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Tales of Aquatic Terror
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/11/2022 12:32:42

Horrors from the sea - a Mephisto review

Tales of Aquatic Terror

Life by the sea has several sides. On one side, there is the normal and pleasant life: a tour on a yacht, a politician's boat trip, a cruise to Europe, and a summer vacation in a small beach resort. On the other side, the horrors of the sea come into play: monstrous reptilian experiments, a conspiracy that kidnaps people under the sea, an arsenal of strange creatures that hide among (and sometimes hunt for) people, and government agents for whom civilians are just good experimental material.

Tales of Aquatic Terror offers four ready-to-play adventures for It came from beneath the sea, which confront the everyday heroes with all sorts of monsters and conspiracies against the backdrop of 1950s B-movies. The adventures are simple, well-structured, and suitable even for inexperienced groups. There are directly prefabricated characters whose background is integrated into the story for some adventures, so it is quick and easy to get started.

Iguana take a cruise offers a classic survival scenario that quickly moves from exploring to fighting deadly monsters. The Bubble confronts the characters with an enormous conspiracy that requires investigation and some tricks to combat. The Voyage of the Rose Marie is a sandbox in the form of a cruise with a whole arsenal of human and inhuman challenges. A Summer of Terror offers survival horror again, but with a nastier background. As interludes, the book serves up short, entertaining stories that evoke a bit of the game's atmosphere.

With four adventures, game masters get a lot of material covering a broad range. The Voyage of the Rose Marie does offer a little too many monsters and conspiracies, but you do not have to include them all. Therefore, this story is the highlight of the book from my perspective. However, I found both the story a bit confusing and some sentences difficult to read with the last adventure, so it did not quite convince me.

Nevertheless, the four Aquatic Tales of Terror offer an excellent introduction to the B-movie horror setting of It came from beneath the sea, which I can recommend – especially to beginners.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tales of Aquatic Terror
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Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Gamemaster's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/09/2022 11:23:12

The secrets of the Secret War - a Mephisto review

Achtung! Cthulhu Gamemaster's Guide

The Achtung! Cthulhu Gamemaster's Guide represents the second half of the rulebook for the Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 Edition. It focuses on gamemaster topics and thus on the mythos background and the opponents of the player characters. Thus, the various power groups – Section M, Majestic, Black Sun, Nachtwölfe, Deep Ones, and Mi-Go – are presented in detail, whereas in the Player's Guide, there were only a few snippets of text about these power groups. The descriptions are not only very detailed and give a good impression, but also the story arc throughout the war, and thus the complete metaplot is outlined. Not only are existing adventures referenced, but upcoming events are also touched upon so that the game already presents its larger plot as an overview in this basic rulebook. The entanglements of the power groups, their secrets, development, and connections provide a lot of potential for exciting stories. After all, this background chapter already makes up the book's first quarter.

The second chapter is about the secret weapons used in the Secret War. Here, the developments of Section M and Majestic are found side by side with the occult artifacts of the Black Sun, the Atlantean technology of the Nachtwölfe, and the bizarre devices of Deep Ones and Mi-Go. Even though the primary focus lies on weapons – from swords cane to the Pufferfish grenade to the sniper rifle – one can find other practical items. But, of course, most items are difficult at best for the player characters to acquire – and much of it comes from the arsenal of their enemies. The next chapter explains the subject of magic. While the magical traditions of the Allies are touched upon once again, the focus here is on Mythos magic, which is organized according to three Great Old Ones – Cthulhu, Nyarlathotep, and Yog-Sothoth. Then, again, there is the division into combat spells, which are quick to cast and are indeed primarily geared toward combat, and rituals, which allow for broader applications but are also significantly more difficult. Inevitably, the usual Mythos books are also showcased, which can serve as a source for combat spells and rituals.

The game master chapter addresses not only beginners because here, in addition to the basic concepts of game management, the game mechanics of Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 and their possibilities are demonstrated. There are tips on how to design a scene, as well as a summary of the most important rules and ideas and examples of rule concepts like Truths or the use of Threat. A little less than the second half of the book is devoted to the heroes, villains, and monsters of the Secret War. Here, you will find typical character profiles for soldiers of different units and key characters' backgrounds and game stats, from Badger and Ariane Dubois to Exarch Reinhardt Weissler and Mina Wolff. Thereafter, the book dives into a number of Mythos creatures. While Deep Ones and Mi-Go are presented in particular detail, the usual suspects like Ghouls, Serpent People or Sheehad are not missing. In the end, some of the Great Old Ones, Elder Gods, and Outer Gods are presented. Their statistics are not missing either – some of which are less impressive than one would expect, as the game system simply has hard limits regarding statistics. The question whether you really need game stats for the Great Old Ones is about as old as the different Cthulhu roleplaying games.

