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ALIEN RPG Core Rulebook
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/01/2020 08:02:11

In space no one can hear the characters scream - a Mephisto review

Alien RPG

To mark the anniversary of the first and still outstanding film in the Alien series, Fria Ligan announced a new roleplaying game in this dark science fiction universe. After the publisher has given a first impression of the game with the Alien Cinematic Starter Kit, the core rules are now available.

Alien takes place in the year 2183 when humanity colonized many star systems and penetrated deep into space. But this is not a shining vision of the future. Life in the colonies is pragmatic at best and in most cases hard. Spaceships are functional and have the aesthetics of construction machines. Several power blocs have divided up the star systems among themselves, but it is often the big corporations that really hold the reins - and always look at the colonies with profit in their minds. And even if life in space is already full of deadly dangers, there have been rumors for some time about a monstrous species that poses a deadly threat to humanity. While powerful factions are trying to suppress these rumors, the corporations are pursuing their interests - the prospect of a lucrative bioweapon is tempting here...

The Alien RPG is based on the film series that began with Alien. Therefore, the timeline in the book covers the storyline of the films from Prometheus to Alien 3 and also takes the events from the computer game Alien Isolation as canonical background. Only the fourth film, Alien - Resurrection, does not play a role here, as it takes place in the future in terms of time. The game world, which presents itself to the players here, consists of the colonies in space, which are operated by the various corporations. Life on this frontier is characterized by a variety of dangers, and of course, there are also independence aspirations of some colonies. So it is the Marines who are supposed to keep order here. And, unsurprisingly, there are, of course, extraterrestrial life forms that pose a particular threat to the lives of the colonists and ship crews.

The idea of the Alien RPG is, among other things, that it works with two game modes. On the one hand, there is the campaign mode and on the other hand, the cinematic mode, which corresponds to an action-packed single adventure. The cinematic mode clearly emulates the movies: A small group of people is confronted with the dangers of outer space and alien monsters and has to fight for their survival. The death of the player characters is an apparent threat in this version. There is also internal friction within the group, as there are friendships as well as enmities and personal goals. With the scenario, Hope's Last Day, which takes place in the colony of Hadley's Hope, this approach to the game is demonstrated. Anyone familiar with the Alien universe can guess what the player characters can expect here...

But Alien also offers a campaign mode and three different settings: Space Trucker, Colonial Marines and Frontier Colonists. While Space Trucker as a crew on a spaceship - usually a freighter - and the Space Colonists as pioneers on new (and not always life-friendly) worlds belong to the hard-working population, the Marines are experienced soldiers with the appropriate armament (which is still not a pleasant job considering the dangers). The character creation is based on a career the player chooses - e.g. Colonial Marine, Company Agent or Pilot - which pre-defines the selection and distribution of the game statistics. At the same time, each character gets an agenda, i.e. an individual game objective, which can create further potential for conflict. Besides, each player character names a buddy and a rival - i.e. two characters with whom he or she is particularly connected. It is also possible to play androids, but these have completely different rules. They are more robust and don't know stress (which can be an advantage, but sometimes also a disadvantage) - and they can't force dice rolls.

Alien is based on six-sided dice. In tests, one of four different attributes is combined with one of twelve skills. This result is rolled as a number of six-sided dice. Tests can be repeated and forced, but this causes stress points. The special feature of stress points is that each stress point means an additional pool dice. Stressed out characters can thus definitely rise above themselves and achieve more. However, 1s rolled on the stress dice lead to panic attacks, which, depending on their severity, can get the individual character or his whole group into trouble. And as a rule, the stress increases quickly within an adventure...

One focus of the rules is on fighting and panic. These fights are designed so that the situation can quickly get out of control and then become quite deadly. If, as in the test game, several characters panic and this panic spreads, even a single alien life form becomes a real threat. The fact that the loss of the few health points results in critical injuries (up to an immediately fatal wound) further increases the drama. Accordingly, the equipment focuses strongly on weapons, but also provides vital equipment to survive in space. Vehicles are presented from normal ground vehicles to large spaceships, and rules for fights between spaceships are provided. In vehicle combat, critical hits can also quickly have fatal consequences.

A large part of the book is devoted to the setting and introduces life in the 22nd century. Of course, the background, which did not play a role in the films, is also provided. A look is taken at the big power blocks, various colonies and the corporations - above all Weyland-Yutani, of course. Although these chapters offer many examples and also details, the picture of the game world remains sometimes a bit vague with the aspects that didn't appear in the movies - maybe also because it is simply very large with its many colonies, so that everything can only be briefly touched upon. On the other hand, the alien life forms are presented meticulously and in detail, with the xenomorphs and neomorphs of the films being the focus here.

Chapters for the game master - who is called Game Mother here as an allusion to the computer Mother - round off the book, and with Hope's last day there is also tough ready-to-play scenario for the players.

In its presentation, the book clearly focuses on the content of the films. The rules are strongly optimized to reflect their storylines and action, but the background also stays within this narrow framework. The illustrations and the layout fit the atmosphere of the setting perfectly.

The Alien Cinematic Starter Kit has already definitely proven that Alien is suitable for playing cinematic one-shots. The rules are consistent, and especially the stress rules offer interesting possibilities. Whether Alien is really suited for long-term campaigns has yet to be proven, because, in my opinion, the high threat level fits the setting very well - but it's not really compatible with a campaign (unless the players are allowed to change characters frequently). Of course, you can also play scenarios with Alien in which the xeno- and neomorphs do not appear in the role of the antagonists, but then the question arises whether the expectations of the players for an Alien RPG are fulfilled. For cinematic-style one-shots, however, Alien offers a coherent, atmospheric and hard-hitting roleplaying game that fills a successful niche with the stress levels and different deadly threats that the player characters have to deal with.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
ALIEN RPG Core Rulebook
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ALIEN RPG Chariot of the Gods Scenario
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/30/2020 09:40:22

In space, no one can hear your characters die - a Mephisto review

Chariot of God

When several space truckers are suddenly awakened from their cold sleep by the ship's computer during a routine transport to answer the call for help from a spaceship that has been missing for decades, this does not bode well - especially when this mission takes place in an Alien universe...

