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Pax Cthuliana
Publisher: NEVR
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/13/2017 12:54:51

Review originally posted at GeekNative.com:

If I could pin down the spark in Pax Cthuliana, it comes down to a combination of excellent handouts and the cult of personality.

At heart, Pax Cthuliana – a 72-pages investigation, written by Jarle Haktorson, with art and handouts by Joseph Diaz and Even V. Røssland – runs a fairly linear path from start to finish, branching occasionally before returning to a common path. I found the word node coming to mind – you have some clear indications of where you need to go and who you need to see. There’s no sand boxing going on here, despite setting the whole thing in the heart of London.

However, it could be a fine analogy to compare Pax Cthuliana to a well-organised tourist bus trip around the highlights of England’s capital city, combined with stops to meet the well-heeled and notable locals. I won’t spoil it by saying where and who crops up along the way, but they ground the journey. Knowing these people anchors the events and adds to the visceral reality of what goes on – no matter how fantastical.

Atmosphere Pax Cthuliana also harnesses the power of sound, coming with it’s own Pax Cthuliana soundtrack, if you have the environment to support it. The text also references a few choice tracks from commonly available soundtrack albums – specifically Interstellar and Dragon Age: Inquisition. It’s a nice touch, especially where the dialogue runs alongside a track at the beginning of the investigation – a piece of exposition running in step with an orchestral crescendo.

Set in 1927, London provides a backdrop familiar from cinema and the small screen, so you shouldn’t struggle to get the atmosphere across. That sense of place and sense of connection pulls the players in deeper; that sense of involvement helps no end in carrying the game along at pace.

Along with that sense of pace, the relative linearity of the investigation and the well-crafted handouts mean that the publicity blurb isn’t lying when it claims you could run this in a session. I got halfway in a 2-hour slot – purely because my gaming group meets for only a very short time each week – and definitely expect to conclude in a second session. Anyone with a solid 4-hours game session and a focus to get the story told will definitely get the job done.

Engaging the Mythos I won’t delve into the story, as that would spoil it. I’ll use the blurb:

A sinister discovery is about to unveil itself in your dreams… an untold secret that will disturb the soul of even the most resilient investigator… The slumber of Cthulhu will soon come to an end… as will humanity.

Yeah – there’s something satisfying having the Big C involved.

The adventure benefits from players that have a passing familiarity with the Cthulhu Mythos, but there are personalities in place who could provide a little bit of guidance should that experience fall short. Indeed, along the way, those personalities provide key moments for the GM to ramp up the performance a bit, if desired, and could benefit from a few additional bits of prep; a top hat and a pipe wouldn’t go amiss, for example. You could even scatter the gaming table with some knick-knacks of suitable antiquity, like old leather-bound books, scraps of notepaper, old maps of London, tea-stained invoices…

As is, the adventure should be memorable. Pushing the boat out, you could get the players talking about this adventure for years to come.

Systemless or System Lite Running Pax Cthuliana requires no system. You can run this with nothing more than the book, the handouts and a group of players. I think, equally, you could play it with something that’s a light touch – like The Cthulhu Hack or Cthulhu Dark. A touch of crunch to add to the sense of uncertainty and to give the players the sense that you’re not simply throwing stuff at them.

Having a touch of system and preparing for a few more challenge encounters would alleviate a little of the sense of linearity – something supported in the game with optional Extended Scene that, in console gaming terms, feels like turning up the Difficulty Level a notch.

Format of Choice While you can get the game as a physical book, I can only see sense in that if you plan to run it again and again – which would suit you if you’re a GM who runs games at conventions and stores. In that instance, you will definitely be running it with a bit of system, because I’ve never seen any sense in running games at events unless the people playing can walk away with a hankering for a purchase! The PDF comes with thorough bookmarking in place to make it easy to get around the adventure while you’re running it.

While the handouts come in the main book, you can download them as a separate – and free – PDF. You can also get the official soundtrack to enhance the experience – or take the easier option and get access to a bunch of tracks through Even V. Røssland’s page on Soundcloud. I guess it depends on the quality of wifi at the gaming venue and how you want to support the publisher – you can get away with the Soundcloud option for free, or you can download the tracks and have them available offline by purchasing the official soundtrack.