Like the Player's Guide, the Gamemaster's Guide offers a very well-done rulebook that provides the gamemaster with everything about the Mythos that is deliberately withheld from players in the Player's Guide. Particularly, the presentation of the power groups, their history, and also their development within the scenario is convincingly presented. Equipment and spells are coherent, and the chapter on gameplay provides good, concrete tips that are not only aimed at beginners. Whether you require the sheer amount of character profiles of various allies and enemies is something everyone must decide for themselves. However, the various Mythos creatures and gods provide a valuable cross-section, even outside the primary opponents in Secret War.

It is also noticeable in this book that Achtung! Cthulhu has ramped up the pulp factor and toned down the horror to make up for it. Here the heroes are better equipped to withstand the horrors of the Mythos. Contact with its creatures and magic spreads less madness and corruption. Compared to the previous editions, the real World War II takes a bit of a back seat, and with its archetypal characters, the game shows itself more as a pulp story or action movie. Thus, the officers of Section M showcase bravery and integrity; the scientists are somewhat cerebral and unworldly, while their opponents are either brutally repulsive occultists or sexy, cold-blooded schemers.

From my point of view, this new direction fits perfectly with Achtung! Cthulhu. On the one hand, the game distances itself somewhat from World War II and thus does not trivialize the actual horrors but provides a background against which fictional pulp heroes and villains can engage in action-packed confrontations with the Cthulhu mythos.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Gamemaster's Guide
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Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Player's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/05/2022 14:56:15

Pulp heroes in the Secret War - a Mephisto review

Achtung! Cthulhu Player's Guide

The Cthulhu mythos against the backdrop of World War II – that is the setting of the role-playing game Achtung! Cthulhu. While the war is raging in Europe and worldwide, the "Secret War" is taking place behind the scenes. There, the agents of Section M and Majestic try to stop the plans of the occultists of the Black Sun and the Nachtwölfe. Achtung! Cthulhu focuses on six power groups in the Secret War. The Black Sun is a Nazi occult organization that wants to use the magic of the Cthulhu mythos and the power of the Great Old Ones to win the war and advance its own goals. The Nachtwölfe have split off from them to use the technological achievements of Atlantis and the powers of the Blauer Kristall. Both face opposition from the British Section M and the American Majestic, who fight the occult forces with their agents – soldiers and competent civilians. Finally, the Deep Ones and the Mi-Go are the Mythos factions, alternately allies or enemies of the other groups. It is up to the player characters, who belong to Section M or Majestic, to defy the forces of the mythos as pulp heroes and thwart the sinister plans of their enemies as agents.

With the end of the licenses for the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game, Modiphius has brought the setting of Achtung! Cthulhu to the in-house 2d20 system and accordingly re-released the two core rulebooks Player's Guide and Gamemaster Guide. Not only was the rules base adapted, but the setting and focus were also realigned. While the first edition of Achtung! Cthulhu was very focused on playing soldiers and on the historic war, now the player characters are pulp heroes who can be soldiers, but also professors, occultists, and other people who have stumbled into the mythos. Power groups are also more focused, so clearly Black Sun, Nachtwölfe, Mi-Go, and Deep Ones are prominent as enemies (and sometimes allies).

Accordingly, the Player's Guide introduces the six major power groups with brief glimpses in the form of notes and rumors to give a quick impression of the setting but not reveal any secret knowledge.

The central part of the book is the introduction to the 2d20 system. The 2d20 system relies on players rolling two to five d20 to a target number calculated by attributes and skills for tests. Each d20 that beat the target number counts as a success, and some tests require more than one success. The rule is that a 1 is always a critical success, and a 20 is a complication. For each excess success, the player also generates Momentum (see below).

The other type of dice used is the six-sided Challenge Dice, which are blank on two sides, show the effect symbol twice, and offer the values 1 and 2. These dice are used for damage – called stress in this case – with the effect symbols triggering special effects.