Chariot of God is an entry-level adventure for the Alien RPG, which was also included in the Cinematic Starter Kit. The adventure follows one of the two approaches of role-playing games, called "cinematic", which keeps close to the approach of the movies. The plot focuses on a dangerous one-shot, which takes into account the fact that characters can die (and they probably will). The aim is to capture the dark and harsh flair of the movies and to start the plot directly.

Chariot of God provides the necessary material for this, starting with ready-made characters with conflict potential and their own goals, through the deck plans of the two spaceships, to a plot that takes up the Alien theme and throws the player characters into a deadly scenario.

Chariot of God is very well designed and confronts the players with one threat after the next, so that the adventure is a permanent fight for survival, illustrating the different game mechanics.

From my point of view, Chariot of God is an excellent adventure that manages to capture the flair of the films - and their threat level. If you want to play the hard fight for survival in its various facets, you'll get a story in the style of the movies. However, those who are attached to the survival of the characters or think that a game should end with sucess, should rather avoid this challenge...

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ALIEN RPG Chariot of the Gods Scenario
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ALIEN RPG Maps and Markers Pack
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/30/2020 09:32:00
Alien Maps and Marker Pack

The Alien Maps and Marker Pack contains a star map, maps of the colony Hadley's Hope, as well as markers for characters, aliens, spaceships, motion tracker contacts and actions.

Since both the star map and the plans of Hadley's Hope are also included in the rulebook, and both were designed in a way that a printout will cost a lot of toner, this extension in the PDF version makes only limited sense in my opinion.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
ALIEN RPG Maps and Markers Pack
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Liminal: Repairer of Reputations
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/30/2020 01:41:05

In the world of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle - a Mephisto review

Repairer of Reputations

It begins with the suspicious death of a bookseller. After a few mysterious break-ins, it quickly becomes apparent that there must be more to the case. Of course, it's up to the crew of the players to solve the case - and to prevent worse.

Repairer of Reputations is another short adventure for Liminal, which only needs just 11 pages for its story. The interesting point of this adventure is the way the story is linked to the historical figure of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and events in his history. On the other hand, the options of the players in this story seem a bit limited, because they can only explore a handful of locations before the finale, which can be very flexible.

Repairer of Reputations is a short adventure with an exciting storyline and interesting details, but playing this story will probably require some additional input from the game master.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liminal: Repairer of Reputations
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Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/25/2020 05:00:31

A return to the most colorful World of Darkness - a Mephisto review

Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition

The fifth of the original systems of the World of Darkness presented a new kind of supernatural beings with an unique background: the changelings. On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the system, an anniversary edition was also published for Changeling: The Dreaming, which with about 500 pages offers a very comprehensive introduction to the most colorful World of Darkness.

Changeling revolves around the world of changelings - fairy creatures fused with human bodies. The fairies are originally creatures of dreams and were long present in their original form in the world of mortals until several disasters closed the connection to Arcadia, the realm of the fairies. Many of the fairies, especially the noble Sidhe, fled from the suddenly hostile world back to their own realm. While the nobles succeeded in this escape in many cases, most of the commoners had to stay behind. Separated from the fairy realm, they were forced to find a new survival strategy, which consisted of binding their fragile souls to the bodies of mortals. This is how the first changelings came into being, who over the centuries reorganized their lives.

With the moon landing, however, the dreams of humans were so inspired that the gates to Arcadia opened again and the fugitives were able to return. And, of course, there were conflicts, because the commoners, who had built their own society for centuries, were not very enthusiastic about the idea of simply submitting to the returning nobles again.

But it is not only the conflicts between the commoners and the nobility that divide the world of fairy creatures but also the different courts, Seelie and Unseelie, different kinds of changeling types and even wholly different opponents make the world of changelings quite "interesting". However, the greatest threat to changelings is banality. As creatures of dreams, creativity and fantasy are an elixir of life for them and the energy they need to survive and use their special abilities. Therefore, changelings are attracted to creative individuals who can create this glamour for them. Routine, everyday life, worries and all the things that burden people's daily lives, on the other hand, are poison to fairy creatures. Banality poses a real problem for them and endangers their existence by making them lose contact with their fairy soul, and thus they can become ordinary people. On the other hand, the changelings also see the world of dreams and the so-called Chimera, which are real to them and with which they can interact. It is quite possible that a changeling has a sword fight with a monster Chimera, while passers-by would only see someone waving his arms wildly...

Changeling again has an entirely different background than the rest of the World of Darkness. Besides, the game not only uses the same rule system, but also some typical concepts. Players must first choose one of the different types of fairies, all of which have unique advantages and disadvantages, affinities, looks and opinions. Besides the fact that the anniversary edition has some additional variants that were not included in the original basic rules, the book also offers the fairy creatures of other cultures, such as the Native Americans, the fairies from Hawaii and Asia etc. If this is still not enough for you, a system is also provided to create your own fairy species from scratch.

The special abilities of the changelings are small spells (cantrips), which can either only refer to the world of dreams (and are then relatively simple) or can also affect the world of mortals. Of course, the classical approach of the Umbra for the World of Darkness can be found in the form of various dream realms. While the Autumn People, who embody banality and thus endanger the existence of the changelings by their mere presence, were already potential adversaries, C20 brings a new type of adversary into play with the Thallain. The latter as agents of the primordial evil threaten the entire world.

