turn your relatively broad skill set into a very individual character.

I am generally not a fan of magic systems based on lists of pre-defined spells, but that said recognize the difficulties of creating more freeform RPG magic systems, especially in regards to spotlight  balance in games where not everyone is a magic user. This is spell list based but flexible in the casting. Players should learn quickly though that magic is risky - a couple of unlucky rolls can see you cast into a terrible hell with no hope of return - as a PC at least. The risk can be mitigated with preparation though, taking time to write your spells down and gather ingredients.

Which brings me onto a key philosophy in the game. This system makes resource management easy and fun to play. By breaking activities down in quarter days, by using simple mechanics like resource dice for ammunition, food and water, and a carrying capacity defined by lines in your gear list the system neatly abstracts and gamifies the more simulationist tendencies of (what we used to call) wilderness campaigns. We've played a couple of adventures so far and my players have enjoyed the scavenging for roots to supplement their food supplies. The resource management has not got in the way or story, indeed its has informed  the narrative.

There is one resource that you can only get through failure. When you push your dice and take damage (or wear for your gear) on ones, you also earn willpower points. Willpower powers magic spells and a good number of talents. There has been some debate about this mechanic. Some people are unhappy that only physical strain earns you the power to do spells (players start with no willpower and can only store up to ten points), or they can't see a connection between taking damage and gaining resolve. It may not lend itself to immersion, but I like the way it builds the narrative beats - your triumphs are all the sweeter after failure, after all.

The World Part of me wishes the setting was a humanocentric one, like Ice and Fire/Game of Thrones or The First Law books, but this is a retro game, and so of course there are not just humans, but Elves, Half-Elves, Dwarves, Halflings, Orcs, Goblins and (less obviously retro, except perhaps to Traveller players) Wolfkin. Swedish genre author Erik Granstrom manages to give us all the nostalgic fantasy tropes our heart desires but put a subtle spin of novelty on them which makes this world strange and beautiful. Part of the strangeness is due to this world being described mostly in myth and legend, with some of the stories contradicting each other and very little (but just enough) explaining the "true" ecology. The elves in this game have a marvelous yet non-game-break-y immortality that makes them seem truly alien. Halflings and goblins have a link that is both novel and yet a reflection of the Frodo/Gollum relationship, and Dwarves build the world as much as mine it. Humans in this world are the invaders, and orcs the (by no means hapless) victims. There is just enough cliche to recognise and plenty of novelty to explore and excite the imagination.

One of the best assets of the GM's Guide (and the Legends and Adventurers booklet) is the help it offers in world building. There are three sample "adventure sites", none of which offer an "on the rails" story, but NPCs, motivations, and opportunities that allow your party to truely create their own adventure. On top of these sites however there are random generation tables that enable any GM, even the greenest, to confidently prepare an adventure in advance. A quick thinking GM could even create an adventure on the fly, while it is being played.

As I was ready the GM's guide indeed, I was thinking this  might well be a perfect gift for a young and aspiring potential GM. It could be an ideal first RPG even. All you really need (apart from dice) for a world of adventure is contained in just one box. Who is it not for? Well, I know somebody who hates dice pool systems, and prefers a d20. It's not for him I guess. But even if you are wary of dice pools, let me reassure you that this one is simple, fast and fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands Core Game
by John L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2018 10:14:16

Our gaming group has really been enjoying this game, it is a distinct change of pace over more "heroic" feeling fantasy games. If you like gritty fantasy where any combat encounter can easily result in death, where being Cold or Hungry can seriously hamper you, or where an injury can impact you for days or even weeks, then Forbidden Lands may be exactly what you are looking for. We have been playing for several sessions now and for the first time in years I'm watching my players approach everything with caution and well-thought out plans, especially after a single generic archer with no specific talents managed to take two of them out in consecutive rounds!