Two fundamental game mechanics are Momentum and Threat. Players generate Momentum with good rolls, which can be used to buy additional positive effects for the corresponding roll – e.g., saving time, more information, etc. Players can also save Momentum for the group. The game master, on the other hand, collects Threat to bring special difficulties into play. Players can offer Threat to the game master if they are lacking Momentum.

Another game mechanic is Truths and Complications, which are reminiscent of aspects from Fate and represent a description that has gameplay implications. Complications are Truths that are a hindrance for the player characters. Both go into the calculation for tests.

A final tool for players is Fortune, which can be used to turn d20 to 1, pay for rerolls, and provide other benefits.

The game explains the rule mechanics for combat with initiative, zones, action types, and damage. Achtung! Cthulhu uses stress for damage – both physical and mental – which is quickly removed. However, if a character suffers more than five stress at once, or if his stress counter is completely filled, then an injury results, which has adverse effects as a Truth which is not so easily removed. Three injuries mean defeat. A player can save the character from death or permanent scars by voluntarily admitting defeat, similar to Fate. Scars occur when a physical or mental injury does not heal completely, and the character is affected in the long term by, for example, an amputation, drug addiction, amnesia, or paranoia.

Character creation is done in several steps based on archetypes, nationalities, and backgrounds, which define the majority of the selectable character stats. Thus, an archetype like Commander gets different attribute improvements and skills to choose from than an Infiltrator. This also defines selectable talents. The nationality determines the languages, while the background – as a former profession – clarifies other selectable statistics. Characters are thus created through several steps according to the player's ideas. Thus, as a result, a character can be an occultist from France who used to be a criminal and is defined by having been raised by a cult. Unlike previous editions, the focus on military characters is toned down and mixed with "classic" Cthulhu characters. To further refine the characters during the game, the book offers a large arsenal of talents, each linked to specific skills offering further advantages. Of course, two chapters are also devoted to equipment – primarily weapons and vehicles – with certain qualities defining equipment effects in play. The important thing here is that characters do not so much buy equipment as they get it provided for the mission at hand and have to apply for it accordingly. More exotic items are harder to obtain in this regard. The final topic is magic, which is divided into two sections. Battlefield Magic consists of spells that can be used spontaneously and are aimed primarily at combat situations. Ritual Magic has broader (and deeper) possibilities, but is correspondingly more elaborate. It is noteworthy that there are several magic directions: Celtic magic, rune magic, and ESP skills, which theoretically work the same, but each offers its own sets of spells. Magic-wielding characters can also be traditional mages, researchers, or dabblers, which results in minor rule changes. Traditionalists can only learn spells of their tradition, researchers are more flexible but have a harder time with spells, and dabblers always learn spells in a flawed version first. At the end of the book, there is some background on the military and their units, as well as sample stats for military personnel.   From my point of view, the 2d20 edition of Achtung! Cthulhu made some noticeable changes from the predecessors – not only by changing the mechanics. Player characters have become more pulp action heroes than World War II soldiers, and the new character creation makes it straightforward to create customized yet consistent characters. The rules are coherent, well explained and fit the setting. The stress rules also make this Cthulhu background a little less threatening than classic Cthulhu: dangers lurk here as well, but with a voluntary surrender, a player can always save their character. The use of magic is also pulpier. In addition to Mythos magic (which is not mentioned in this book), other magical paths are introduced, inviting you to create a magical character and use it actively with combat magic. This change is a departure from the classic approach of dangerously corrupting magic in the Mythos universe. The rulebook is well written, has a great layout and the new illustrations are worth seeing. Even though the book continues to offer information on the World War and everyday military life, this info is nowhere near as dominant as in the previous editions.

In my view, Achtung! Cthulhu with the 2d20 edition not only provides a well-defined rules, but the shift in focus away from the reality of World War II towards the more fictional pulp approach is a clear improvement for playability from my perspective. The simple magic without the evil aura of the Mythos is almost a bit too pulpy for me, but the seemingly lacking horror of the game is only to be expected for the Game Master's Guide anyway…

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Player's Guide
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Death in Space Core Rules
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/04/2022 13:26:52
In space no one can hear you die - a Mephisto review

Death in Space

The universe is collapsing. The Void, a strange presence that infects and corrupts everything, is the messenger of this collapse. Strange creatures from the edge of the universe are invading civilized systems. Are these stories just old wives' tales or a real threat? Even for the civilized worlds, all is not well. The Gemstone War soon broke out after unique gemstones were found in the Tenebris system, irreplaceable for advanced technologies. The war has no real winners and only losers, as the supply of Gemstones has dried up. Therefore, everything is recycled over and over again and worn down piece by piece like this. In this world of inevitable decay and with its mysterious threat, one's reputation and contracts are what keep one alive (probably) ...