With its colorful and imaginative world, Changeling may seem like the friendliest game in the World of Darkness at first. Still, the conflict between fantasy and banality is ultimately the most tangible and perhaps saddest conflict players will encounter in the World of Darkness. Nevertheless, Changeling is the role-playing game in the series that offers the most overlap with classic fantasy elements. The anniversary edition not only manages to bring this world back to life, but on the one hand continues to write the history of the game and on the other hand compiles material from various sourcebooks, so that even the player is overwhelmed with the options of what he can play. The Thallain also offer a new and very dark conflict, but in my opinion, this was not necessary at all, because it adds simple black and white conflict to the game and undermines the idea of banality as a subtle threat. Changeling is an unusual game in the World of Darkness and probably only appeals to a limited group of players. For them, however, the anniversary edition, just like the other anniversary editions, is a perfect and comprehensive package to dive deep into this game world.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Changeling: The Dreaming 20th Anniversary Edition
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Fate Condensed
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/25/2020 04:28:22

Highly concentrated updated Fate rules - a Mephisto review

Fate Condensed

After Fate Core and Fate Accelerated, Fate Condensed has now been released - a new edition based on Fate Core, but integrating rule changes and enhancements from various sourcebooks back into the rule book. However, this does not make Fate Condensed more comprehensive than Fate Core, because the other approach of this book is to concentrate the 300 pages of Fate Core rules on 20% of the page number. In a sense, this set of rules is an edition 4.5 of Fate.

Due to the small number of pages very compact, the set of rules also starts directly without much introduction and quickly works its way through the basic principles of Fate. It explains the dice system, the results of the dice rolls, the different types of tests and then, of course, the aspects and Fate points. After that, it continues with more specific rule concepts: teamwork, challenges, competitions, conflicts, character development and game mastering. So the book arrives at the optional rules after just over 40 pages - and here you will find adaptations from previous supplements such as states, extreme consequences, etc.

But even in the core of the rules, some changes have been made. For example, the damage system, which up to now has worked with differently weighted damage boxes, is simplified.

What I really liked about Fate Condensed is the fact that the ruleset manages to summarize the Fate rules (and not the stripped-down rules of Fate Accelerated) compactly on about 60 pages. The rule changes and also the optional rules are an excellent addition that can improve the game flow. For players and gamemasters who already have some experience with Fate, Fate Condensed is a great set of rules, also for looking up things quickly. However, Fate newbies will probably miss the examples and explanations in this concentrate and will have a much harder start in this compact form. But those who have already gained first Fate experiences with Fate Accelerated, for example, will find Fate Condensed a very good way to expand to the more extensive Fate rule base. The fact that the book is on the pay-what-you-want makes it an extremely attractive expansion for Fate fans.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fate Condensed
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Monster of the Week: Tome of Mysteries
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/25/2020 04:22:50

A massive expansion for Monster of the Week - a Mephisto review

Tome of Mysteries

Monster of the Week not only describes an approach to series where each episode focuses on a new type of monster but is also the title of a roleplaying game based on the rules of Powered by the Apocalypse. In Monster of the Week, player characters act as monster hunters, constantly confronting new monsters.

With Tome of Mysteries, the first expansion to this roleplaying game has been released, which further expands the rules system and setting. It starts with new rules that revolve around the traits of the Weird trait, which depicts typically magic. But now Weird can also be used for unusual techniques, psychic phenomena and the like. This way the game master can adjust the setting, whether magic or other phenomena are in the foreground here (or both exist side by side). Thus the possibilities to use the property Weird become more extensive.

Phenomena is also a new type of mystery, where the focus is not on a monster that needs to be hunted, but on a strange phenomenon, artifact or other threat. The idea here is to be able to depict more adventures in the style of The X-Files. The special moves for the use of Luck are also examined in more detail, and the special move for investigations is modified so that the questions a player can ask with this move are more flexible.

Players will also get more material in the form of four new hunters, namely Gumshoe, a classic private detective, Hex, a witch with forbidden powers, Pararomantic, a hunter with a romantic relationship with a monster, and Searcher, who dedicates his life to the search for the unusual.

The second part of the book consists of essays. They are about clear tips on how to improve the game, how to play Monster of the Week with the short time frame of a convention or how to deal with alternative game themes like gothic horror or children as protagonists. Even though some of these game styles are quite special, you will find very well elaborated and new tips that are not only suitable for Monster of the Week.

The rest of the book - well over half - is made up of about 30 mysteries which cover an extensive range and are sometimes based on well-known inspirations. You can find an adaptation of Wells' time machine, a mystery about Elvis and Nixon or the mysterious computer game Orbital Funk Princess.

The Tome of Mysteries provides extensive material for a Monster of the Week campaign. While the rules and the new playbooks are a nice addition, the focus of this book is actually on the tips and above all the suggestions for mysteries. With no less than 30 of these ideas for adventure (as befits a Powered by The Apocalypse game, these only provide the basic information, but never a defined sequence of events) there should be something for every gaming group to help you play Monster of the Week in the long run - or use this material as a source of inspiration for your own campaign. In my opinion, Tome of Mysteries is an excellent addition to a perfect and very exciting roleplaying game, which is highly recommendable.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Monster of the Week: Tome of Mysteries
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Legacy: Life Among the Ruins - The Engine of Life Supplement
Publisher: UFO Press
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2020 08:40:38

Hope among the ruins - a Mephisto review

The Engine of Life

The Engine of Life is another addition to the roleplaying game Legacy, which is thematically dedicated to the aspect of hope. In this sense, the sourcebook is a collection of various additions for the existing game. There is a new character role, the prophet, new landmarks, and a few new wonders to build. The new coda rule is about retiring characters who have each completed their fourth role - and what the consequences are. With the festivals, another rule mechanism is introduced, which on the one hand, stylistically shapes the new society in the ruins through corresponding traditions, but on the other hand, can also bring concrete advantages.