In Conclusion Overall, I rate Pax Cthuliana as a genuinely enjoyable and engaging experience and well worth picking up. I can see myself using this as a convention standby, running it with or without system (I can see systemless working well if you have a gathering of slightly tired looking players who probably couldn’t handle crunch and mechanics). The handouts and soundtrack add something compelling and tactile that has the players scrambling at the table edge and craning over each other, desperate for the next clue and worrying what that rumbling crescendo in the background might mean for their character’s longevity.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Pax Cthuliana
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Symbaroum - The Throne of Thorns
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/18/2016 07:28:02

A taste of things to come, that nevertheless stands alone as the skeletal structure for your own Symbaroum campaign if you want to go it alone.

The brief overview document outlines the motivations and paths for the keys players and organisations, then sets the scene for adventures / setting supplements to come.

Combined with the rich illustration and simple game system of the core book, you could take this where you want spinning one idea or many --- or hold on to your hat and get ready for future releases. Recommend. --- Paul @ http://www.theironpact.com



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Symbaroum - The Throne of Thorns
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Rogue Trader: Shedding Light
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/15/2014 03:18:13

The Rogue Trader dynasty at the heart of this adventure have a treasure map and they plan to use it. Coming to the world of Solace, they find an industrious hiveworld busy supporting the new campaign in the Spinward Front. However, the cargo in the hold is little more than a distraction, as the map points to a cache of xenotech certain to raise reputation and profits alike.

The Shedding Light adventure is one of four based around Solace, written for convention play, interlinked and showcasing one of four different variants of Warhammer 40K from Fantasy Flight Games.

As a con game, it's solid. You have a basic background on the situation, a gazetteer for Solace, and the adventure proper, which breaks down to arrival, planet fall, finding the destination, and investigating. The investigation has a variable length, so if you have a con slot, you can pull one or more encounters to fit the session. At the end, you have all the stats you need for the adversary, plus SIX pre-generated characters - something I found to be a great addition, especially as they're designed at 3,000XP. You have six ready to use characters with some oomph behind them to showcase the game/system - which can sometimes be hard with characters created as if direct from basic creation.

If you want to use the mission as part of a personal campaign, I think you will want to do some serious work to it. None of the NPCs in the hive/docking control have any more detail than a couple of skills for opposed checks. Only the end game adversaries have detailed stats. You get a broad brush overview of the planet, and no maps. As a setting, it's a blank slate with just enough to get through the session and nothing more. However, like the convention scenario, Shedding Light could easily serve as a nice introductory mission if you wanted to sell your gaming group on playing games in the Warhammer 40K universe.

On a final note, I really like the linked mission angle. If you have four slots available at a con, you can run these and get a buzz going. In your home group, running the four could get a totally different vibe, as the players cotton on to the extent of the doom that has come to Solace. Really, there's a lot of cleaning up to do here...



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rogue Trader: Shedding Light
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Ratfolk Hide: Humanoid Vermin Reskinned (PFRPG)
Publisher: Dancing Lights Press
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/14/2013 17:36:52

A brief collection of alternate additions to a group of Ratfolk. Five different creatures offer up alternate leaders - in the form of a Pack Leader, King or Queen - and 'shock' troops - in the guise of Knight and Plague Children.

The creatures range from CR 1/3 up to 7, and all add their own distinctive twist on the purpose behind the Ratfolk a party might encounter.

Interesting viewpoints with complete stats ready to play straight off the page.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ratfolk Hide: Humanoid Vermin Reskinned (PFRPG)
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Looking Glass: Mumbai
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/11/2013 01:49:37

Ken provides a brief and focussed taste of the complex and vast city of Mumbai. A supplement filled with potential for use in innumerable games, not just Gumshoe-powered ones. The text provides a concise run through the cities history, politics, crime, and urban mythology - and I found myself excited to find out more.

Personally, I like nothing more than choosing a random page on Wikipedia and following the links, trivia-surfing my way through interesting articles. Having finished reading Looking Glass: Mumbai I found myself skimming travel sites, digital maps, Flickr albums and a multitude of Wikipedia cross-references.