Players do not know what to expect from the title of some role-playing games. With Death in Space, the name does not leave them guessing. Death in Space is a science-fiction role-playing game that builds its light rules on an old-school foundation – with simple stats, many random rolls, and random tables. Only four game statistics – Body, Dexterity, Savvy, and Tech – are required and range from -3 to +3. Rolls are made with a d20 against a minimum roll of 12 using these modifiers. There are rolls with an advantage or disadvantage, which means rolling two d20s and taking the better (advantage) or worse one (disadvantage). These mechanisms define the core of the rules already.

In addition to stats, an origin is rolled at character creation, allowing the choice of one of two advantages. The origin types are also darkly bizarre: as Chrome you are an ancient AI in an organic body, as Solpod you spend most of your time in cryogenic sleep and thus exist for eternities, and as Velocity Cursed you have already lost touch with reality. Thereafter, a few details are rolled out, and stats are determined – and you're almost ready to go.

As a special feature, there are the Void Points, which can be used to buy advantages or activate cosmic mutations as special powers. However, they also pose the risk of corrupting the character.

The next step is creating the hub, which can be a spaceship or space station that connects the characters. Here, too, game stats and many strange backgrounds and peculiarities give the setting its atmosphere. For example, the hub may be infamous for a riot or massacre, and the interior is painted in luminescent paint.

Besides rules for combat (including space combat, which relies more on boarding maneuvers to avoid destroying valuable ships), most other rules revolve around equipment degradation and repair. The approach that everything breaks, is recycled, and gets more and more used up is built into the rules. Besides that, there are a few mechanisms for activities and travel in space.

The book introduces the Tenebris system as a standard background and offers a scenario with a conflict to keep the players busy, but without prescribing a solution. Equipment, modules to expand the hub, and many random tables round out the book.

The layout of Death in Space, like the rules, is deliberately retro. An old computer font in white on black pages, monochrome (but not always black and white) illustrations, which sometimes have the detailed drawing style of fictional spaceship blueprints from the 80s, define the tone here. Take the gritty background, the consistent and unusual layout, and the simple, hardcore old-school rules, and you find the same principles as in Mörk Borg, even if Death in Space has its own less over-the-top but no less gritty flair. The book conveys its style very well and leaves plenty of room for the individual group to fill the collapsing universe with their ideas. Characters are quickly created – and, presumably, die quickly. The book is brutally honest enough to let the character creation end with the words "This was the last step, have a nice death in space".

If you like old-school rules, gritty settings, and dystopian sci-fi (or if you have always wanted to know what would happen if someone had cross-bred D&D with Alien in the 1980s), Death in Space is a very well and consistently implemented role-playing game that is presented in style.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Death in Space Core Rules
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MÖRK BORG CULT: HERETIC
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/27/2022 11:45:55

Heretical expansions - a Mephisto review

Mörk Borg Cult Heretic

Under the title Heretic, another volume on Mörk Bork has been published, mixing material from the original authors with fan contributions from the Mörk Borg Cult. As in Ferectory, the book presents a wild mix in the even wilder layout typical of Mörk Borg.

For example, the book begins with tables to quickly roll out a bizarre cult for player characters to clash with. Unheroic Feats offers 36 feats to enhance the characters as an alternative system. The selection of feats fits the tone of Mörk Borg: from the Bone Crafter, who can craft weapons and armor from human bones to the Negotiator, who can de-escalate fights, the selection features some strange and/or horrible character upgrades. In addition, there are two new character classes like the Sacrilegious Songbirg - the gloomy interpretation of a bard - and the self-mutilating Shedding Vicar.

The book also has adventures to offer: in Grave left wanting, the characters must escape a graveyard. Bloat features a dangerous dungeon. In Selpuchre of the Swamp Witch, the player characters can explore the tomb, possibly meeting the Swamp Witch, likely experimenting with a dangerous altar, and probably dying a brutal death.