After some essays on the topics of love, traditions, culture and religion - i.e. values that have a special meaning even after the fall and can shape the life among the ruins - six new families and seven new characters are introduced, which further increases the diversity of this game. There are both exciting, but rather classic variations as well as stranger ideas, such as the Timestream Refugees, which arrived from the future to escape a catastrophe or to prevent it now. With Burning Down Babylon, the book also provides a small, relatively compact setting that is suitable for a quicker start.

Overall, The Engine of Life provides a toolbox full of new elements to add to the game. None of them will really change Legacy completely, but thematically, this volume has captured the element of hope that something new and good will emerge from the ruins in a fitting way. In my opinion, the number of options and possibilities to design Legacy has become almost too extensive with all the additions (especially since there is another sourcebook that looks at the post-ruin era from a much more pessimistic perspective). However, if you take the time to try out all these possibilities and elements, you get the chance to play such very individual times after the demise.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy: Life Among the Ruins - The Engine of Life Supplement
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Liminal: Prodigal Son
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2020 07:35:44

Vampire and werewolves of Yorkshire - a Mephisto review

Prodigal Son

The search for a ‘lost son’ and some missing books for senior Council of Merlin magician throws the crew into the world of werewolves, vampires, mages and ghosts in rural Yorkshire.

As with the other case files for Liminal, Prodigal Son present a story about supernatural creatures in the UK in a few scenes featuring various elements of the game. Personally, I like the approach of these straightforward case files presented on a few pages. While the game master probably has to improvise and extend the background, it is a perfect start for an easy-to-play scenario.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liminal: Prodigal Son
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Liminal: Haunting House
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2020 07:35:42

A haunting case - a Mephisto review

Haunting House

Haunting House can be used a sequel to Prodigal Son as the crew is again hired by a senior Council of Merlin magician – this time to guard a book against the Council of Merlin and to investigate a haunting.

As with the other case files for Liminal, Haunting House present a story about supernatural creatures in the UK in a few scenes featuring various elements of the game. Personally, I like the approach of these straightforward case files presented on a few pages. While the game master probably has to improvise and extend the background, it is a perfect start for an easy-to-play scenario.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liminal: Haunting House
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Liminal: Ghosts of Glencoe
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2020 07:35:39

Ghost-story with a scenery - a Mephisto review

Ghosts of Glencoe

In this Liminal case file, the crew of the players is on the search for a missing hiker in Scotland and confronted with ghosts and werewolves.

As with the other case files for Liminal, Ghosts of Glencoe present a story about supernatural creatures in the UK in a few scenes featuring various elements of the game. Personally, I like the approach of these straightforward case files presented on a few pages. While the game master probably has to improvise and extend the background, it is a perfect start for an easy-to-play scenario. Plus, the Glencoe form a really nice background to the story.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liminal: Ghosts of Glencoe
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Kult: Divinity Lost - 4th Edition of Kult, Core Rules
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2020 07:11:27

Abandon hope all ye who enter here - a Mephisto review

(Warning: Kult present are very dark world with religious aspects in an extremely explicit way - people offended by the themes should avoid this game despite this five stars review)

Kult - Divinity Lost

When Kult appeared in the 90s, it was a roleplaying game that attracted a lot of attention. At a time when roleplaying games were in the process of expanding strongly from the classic fantasy background with its radiant heroes to different, even darker game worlds with rather ambivalent characters, the aim of Kult seemed to be to shock and polarize with its background and especially with its presentation. After 30 years of showing in many fictional worlds what readers, players and viewers can be confronted with nowadays, Kult is now back in a fourth edition. And one thing should be said right at the beginning: This edition of roleplaying can also polarize. With its occult and gnostic background, explicit themes, an explicit writing style and also the matching illustrations, the game will definitely not become everybody's cup of tea: A game that so openly deals with occultism, religion, sex and violence still challenges those who like to criticize roleplaying games...

The whole world is an illusion

The basic idea of cult uses some mystical, occult and gnostic concepts. The terrible truth, which is recognized by very few inhabitants of the game world, is that the world as we see it is only an illusion. At first glance, the world looks like ours, but at its core, it is nothing more than a prison designed to keep humanity weak and rob it of its special powers. Behind this is the fact that humankind itself originally consisted of almost god-like beings, until the so-called Demiurge locked it into the illusion and robbed it of its powers. The ten archons of the Demiurge created the principles that were to keep humanity bound: Principles such as honor, hierarchy, community or law were used to rob humankind of its freedom and power. But whoever the Demiurge was, with his disappearance this eternal order began to collapse. The Archons confront each other, and the illusion that holds humanity captive is starting to crack. Even the Demiurge's dark shadow, Astaroth, and his ten Angels of Death are gaining influence and have their own goals.

In this dark world, the player characters have the misfortune to take a first look behind the illusion and to be confronted with the horrors that lie behind it...

Everything one size smaller

While the basic background puts the entire existence of the universe and humanity in a different light, the player characters are only gradually confronted with the truth. They can experience monsters walking among humans and hunting them down. Perhaps they realize that dark types of magic are real, or they stumble into one of the places that lead from illusion to other, terrifying areas of reality. The personal horror that Kult has to offer is thus extremely diverse: monsters, brutal cults, senseless crimes, and even cosmological powers that not only want to enslave humanity but have done so for ages, are part of the arsenal that Kult unleashes on player characters. And it's absolutely clear that much of what lurks behind the illusion is more than a few numbers too big for player characters.