If you know nothing of Mumbai and you're open to considering a new city as setting for your contemporary or near future game, especially in Gumshoe settings, then I thoroughly recommend this bite-size guide as a springboard. The pages have plenty of hooks, seeds and interesting ways to engage your player characters.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Looking Glass: Mumbai
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Astrozombies Must Die!: A Bulldogs! Adventure Scenario
Publisher: Galileo Games
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/23/2013 04:16:47

Astrozombies Must Die! provides a quick fix adventure for someone looking to fill a single session. I ran a game of it in about 2-hours with some snipping of the content, so you could easily make it 3 - 4 hours - which makes it perfect for a convention demo. While written for the Fate driven Bulldog! system, the adventure will work with any flavour of Fate (or Fudge for that matter) - I used Fate Accelerated.

The adventure presents a premise and a loose structure of how the player characters can get from the start, out to the stranded ship, then slowly uncover what happened and the threat standing between them and returning the cargo to it's rightful owner. The game includes stats for the Astrozombies, their Captain and Engineer - in four different flavours of increasingly power and difficulty to handle. I ran with the Fresh Meat (the lowest), but would have opted for Trouble or greater if I had more than 2 hours to spare. It means you can adapt to your group size, expertise with Fate, and desire for challenge.

One added bonus - I found the cover illustration really handy as a prop. I printed it out, used tacky glue to apply to cardboard (from a cereal box) and then cut it out as a standee. When the Astrozombies reveal themselves to the characters for the first time - voila! - you have a visual reference so that they know what they're up against (though the descriptions in the text reverse the way the image works - with a coloured skull inside a roiling black flame).

Great and FREE! What more can you ask for?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Astrozombies Must Die!: A Bulldogs! Adventure Scenario
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RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
Publisher: Pelgrane Press
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/04/2013 07:14:40

The premise seems quite simple - a wealthy man with aspirations and a keen interest in the overlap between science and parapsychology seeks to make a name for himself with the mummified remains of an Egyptian Princess. With his valuable possession in tow, he heads for home in the US - aboard the RMS Titanic. What could go wrong when you're carrying the corpse of the unlucky princess on the maiden voyage of an unsinkable ship?

A short, punchy premise and adventure, filled with pages of clues, a timeline, general encounters and a six-pack of pregenerated characters. Good entertainment for a single evening, which you could expand out into something more substantial. Well worth hunting around online for some authentic handouts (boarding passes, perhaps) and deck plans of the ship, just to add some extra authenticity.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
RMS Titanic: The Millionaire's Special
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Ninja - Silent but Deadly
Publisher: Troll in the Corner
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/04/2013 07:08:16

Ninja - Silent but Deadly deserves an excellent rating for simplicity and the natural underhandedness of the concept. Print out the cards and present the premise - hide them, wait, and hope to catch you opponent unawares. Akin to other games (and Games) where you have to rely on stealth, ingenuity and an unsuspecting opponent, Ninja - Silent but Deadly can work for adults and kids alike. You can play for an evening, or keep a game going for the rest of your life. The limits? Round here we have no limits!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ninja - Silent but Deadly
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D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/04/2013 07:05:11

The Moldvay Basic rules for D&D takes the game to a new height of simplicity. I had no recollection of this period, coming to D&D with the iconic red box. Weapon damage all rolled on the same dice - why not. Elves, Dwarves and Halfling all separate options - great. All the essentials of the game, for both players and referee, crammed into a single volume, with all manner of guidance and support presented in a clear and concise way. Within hours of reading this, I had a character sheet drafted out in Excel and my old D&D dice crayoned up for action.

A welcome return with good scans of the original.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
D&D Basic Set Rulebook (B/X ed.) (Basic)
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B4 The Lost City (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/04/2013 07:04:48

The Lost City, as an adventure in the Basic line, takes the GM from the hand-holding of a well scripted dungeon crawl through a sand-shrouded pyramid, to the cavern depths beneath. As the GMs confidence grows, so the trainer wheels vanish - with the lower areas of the complex provided in the vaguest of details and maps. Rounded out with the loose structure for a campaign - taking the PCs from arrival, through freeing the masses, defeating the enemy, restoring order, then returning home - you have a whole pile of potential crammed into a few dozen pages.