In addition, new monsters include the Bone Bowyer, the Bitor, and the Rotten Nurse - the latter with another dungeon adventure.

You are cursed allows to punish characters with the roll of a d20 to inflict nasty, unusual, and gruesome curses - and provides starting points on how to break the curse - which, however, is rarely much more pleasant.

On the other hand, The Merchant offers characters "interesting" artifacts - for a price. If these tools aren't dangerous enough, Blackpowder Weapons for the Rich and Foolhardy lets you upgrade further, from pistols to cannons.

Heretic is a chaotic mix of entries in the game's intense layout with gloomy images, brutal colors, and extreme typography. The gruesome world of Mörk Borg is expanded with more horrors, and the book offers many more ways to make characters die a bizarre, brutal, and, if necessary, senseless death. If you like Mörk Borg, you'll get an excellent addition to this extreme setting.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
MÖRK BORG CULT: HERETIC
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Star Trek Adventures: Back to Reality Supplement
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/27/2022 11:28:17

Into the anomaly and back - a Mephisto review

Back to Reality

In Back to Reality, the plot fits a typical Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. The crew of players is to explore an asteroid belt that is not only extraordinarily dense but also shows strange quantum signatures. Due to the anomaly, it is necessary to fly a shuttle into the asteroid belt and obtain samples by hand. What starts as an exciting field mission quickly evolves into a fascinating anomaly that comes up with a dilemma for the player characters.

Back to Reality offers a good mix of story and challenges for the players to solve with both dice rolls and the right decisions. Even if the location for the finale is somewhat vaguely sketched, the adventure picks up on typical TNG themes that have also appeared in episodes of the series. From my point of view, Back to Reality is a fitting and engaging adventure in the world of Star Trek TNG.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: Back to Reality Supplement
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Andromeda • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/25/2022 10:42:40

Epic start in a galaxy far away - a Mephisto review

Andromeda

The galactic civilization of the Milky Way has perished, and the remnants of humanity boarded hundreds of space arks on their way to bridge the millions of light-years between galaxies to start anew in Andromeda. However, when the space arks reach their destination after 500 years of flight, it becomes apparent that Andromeda is inhabited by many alien civilizations which do not welcome the newcomers. And even aboard the planet-sized ships, there is tension, intrigue, and conflict between four factions.

The Fate World of Adventure Andromeda offers a space opera setting with alien threats and internal tensions. On the space ark, there are four power groups: the ruling elite, the technicians and scientists, a mixture of church, educational institution and media, and the working population. The names of these groups and many other terms are derived from the artificial language Esperanto, to use a foreign and yet somewhat familiar language. Starting with this basic setting, however, some aspects remain to be defined by the gaming group - for example, whether the inhabitants of the space ark were in cold sleep, developed a centuries-old culture on board a generation ship, or were hatched as a new generation only arriving at their destination. It also matters whether the space ark is among the first ones to reach Andromeda, in the middle of the exodus or one of the stragglers.

Andromeda - like most representatives of the Fate Worlds of Adventure - uses its own approaches regarding several mechanisms. For example, this game consistently utilizes the Fate deck and its additional symbols and aspect phrases instead of the classical Fate dice. The aspect phrase on the cards describes the action as an Execution Aspect which can be used accordingly. The sun and moon symbols count as agenda points to advance the major goals of the characters and power groups. On the scale of this game, antagonists are defined as entire species right away and can be generated randomly or built from options.

More importantly, however, is the background of the space ark, its factions, and the characters associated with the factions. The central element is each character's agenda - a major goal to achieve, for which a complex rule system is presented. However, the game statistics of the characters are based on only four skills, which are rather basic attributes. In addition, there are extras such as allies and special abilities.

With agendas, the goal is to advance them, which is accomplished through successful tests and the collection of symbols on the Fate deck cards. How many symbols have to be collected depends on the size of the agenda - and lifetime agendas are the smallest size level here...

In general, Andromeda takes place on a level typical for space opera: the actions of a few individuals have effects on entire planets and civilizations.