Also, the player characters are not designed as radiant heroes in the roleplaying game. Instead, in many ways, they are pragmatists at best, but more likely opportunists or anti-heroes who are tainted with dark secrets and terrible flaws. How they deal with the confrontation with the truth will depend on the players, but even in the long run, there is no happy ending to be expected in the world of Kult - and maybe it would be easier if the player characters didn't even suspect what their world is really like...

Rules and systems

While Kult used its own rules system in the earlier editions, Kult - Divinity Lost uses the Apocalypse World system at its core - but with some adjustments. The classic two six-sided dice are replaced by two ten-sided dice, thus adjusting the value range. Nevertheless, the basic principle still applies that the two dice are added together and modified by a statistic of the character. The result indicates whether the player character has a full success, partial success or no success at all. As usual for Apocalypse World, the possible actions of the characters are summarized in so-called Moves, which cover basic actions and tests. Again, the game master never rolls dice and his characters, therefore, have different game values. The game master's moves consist less of concrete actions and more of narrative techniques to challenge the players. With a total of ten game statistics, Kult already offers a relatively high number of statistics, but this is small compared to the many dark secrets as well as advantages and disadvantages that more strongly characterize a character. While the dark secrets give the character more background and thus determine his motivations, the advantages and disadvantages offer rule aspects. The disadvantages often revolve around the fact that under certain conditions, dark sides of the character appear if the character does not keep under control. Advantages, on the other hand, allow additional moves or modify existing ones. Also relevant for the player characters are the so-called relations, which determine the relationships between the characters and also to non-player characters and can also influence dice rolls. Besides the rules of how physical injuries affect the player characters, there are also rules for stability, which defines the mental capacity of a character. As usual for Apocalypse World systems, character creation is basically very simple, as the player chooses one of 20 archetypes and makes a few decisions for elaboration. In total there are 25 archetypes, but five archetypes have reached the state of not only having a first glimpse behind the illusion but already reached a certain level of enlightenment, while one archetype is still entirely in the dark and therefore more challenging to play. Each archetype brings with it a few choices, especially in the dark secrets, as well as advantages and disadvantages, and has some descriptive elements.

On the other side

The rules relevant to the players make up about one-third of the book, while the second part is aimed at the game master. Here the traits of the game master are explained, but above all, the general atmosphere of Kult is introduced. Besides the question of how to deal with the sensitive and sometimes difficult topics of Kult in a gaming group, very practical tools like the intrigue map for planning adventures are also presented. Especially for the first game round, there are additional tips. Also, the handling of non-player characters, which function differently than player characters, is described accordingly.

Horror behind the illusion

The third part of the book is the truth of the world of Kult. Here the complex background with the Demiurge, the Archons and the different worlds is described in detail. However, here too, Kult is deliberately vague in many aspects, although much is explicitly addressed. Much is hinted at, but an unambiguous, clear picture is usefully left out. Thus the ten Archons appear rather abstract, which however corresponds exactly to their nature since they are to be understood more as concepts than as physical beings.

The chapter offers a detailed tour through the world of Kult and begins first in the illusion that corresponds to the world as we know it - with some darker aspects that are fortunately missing in our reality. Thus, the illusion contains stranded gods, lictors, fallen angels and other horrors whose encounter can be fatal for an average person.

Furthermore, madness, but also passions and dreams, can open the way to other worlds. These worlds include the Underworld, Metropolis, the Inferno or even Limbo. A central role is played by the endless city of Metropolis, as this seems to be the original home of humankind. However, with the imprisonment of humanity, Metropolis stands empty and is only roamed by a few dangerous creatures. Nevertheless, there are places that can lead to Metropolis to confront players with the terrible truth. On the other hand, Limbo is the world of dreams, where some extraordinary people have created their own dream realms - which are often just as terrible and dangerous. That the Inferno, the origin of the DeathAngels, is not a pleasant place to be, is needless to say...

Kult not only has a very unusual background but also tries to convey its drastic world in a correspondingly vivid way. This happens on the one hand in many sample texts, which sometimes work with hints and sometimes with very explicit descriptions. On the other hand, the illustrations in the rulebook are drastic and like to combine nudity with wounds and monstrosities, while the surroundings often combine cyclopean buildings and other fantastic sights.

No game for everyone

With a background in which, similar to the gnostic conception, the seemingly divine Demiurge appears rather as an enemy of humanity and in which basically all structures based on order, laws and hierarchies - be it churches or states - are only part of an illusion that is supposed to keep humankind small and in chains, K**ult can certainly cause offence already from the basic concept. Combined with the fact that the game does not only address sensitive topics such as insanity, rape, mutilation, abuse, senseless violence and other horrors in texts but also depicts them figuratively, Kult is not only a roleplaying game for adults but only for adults who are willing to get involved with these topics. From my point of view, it is easy to understand when someone, just by leafing through it, quickly makes the decision that Kult** is definitely not the roleplaying game for him.

On the other hand, the ideas of the roleplaying game are well and consistently thought out, and the textual and graphical implementation is also quite impressive. Already in the first edition, Kult was a roleplaying game that wanted to polarize, and he certainly succeeds in doing so in the new version.

Here it is probably worth remembering that Kult is nothing more than a game that challenges you to test your limits - and explicitly demands that you recognize these limits within the gaming group and not simply cross them. As usual in the horror genre, Kult deliberately presents things that are meant to scare players - and as long as this ultimately serves the fun of the game, that's fine.