Forbidden Lands manages to incorporate a variety of features in the game that are often ignored in other games because they have overly complex rules, or they are simply not addressed. Things like the impact of being tired or hungry, encumbrance, or managing limited resources like ammo and torches, are all addressed in ways that are easy to track (and remember!) and have significant impact on the game. Contending with things like overland travel or maintaining your equipment is mechanically simple to incorporate but offers unique challenges and complications to drive the story forward.

On my first read through the rules I was expecting the game to be more difficult to grasp then it turned out. In fact, after just a brief explanation and an hour or two of play, we were having no troubles at all. The system is easy to use and intuitive. If you have any experience with the other Year Zero Engine games form Free League, it will be even easier. One of my favorite concepts in Forbidden Lands is the ability to "push" a roll. Pushing a roll increases the odds of success, or improves an already successful roll, but at the cost of degrading your attributes or equipment. However, pushing also has the potential to reward you with Willpower points that fuel some of your best abilities. As a GM I love a mechanic that tempts the players to take risks!

If you are looking for a solid fantasy game with a brutal feel, then look no further. Forbidden Lands delivers. And a little advice for players; if the GM says you are facing a Monster (monster is a specific term in this game), think twice before charging in!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon Core Book
by dom l. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/12/2018 17:52:20

I just love this setting. The factions are not all one-dimensional and mystery of the portal builders is very intriguing. Also, the rules system is very smooth and deadly enough for the kind of game i like to play. My group has a few roleplaying beginners and after Uncharted Worlds were looking for something with more robust rules without being overwhelmed to continue our story. Boy am I glad I discovered Coriolis. Everyone at our table loves it and we will be playing it for a while. I especially like the space combat. The creators did an amazing job and put together a beautiful book. They have something to be proud of here. You will not be disappointed. Buy this book!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis - The Third Horizon Core Book
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Hidden Treasures of Davokar
by Rich H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/23/2018 16:58:03

Hidden Treasures of Davokar is a short, but incredibly useful and evocative supplement for Symbaroum. It's 2 pages, with the first page a map of Ambria and Davokar containing 20 new locations, and the second being a listing of those new locations with several rumors related to each one. The rumors are very evocative of the setting and immediately give me lots of ideas for how to incorporate them into my game, which to me is the hallmark of a good supplement. I really like that HToD adds several new locations, while still leaving plenty of open area in Davokar for you to fill in. The only downside is that there are a few typos, but they don't impair readability. Overall I'd highly recommend Hidden Treasures of Davokar to anyone running Symbaroum.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hidden Treasures of Davokar
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Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
by Marcus G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/22/2018 12:44:06

Pro: The setting, while not original, is a well thought out re-hash of deep space colonization complete with portals built by an absent civilization. The art, beautiful. The system, traditional, by the numbers, add a stat to a skill and roll for success or failure. No surprises.

Con: The system, traditional, by the numbers, add a stat to a skill and roll for success or failure. No surprises. I am sure the creators felt that the "Art of Failing" paragraph brought the system into the modern age, but the statement "If you roll no sixes, something goes wrong. You are now in the hands of the GM, and he decides what happens to you. The only thing he cannot say is “nothing happens”." is hardly revolutionary, or particularly helpful. Now, giving the GM useful tools and guidance for how to handle failure and make it something that builds the drama... that'd be great.

This is a traditional game that hits all of the expected points. There are numerous games out there that do the exact same thing. I gave it 3 stars because I like the setting and the art/layout is good.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Coriolis The Third Horizon - Quickstart
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Thistle Hold - Wrath of the Warden
by Steven F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/13/2018 11:44:31

This is an excellent start to the Throne of Thorns campaign line for Symbaroum as well as a solid information source for your own adventures in the realm on Ambria. The first section of the book, written for both players and GMs is a more in depth look at the town of Thistle Hold. Beyond the standard module fare of a map with some numbers and key to tell you what those numbers represent, this section of the book gives the reader details about the important people who run the town and what motivates them to stay in the town on the edge of Davokar forest. It also contains rumors and off-hand knowledge that the authors describe as being what just about any character would know about Thistle Hold after spending a few days to a couple of weeks within the walls. There are some things here for players to possibly investigate on their own if they are so inclined or for GMs to spin into their own stories, either to build an adventure or just to breathe some life into their players' stay.