Andromeda presents an exciting basic setting which requires some fine-tuning by the individual group, but encourages the game master to improvise heavily using tables and suggestions based on the characters' actions.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Andromeda • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Trinity Continuum: Meridian
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/07/2022 12:53:58

A trip through the wastelands - a Mephisto review

Meridian

For the novella Meridian, set in the universe of Trinity Continuum: Æon, the story is based on a thrilling background of the setting: La Blessure - the devastated remains of France, which became the graveyard for millions after the crash of the space station Esperanza due to an attack of the aberrants. A unit of soldiers and scientists from the paranoid United Republic is sent into this wasteland to accomplish a secret mission objective known only to the unit's leader. To spice up this situation, the protagonist, Sophie, is not only a powerful vitakinetic, but also an undercover agent spying on the mission. She, therefore, cannot use her abilities openly at first.

As to be expected, the mission goes wrong: the team's jet is destroyed by aberrants, and the team has to fight its way through the wasteland on foot – always on the lookout for mutants, aberrants, and flux zones. However, when Sophie's cover is blown, forcing her to fend for herself, the story quickly picks up speed and shows that vitakinetics are not just harmless healers.

Meridian tells a typical but thrillingly written story in which the protagonist must contend with mutants, aberrants, and denizens of the wasteland in a race against the military team to avert a great danger. Even though there is not much in-depth story told here, the novella, staged like an action movie, is exciting, features a fascinating protagonist, and can serve well as inspiration for role-playing. Personally, I really enjoyed this trip to La Blessure.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trinity Continuum: Meridian
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SLIP • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/06/2022 13:45:29
When worlds collide - a Mephisto review

Slip

What if the feeling that something was wrong with the world was not paranoia but accurate? What if our known world was not the only one, and if other worlds were trying to invade ours? What if these phenomena were dangerous and a threat to humanity? And what if some people recognized this truth and had special powers from this insight?

The Fate World of Adventure Slip presents a game world in which worlds literally collide - and these other worlds of the so-called Slip try to invade Earth. This Convergence repeatedly leads to phenomena where worlds overlap, reality changes, and beings from other worlds infest our reality. But fortunately, some people have developed talents to oppose this threat and have organized themselves into a group called Vigilance. However, the mysterious Commission also opposes the Convergence - but with its own goals.

Character creation in Slip gives players the option to choose a talent, which brings advantages and disadvantages. For example, a Ripper can break the barriers between worlds where it is thin, but his very presence also weakens that barrier, leading to rifts that cause problems. Unlike other Fate worlds, the background for the game master is presented in a separate chapter with more background and a few rules. This chapter also clearly describes the truth about the Convergence or the real goals of the Commission.

After that, a bizarre world is briefly presented as an example. Additonally, The Sea from Beyond offers a complete scenario.

Slip proposes an exciting setting that provides many opportunities for horror and confronts the player characters with an escalating struggle for reality. The short elaboration on the groups, Vigilance and Commission, as well as some characters offers good starting points. From my point of view, Slip delivers an exciting scenario, which can also carry a more extended campaign if the gamemaster can come up with enough ideas for the threatening worlds of Slip.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
SLIP • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Scion: Tales of Heroes - A Scion Anthology
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/06/2022 13:34:49
Heroes with all their might - and doubts - a Mephisto review

Scion: Tales of Heroes

The daughters and sons of the gods walk our world, perform heroic deeds and stand against the titans - this is the core theme of the role-playing game Scion. Appropriately titled Tales of Heroes, 15 short stories in this anthology provide insights into the game world and its characters - in this case, still at the more moderate hero level that the game has to offer. For example, a son of Loki seeks an ally to foil a plan involving dangerous flowers from the Aztec underworld. Then again, the rivalry between two young scions on social media escalates from a catfight to a full-fledged confrontation. In another story, two scions must rise above themselves to stop a tangible titanic threat. Many of the stories occur in our world, but some turn to mythological realms - sometimes the Asian underworld, sometimes the world of the Orisha and Loa, sometimes even Hades. The heroes all have unique abilities and often heroic ambitions, but they are also often plagued by doubts, human weaknesses, or problems, making them more tangible. The spectrum of stories is broad, ranging from the relatively 'simple hero must face and defeat monsters' to somewhat ironic reflections at a convention to the doubts and sacrifices of the heroes that emphasize the inner plot. When an annoyed pregnant woman turns out to be a scion of Set, that inner stress even breaks its way out at times...

My favorite story was The Bacchae, in which a female scion of Dionysus wanders the nightlife of London with her entourage of maenads. The party atmosphere is soon overshadowed by much darker things...