In my opinion, Kult - Divinity Lost offers a very exciting background. Many of the themes and ideas are cleverly linked to urban myths, but also religious mythologies and offer a very wide range of themes that can become part of the game. The fact that much of the background is diffuse is essential, in my opinion. Too much concrete information would certainly have destroyed the atmosphere. Also, the fact that the player characters are not heroes but characters with distinct dark sides fits the genre. The choice of the Apocalypse World system for this setting is a good approach, as the focus is on storytelling and fewer rule mechanics. It also fits that many of the creatures and creatures presented have no game statistics at all since it often makes little sense anyway that the player characters compete with them in battle (And Kult is not a scenario that players can "win" by defeating the horrors in battle).

Even though Kult is already testing limits in some places, I find the new edition of the roleplaying game quite impressive. With the memory, how the edition of the 90s already polarized the players, I used it again for comparison: Here, too, you can see very clearly how much time has passed, because the rule book of the first edition is quite tame against the new edition. Apparently, tolerance thresholds are much higher nowadays...

Kult - Divinity Lost is a roleplaying game that covers topics that might bother players. If you are not deterred by this, you will get a horror roleplaying game, which is impressively implemented in terms of text, rules and graphics and offers a wide range of exciting stories with its background.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Kult: Divinity Lost - 4th Edition of Kult, Core Rules
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Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/23/2020 00:50:27

Rebirth of the vampires - a Mephisto review

Vampire V5

While in the late 90s the roleplaying game Vampire - The Masquerade was one of the most exciting game titles of its time, the game was eventually discontinued together with the entire World of Darkness. For Vampire, the metaplot introduced Gehenna - everything ended with the vampiric apocalypse. For a long time, it was quiet around Vampire, but with the success of the anniversary edition, the foundation was laid to let the game return in a completely new 5th edition. Even though Vampire V5 picks up where its predecessors left off in many places, the game often goes completely new ways - and shows that the time of the last almost 20 years has not stood still in the world of vampires.

The world of the Vampire

The basic background of Vampire still remains: Players take on the role of vampires in a world that, on the surface at least, resembles ours. In the background, however, there are the so-called Kindred, who as vampires not only hunt humans but have more or less strongly influenced human history. The vampiric society is very complex. There are different clans, which can be traced back as lines of descent directly to the legendary Antediluvians, and various sects, in which different vampiric philosophies meet. In the past, there were two major sects, the Camarilla and the Sabbat. While the Camarilla always appeared to bring order to the vampire world and to use the Masquerade to ensure that humanity does not learn of the existence of vampires (to prevent vampires from being hunted down as in the days of the Inquisition), the Sabbat always stood for the unrestrained display of vampiric abilities and superiority. The anarchs, who did not want to submit to the Camarilla, but were not as radical as the Sabbat either, formed the third power bloc.

But much has changed, especially for the big sects. Here Vampire uses events in history, as the authors did in the past, and takes September 11th as a critical event for great upheavals. In this case, it was the Camarilla who suspected Sabbat interference after the attacks and tried to manipulate the secret services to follow this lead. Even if the events had nothing to do with the vampires, in the end, the secret services became partially aware of the vampires and used the war on terror also to hunt the vampires. They have joined forces with church organizations such as the Society of Leopold and created what the vampires call the Second Inquisition: a well-organized and excellently equipped group of vampire hunters. Not only was the main Tremere chantry in Vienna destroyed by the Second Inquisition - cities like London also suffered heavy losses.

At the same time, another development has led to the Sabbat going in droves to the Middle East to fight the Gehenna War. In this region, the Sabbat suspect that an antediluvian is buried, against whom they want to wage war. At the same time, many of the ancient vampires are drawn by an unknown force to the same region, so that not only have many former Sabbat domains been abandoned and fallen, but other cities have also been stripped of their leadership. For this reason, the younger vampires suddenly have much more influence. But also the Anarch movement has regained strength due to the situation. The Anarchs control several cities on an equal footing with the Camarilla. With the Gangrel and Brujah, two clans have also ultimately left the Camarilla to join the Anarchs. Therefore, the Camarilla is looking for new allies and tries to work together with both the Ashira and the Assamites. As the old vampires move on, the young vampires - including the player characters - have much more influence and responsibility, and can make a big difference on the side of both the Camarilla and the Anarchs.

Even the so-called Thin-bloods, which were introduced in the 3rd edition of the roleplaying game, have established themselves as a factor and are more than just a short-term phenomenon. These vampires are so far removed from their vampiric ancestors that they neither have the full range of vampiric powers nor have they inherited all their weaknesses.

Vampires as characters

Character creation mixes familiar elements with new ideas. As before, there are attributes and skills that are combined during dice tests. The backgrounds and disciplines have also been retained in principle. However, character creation is now taking a new direction, as attribute points can be distributed more freely, while skills are determined in a process that more closely reflects the background story of the character. Besides, each vampire now has to choose a Predator Type, which corresponds to their hunting mode - and also affects their skills.

The coterie - the group of vampires - and their domain, which the characters control together if necessary, also play a role in the character creation process. There are rules for defining domains as well as different types of coterie types that can be selected, which have different advantages and disadvantages and, above all, tasks. The former backgrounds and advantages and disadvantages have been merged and mixed. In some cases, the points have to be distributed for various properties of these backgrounds. A novelty here are the so-called lore sheets, which are unique background properties that revolve around a specific theme. This way, it is possible for a player to become more connected to the background of the game. A broad selection of elements from the metaplots of the last decades appears here. For example, a player can be a veteran of the sect wars of the late 20th century, which at a low level can mean that he or she is allowed to roll the dice for appropriate knowledge - and at a high level that he or she was one of the critical characters in that conflict. Other Lore Sheets allow you to know well-known characters like Theo Bell, Jeanette Voerman or others. At least this makes the background system a lot more confusing for the player.