The second section is similar to the first except that it is meant specifically for GMs. This section goes into detail on the real history of Thistle Hold and the truth behind many of the rumors mentioned in the first section. The history laid out here really adds to the setting as a whole and gives GMs a solid base from which to build their own adventures in and around the city by explaining the true motives and intentions driving the power players in Thistle Hold. It also makes it clear just how precarious the situation that the town is in, sitting a stone's throw from the edge of the forest and all of the dangers that hide within.

The last section is the adventure entitled The Wrath of the Warden. I won't put too much detailed information here so as not to spoil anything for potential players who are looking into reviews. This adventure assumes that the player characters already have some experience under their belts and have made something of a name for themselves either in Thistle Hold or Ambria in a broader sense. The three-part introduction adventure series comprised of "The Promised Land" (in the back of the core rules), "The Mark of the Beast", and "The Tomb of Dying Dreams" set PCs up pretty well for starting this adventure both in terms of experience and in terms of reputation.

The opening of the adventure is written to provide a couple of difference entry points to the story, based on the feel that the GM wants and how the players play. In most cases the players are contacted by a mysterious "soon-to-be friend" who thinks that they can be of help in solving a problem that Thistle Hold doesn't even really know it has. The situation goes downhill from there with surprises, underground expeditions, and at least one trip to the forest of Davokar to sort out what is really going on and how the situation can be resolved. My players thoroughly enjoyed it, in any case.

It is worth noting that Jarnringen doesn't write their adventures in the module format that a GM might be used to. Rather than laying out a specific path through the story and giving the GM paragraphs of read aloud text, these adventures (and all Symbaroum adventures really) are presented in phases similar to how this entire book is set up. All of the important NPCs (as well as the factions to which they belong) are described ahead of the action of the module along with their backgrounds and motivations. These descriptions also include their goals for the current scenario and in the overarching campaign if their roles extend beyond Wrath of the Warden. Following that, there is an overview of the entire adventure along with suggested hooks for the GM to use in getting things rolling. Now, all of that might still sound pretty standard for any well-written module. Where Symbaroum's adventures differentiate themselves is in the meat of the scenario.

As I said above, the events of the module are not laid out in a "the players do A then B then C" format. Instead the adventure is broken into acts which contain scenes. Each scene describes, fairly loosely, what is going to happen provided that the players do NOTHING. The expectation is that the GM understands the NPCs, their goals, and the adventure as a whole well enough that the players can approach the scenario in whatever way they choose and not throw things off when they inevitably apply their will to the world and the situation at hand. This means that scenes mostly contain environmental details and relevant bits of knowledge that some NPCs might have in that moment. Each scene also suggests challenges and skill tests that can be used to gain information or change a situation if the players choose a certain course of action. Stats are provided for potential opponents in a scene but rarely is a fight guaranteed. Ultimately, it is left to the GM and the players (through their actions) to determine which scenes happen, the order in which they happen, the effects of the events of that scene.

As a GM who primarily runs games as an off-the-cuff operation this layout really appeals to me personally. The scenes presented here are more likely to offer bullet points and information about what a person, place, or object looks like rather than a specific block of text to read. I find it offers a much more succinct and streamlined way for the authors to give me the information that I need to run the story the way it works for my players rather than the way that the author envisioned. That's basically what this offers, a well thought out adventure that is only as railroaded as the GM wants it to be.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Thistle Hold - Wrath of the Warden
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MUTANT: Year Zero Gamesmaster Screen - PDF
by Ola H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/25/2018 09:59:59

This product is only a 1-page pdf, meaning all 4 pages are stacked in one picture. This drastically reduces its value as a handout or reference sheet, although it works well enough for only online use.



Rating:
[1 of 5 Stars!]
MUTANT: Year Zero Gamesmaster Screen - PDF
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