For Scion, Tales of Heroes provides a range of well-written stories that give insight into the game world and can also be used for ideas for characters or scenes in the game. Of course, without knowing the role-playing game, the world presented here may lack some context, but even then, Tales of Heroes can entertain, so this anthology is clearly recommended, in my view.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Scion: Tales of Heroes - A Scion Anthology
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Red Planet • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 13:25:56
Red Planet

The inspiration for the Fate World of Adventure Red Planet is Soviet pulp science fiction. In this science fiction setting, communist idealists have developed the philosophy of progressive materialism and traveled to Mars to found the Union of Materialist Republics there. Arriving at Mars, however, they first had to overthrow the Martian dictatorship and convince the Martians to join the Union. Over the following centuries, the Union has expanded over large parts of the solar system - from Venus, overgrown with jungles, to icy Pluto. But the Union still has many enemies: the corporate-dominated capitalist USA, the corrupt USSR, and the two-dimensional aliens of the Geometrists.

Characters first choose a class, each giving them a bonus to skills. In addition to scientists, soldiers, bureaucrats, etc., there are also preserved brains, cyborgs and uplifted animals. The skill system features a few minor changes, where Pilot replaces Drive, and Renown is introduced. Pilot is necessary for flying within the atmosphere and in space, while Renown reflects the fame and reputation that can help get respect and help. Since Red Planet wants to convey a utopian idealism, one rules mechanic revolves around how to convert people to the Union (instead of taking them out by force). The book introduces a few vehicles and technologies, as well as typical enemies. As usual, there is a sample adventure in which the player characters must foil a plot of the Geometrists threatening Earth and Mars. A few ready-to-play characters allow you to jump right in.

Red Planet offers a classic pulp science fiction setting, where the planets of the solar system are not only habitable but have their own species. The setting deliberately goes the route of capturing pulp flair with dinosaurs, dirigibles, four-armed gorillas, etc., and foregoes any illusion of realistic science fiction. The idea of combining the pulp genre with the utopian "progressive materialism" is fitting. The book also quite clearly distances itself from real-world communism and its historical atrocities (and also from capitalism), presenting a fictional utopian philosohpy (after all, in this setting, both the USA and USSR are the antagonists of the Union). The author clearly states that Red Planet is about a fictional role-playing world rather than a hidden attempt at political propaganda in any direction.

The book thus offers an interesting pulp setting with a space opera touch and a unique perspective.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Red Planet • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Behind the Walls • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 12:21:29

Calm prison life after the apocalypse - a Mephisto review

Behind the Walls

The starting point of Fate World of Adventure Behind the Walls sounds interesting: the year is 1959, and eight years ago, there was a nuclear war. The player characters have spent this entire time in prison. The setting revolves around the Collins Park Correctional Facility, where the characters are incarcerated and separated from the rest of the world. Therefore, character creation also begins with what crime (whether committed or not) the character was imprisoned for. In addition, there are the usual aspects and skills, but all skills are expanded that the player specifies how the character usually uses that skill. In addition, one skill is replaced (Lore by Knowledge), and with Invent a new skill is added. As for stunts, the setting distinguishes between personal, cooperative, and secret stunts, which have a simple format that describes what advantage a character gets and where it comes from. Cooperative stunts give a bonus to the player character and their partner, while secret stunts combine a strength with a weakness - and they are usually kept secret. Secrets play yet another role in the setting, as each character has a secret that also provides them with advantages. The book offers two approaches to how these secrets can be presented in terms of mechanics and discusses how they can be used to drive the story.

Finally, a ready-to-play story involves the confrontation between the two major gangs in the prison that the characters are drawn into.

Behind the Walls is based on a one-shot adventure, and it shows in the finished book. Even though the setting has potential, the limitation to the prison means that the post-nuclear war world does not play a particularly visible or essential role for the setting. Even the aspect of prison life remains vague. This impression is especially noticeable in the adventure hook, which focuses on prison conflict, missing a lot of the action and/or drama to be expected. In this regard, the ideas to adjust the scenario do not help much. The rules concepts regarding secrets provide an interesting rules variation. Still, in the end, this book fails to provide a consistent setting that lives up to expectations and can carry an ongoing campaign.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Behind the Walls • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Trinity Continuum: Dawn
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 11:44:45
Few risks, few fun - a Mephisto review

Dawn

The ISRA sends Jay and her team to Far Nyumba to help a research settlement with its irrigation system. The disappearance of the Upeo wa Macho isolated the colony for a long time, and it had to fend for itself until new Leviathan jump-ships provided a way to reach it. As an added motivation for the team, the brother of one of Jay's team members lives on the moon, so a long-awaited reunion is imminent. However, shortly before the psions' arrival, an extraterrestrial artifact crashes near the landing zone - and soon aliens show up, claiming the artifact for themselves, ready to take possession of it - even by force. So Jay's team has their hands full, trying to solve the situation and protect the settlement.