With the V5 core book, the player can choose between seven classic clans. In addition, there are the Caitiff and Thin-Blooded. The latter are clearly different from the other vampires (and are accordingly hated by them). Both the Caitiff, the Thin-Blooded, but also the Brujah and Gangrel are now on the side of the Anarchs and thus oppose the Camarilla, which is based on Ventrue, Tremere, Nosferatu, Toreador and Malkavian.

The rules

Vampire still uses ten-sided dice, and most tests add the value of a skill with an attribute to form a dice pool. Any roll of 6 or more is a success. Ones and tens have special effects. They can lead to critical failures or successes. While the system can be played with normal ten-sided dice, Vampire also offers special dice with corresponding symbols to help you count successes faster.

A major rule change concerns the vampires' bloodthirst. In V5, blood points are no longer counted, but a character's hunger is used. This hunger has concrete effects because every point of hunger replaces a regular die with a so-called hunger die. A missed roll and a one on hunger dice will result in a bestial failure, in which the vampiric side of the character will take over. A bestial failure always triggers certain behaviour of a vampire. There are both generic reactions and unique clan variants. But also a critical success on a hunger die leads to a messy critical, which can quickly become problematic.

The accumulation of hunger has become more unpredictable because where previously blood points simply had to be used, a die roll is now used to determine whether a character's hunger grows. This means that the use of special abilities becomes riskier.

Blood now plays a more defined role for vampires anyway, because, in addition to generation, it is Blood Potency that defines a vampire. Even if this is within limits that depend on the generation, significant differences can also arise within a generation. This concerns, on the one hand, the powers of a vampire, but on the other hand, also the restrictions in the search for blood and its weaknesses. A vampire with a high value is more powerful, but cannot feed on animals, for example.

Moreover, blood is no longer simply blood, but the choice of victims also takes on a new meaning. Here, the so-called resonances of the blood are taken into account (based on the humor theory of Hippocrates), which ideally even offer additional bonus effects for the vampire - but at least it is a clear question of taste.

Humanity is also newly managed. In contrast to the past, a character does not immediately lose points if it behaves inhumanely, but the empty dots on the scale of 0-10 can be filled with so-called stains. These are small blemishes that the character has taken upon himself. Only when the empty dots are used up (which happens the faster, the higher the humanity of a character is), the character is hindered by the moral conflict and has to cope with it. Either the character has to try to come to terms with himself again at the end of the game session, or has the quick and hard option of losing humanity.

The core abilities of the vampires are still the disciplines, but there are changes here too, the main one being that in many cases there are several powers at different levels from which the player must choose. This change means that characters with the same disciplines can still end up with very different abilities. Additionally disciplines like Celerity, Potence, and Fortitude will not simply award bonus points, but will have defined powers. Thaumaturgy has now become the Blood Sorcery, which consists of only one discipline path, but has rituals as additional abilities. For the thin-blooded vampires who do not have classic disciplines, there is Blood Alchemy, with which they can use to achieve effects with blood and other ingredients, some of which deviate significantly from the classic disciplines.

Material for the game master

The book deliberately stores some additional rules, e.g. for faster conflicts and other options, in a separate chapter and thus allows the gaming group to adapt the rule mechanics to individual needs. The book also offers more information on how to deal with designing the cities and the setting for the chronicle - and also how to deal with the increasingly important topic of domains. The structure of chronicles is described, and accordingly, there is also game material in the form of profiles for enemies and the like. The book also takes a brief look at the Second Inquisition, which is presented in a comparatively superficial manner.

Old and new

V5 is an exciting new incarnation of vampires. The game manages to build solidly on the long tradition of the roleplaying game, but also dares to make a new beginning at some points. From the background, the world has clearly turned further. The lines of conflict have shifted: here, Camarilla and Anarch are facing each other harshly, and the former fragile peace has given way to more confrontation. On the one hand, the Camarilla appears more rigid and more determined, while on the other hand, the Anarchs offer a real alternative. And V5 is not afraid to change the clans as well: The Tremere are deprived of their central leadership in Vienna, the Brujah have turned their backs on the Camarilla, and the Camarilla is looking for two clans to fill the gaps in their ranks.

With many of the old vampires gone, the player characters have greater opportunities to make a difference in their city and not just stand in the shadow of their ancestors. With the Second Inquisition, there is also a dangerous enemy making even the most powerful vampires tremble, and who forces not only the player characters to take the Masquerade much, much more seriously. Even though the earlier metaplots are still hinted at, they clearly take a back seat, at least in the rulebook. The game becomes much clearer, especially for newcomers, as the number of clans and bloodlines, the infamous vampires and other secrets has been reduced considerably (in the lore sheets, however, some of these elements are taken up again, which probably makes them much more accessible for veterans of the game).

There have also been some changes in the rules. While I personally find the new rule for hunger very fitting, it is not as unpredictable as one would expect. Also, the more complex rules on blood, which influence hunting and thus one of the essential elements of the game, can enrich a game session, but may also come to much to the fore. The approach of tightening up and standardizing the disciplines more strongly is certainly a sensible way of dealing with the earlier wild growth. However, I personally will have to get used to a few changes first. Also, the choice of different disciplinary powers may make the game more individual for the players on the one hand, but on the other hand, it makes it more difficult for the players, because he might miss certain powers.