A great scan of the original, with those iconic blue maps. Brilliant illustrations by Jim Holloway.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
B4 The Lost City (Basic)
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Dockside Dogs (Call of Cthulhu)
Publisher: Paul Fricker
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/12/2012 02:47:18

Paul Fricker has created an interesting little scenario here that provides adequate material for a fast-paced one shot. I ran it for four players in a little over 2 hours - so, maybe add another 30 minutes or an hour if you manage to gather enough players for the full six gangster crew.

The adventure riffs heavily on 'Reservoir Dogs' - suggesting, in fact, that this might be the other job mentioned by Joe Cabot in the films naming scene ("You're not Mr. Purple. Somebody from another job's Mr. Purple. You're Mr. Pink!"). The group of three to six men with shady backgrounds meet to complete a heist and then hole up at an abandoned warehouse waiting for a late night boat across the river. The adventure includes characters sheets for everyone, including backgrounds and motivations for players to work off. Enough dynamic exists in the setup to ensure that you can manage this with fewer than six players, but as GM you need to take some responsibility for the other characters that can't take part. Mister Red or Mister Purple can't just disappear - they need to have got lost somewhere along the way.

When the adventure gets weird, players get confused. You need to have a means to take players aside and communicate to them out of hearing range for everyone else. I found it worth get some notes written down before hand to communicate some basic things ("The book is blank" or "You hear someone crying from the back office"). You also need to reinforce some elements, people and objects, to make sure players feel a real impact when they go missing. Some reactions really worked here - with key twists still getting attention after we'd finished. One or two developments really stuck in the players minds.

While the adventure does have a strong connection with Cthulhu, it doesn't have enough of a connection with the system to mean that you have to absolutely use Call of Cthulhu. You could easily substitute in something else, losing the character sheets and keeping the background sheets. Absolute improvisation could certainly work, too.

If I had a reservation it would be that the pay-off does depend quite heavily on someone knowing the protagonist behind the whole adventure. I had a group with a familiarity of Cthulhu ranging from some to none - and I doubt anyone had heard of the character behind the events. In this instance it would seem a good idea to have an alternate ending that still takes advantage of the great twist, but doesn't specifically require knowledge of Mythos literature. I think it would still work as a generic spooky tale in this light.

In the end, two characters died, with the other two well on their way, bleeding out or hanging on by a thread. Even without direct involvement from mighty Mythos entities, Dockside Dogs continues the tradition of high character mortality.

Highly enjoyable and a very worthy cause.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dockside Dogs (Call of Cthulhu)
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Map of Berem Town
Publisher: 1191 AD Publishing
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/25/2011 09:04:33

The Map of Berem Town, in a single page, excites the imagination enough to create mini-encounters and adventures at a moments notice. Why does the Monastery look so much like a castle? What lies beneath the ruins beyond the castle walls? Who lives in the Tower? Does the waterfall hide an entrance into a cave network filled with forgotten treasures? And why build a well when you're right next to a river?

Anyway - for a free product, the great presentation and interesting potential makes this Map the perfect tool to add to the ever-ready GMs arsenal!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Map of Berem Town
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Dumbass!
Publisher: BTRC
by Paul B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/07/2008 06:33:02

I enjoy simple games. I enjoy tile-based games. I enjoy Scrabble-esque games. Dumbass involves taking a hand of cards and creating phrases that represent daft, dangerous and stupid things to do, which quite possibly might see you jailed or hospitalised.

There is a need for strategy and tactics here - you need to plan ahead, think on the go, and make the most of what the other player's play without giving points away.

There was a little moaning about the lack of Start cards in early hands - but that probably comes down to how well you shuffle the deck... and, if I use the expansion pack I could always create more Start cards.

The game is simple and fun, and I can conceive this making regular trips out with me to various events to kill time and break up the mood of serious gaming. I printed the cards out on premium paper - but they definitely need to be on card. Still, the paper copies will allow me to play a few games to work out where I might need to enhance or tweak with house rules and cards.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dumbass!
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