Conclusion

V5 is, in my opinion, a successful synthesis of old and new. The latest edition of Vampire is definitely not just a mixture of familiar ideas but dares to break away from its predecessors in terms of background, rules and even presentation. At many points, you notice a return to the basic values of the first edition, which simplifies the complex background a lot. On the one hand, the player characters are put into focus much more, because they can achieve more. On the other hand, the Second Inquisition makes sure that the player characters or even the vampires, in general, cannot simply rule the world with their abilities. Hunters quickly become the hunted. If you love a vampire with complex metaplots, overpowering super-vampires, dozens of clans and bloodlines, and complex conspiracies, you'll experience some limitations with V5 (and you are probably better off with V20, which bundles all these aspects). But if you are looking for a new start and want to play vampires with a fresh perspective and also a new role of the player characters, you will find a robust new rule system here.

Even if some changes surprised me personally at first - and I also had to get used to the new presentation with photos and the new layout - in my opinion, the rebirth of Vampire is very well done, leading to an excellent new edition which is not just another copy of former editions. The fact that the basic rules do not contain all the background knowledge is not a novel approach for Vampire but was also the case in previous incarnations. From my point of view, this game can be recommended to vampire fans in any case.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition
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Anarch (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/21/2020 12:55:57

A vampire sect with more style than substance - a Mephisto review

Anarch

As a counterbalance to the Camarilla sourcebook, a corresponding volume for the anarchs has also been published. In a broad arsenal of articles, the perspective of the anarchs is presented here. The fact that this sect is less ordered than the Camarilla can be seen from the structure of the book because the articles are a colorful mixture of essays that cover a wide range of topics in very different styles. Basically, it showcases the opinions of individual anarchs very informally. There are introductory texts - almost manuals - for being a vampire, interviews with some free vampires, chat recordings and other articles. Of course - as expected for the anarchs - very different points of view meet here, which are sometimes more about the personal freedom of the vampires outside of the dominant Camarilla and sometimes a declaration of war on the Camarilla including a diablerie on the ancestors. Of course, historical events such as the Council of Thorns and the first Anarch revolt, but also the incidents surrounding Theo Bell in Prague and the departure of the Brujah are addressed. Analogous to the Camarilla book, the clans are introduced a little bit, but in a much more informal way and without rules (and of course with a focus on the anarch clans). Furthermore, a new clan is added, which was formerly known as Followers of Set, but is now only called The Ministry. As before, this clan consists of seducers who exploit the dark sides in their victims. However, they are no longer fixated on the Set myth. Also, their former clan discipline is changed, so that they now possess Protean like the Gangrel.

Even though Anarch is easy to read, it seems to be much less relevant for the game than the Camarilla book. It is especially important to note that the anarchs include vampires who have never come into contact with the whole Camarilla background at all. This idea makes them vampires who can have their unique approaches, which opens up a vast new field of options. Unfortunately, this approach quickly fades into the background. In many cases, the texts instead consist of opinions, insults of the Camarilla and similar things without really providing concrete, reliable information. The problem here is probably most likely that the anarchs are not a uniform group, but a mixture of all those who do not belong to the Camarilla. Moreover, I got the feeling that it helps to know the former background of the game in order to better understand some of the topics. Even though The Ministry is now part of the anarchs, it seems a bit strange that you need this volume to get one of the former clans as a character option.

Anarch is undoubtedly not a bad sourcebook and worth reading. It offers some interesting ideas, but it is not essential and for many gaming groups perhaps rather unsuitable, since it contributes little concrete to the game.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Anarch (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Camarilla (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/21/2020 12:50:56

A new view of an ancient but recently changed vampire sect - a Mephisto review

Camarilla

The Camarilla book is the first sourcebook for V5 and focuses on the great sect that claimed to be responsible for all vampires. Written from the perspective of the famous Toreador Victoria Ash as a guide for her childe, the book first deals with the Camarilla as an organization. It explains the structure of the inner circle, the justiciars, the archons and the princes. Later on, the various roles and posts within a city are also explained and illustrated using selected exemplary personalities.

Cults within the Camarilla are a new aspect, as the sect no longer denies the existence of the Antediluvians. Therefore, there are also cults worshiping Caine and his descendants. Of course, there are still various other cults, heresies, orders etc. A large part of the book is devoted to the objectives of the Camarilla and its most important tool, the Masquerade.

The dominance of the Camarilla is no longer unchallenged. Therefore, the Gehenna War and the Second Inquisition, as well as the Anarchs, are discussed. A number of the most important Camarilla cities are briefly presented to show their differences.

A large part of the book is also devoted to the presentation of the clans. The five clans of the Camarilla are presented in greater detail, while the two Anarch clans and the Caitiff receive a shorter - and much more critical - examination.

With the Banu Haqim (formerly known as Assamites) the book introduces another clan, which, as described within the metaplot, becomes a new member of the Camarilla. The Banu Haqim is an extremely divided clan between the blood cultists of Ur-Shulgi and the defectors to the Camarilla. The Banu Haqim face changes regarding the rules so that their former clan discipline is being replaced by Blood Sorcery.

The Camarilla book provides a broad but also fragmented view of the probably largest organization of vampires. The topics are presented in text fragments, chat recordings, monologues and other documents and show a Camarilla that has changed a lot. Even though the organization seems to have gained in power, it seems to be much more fragmented and local - and far less a global power factor. With the approach that the Banu Haqim are now part of the Camarilla, a new dynamic development is created. Other concepts of the new edition of Vampire - such as the Second Inquisition or the Gehenna War - are also being expanded, but never completely lose their mysteries. Because of the clan description of the Banu Haqim alone, Camarilla will be a must for many players. Even if some chapters are written somewhat theoretically, and you certainly cannot use all the material, the book complements V5 with background and, above all, many ideas. In particular, it presents a new Camarilla, which, although it seems to be much more self-confident and elitist, on the other hand, raises enough doubts to strengthen the Anarchs as a meaningful game option.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Camarilla (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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