At just under 80 pages, Dawn is a novella in the Trinity Continuum: Æon universe. The initial situation is promising - the journey to the distant colony that has long been isolated, some sort of key leaked to the team's clairsentient leader, and a threat from an alien force. However, the story remains shallow, and the characters pale. The powers of the psions play a rather subordinate role, and the background remains vague. Also, the way in which the predominantly female team solves the mission non-violently and always with harmony in mind by stumbling onto the solution seems too contrived. Unfortunately, my hopes for an exciting insight into the world of Trinity Continuum: Æon were not fulfilled here.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trinity Continuum: Dawn
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M20 The Rich Bastard’s Guide to Magick
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 11:37:10
If magick alone is not enough - a Mephisto review

The Rich Bastard's Guide to Magick

Mage - The Ascension focuses on high goals, personal enlightenment, and the definition of reality. On the other hand, money seems so banal - yet it would be so easy for an experienced magician to build up riches with the diverse spheres. The Rich Bastard's Guide to Magick is therefore dedicated to the topic of wealth and money in all its facets.

First, the volume looks at the relationship of traditions, conventions, and other groups to the subject of wealth and what they can and want to achieve with it. Then it goes directly to the topic of characters. Here, the focus lies on background resources beyond the usual 5-point limit, describing not only the mechanics of the game but providing a strong focus on what that means for the character's background. With appropriate new archetypes, advantages, and disadvantages, these backgrounds can also be modeled in terms of rules. A selection of rotes for the various spheres provides additional material for players. The focus here is not always on gaining wealth, but many of these spells fit the lifestyle of the rich. Corresponding paradigms and practices complement this chapter.

That wealth is the key to entering exclusive circles is the theme of the following chapter. Various organizations, from a wellness clinic to a sector in the digital web to a club of adrenaline junkies, provide different examples. What money can buy directly - whether the perfect home, excellent vehicles, or outright magic items of all kinds - is the next topic that the book addresses. These magical treasures are not necessarily powerful items but are always exclusive and sometimes quite decadent, like a billion-dollar work of art. If that is not enough, there are ideas for a private town or a chantry.

The book concludes with tips and tricks for playing with the rich and famous. This chapter is about how super-rich characters can change the game for the whole group, and how the game master can deal with players trying to solve every problem simply with money. A few adventure hooks from the world of the rich conclude the book.

The Rich Bastard's Guide to Magick is a special book. Hardly any gaming group will really need it, but it certainly provides interesting approaches and ideas - also in the form of concrete game material. The rotes, wonders, and organizations alone do not justify the book alone, but if you are thinking about a chronicle set in the world of the rich and famous and thus have considerably more room for over-the-top and fancy toys, this is the book for you. If this direction appeals to you, you will get plenty of ideas, tips, and hooks here. However, those who focus their Mage game on the street level or enlightenment will not miss this book. In short, if you want to play your Mage game in the world of rich bastards, you'll get your money's worth - everyone else does not need this book.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
M20 The Rich Bastard’s Guide to Magick
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The One Ring™ Starter Set
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 11:24:53

A family-friendly introduction like The Hobbit - a Mephisto review

4 stars if you are looking for a family-friendly RPG, 3 stars as a starter for The One Ring

The One Ring Starter Set

There have already been several role-playing games about The Lord of the Rings and The One Ring (TOR) has now been released in a second edition. To facilitate the introduction to rules and setting, a starter set has been released, consisting of three books, two maps, character sheets, item cards, and a marker. The latter, however, is not used for the starter set and only comes into play with the complete rules.

In the book The Rules, less than 30 pages describe the basic game mechanics and explain the basic concepts of a role-playing game and how it works. In The One Ring, d12 and d6 are used. The d12, called the Feat die, is the primary die, providing the values 1 to 10 as well as two special results. The Gandalf rune stands for an automatic success, the Eye of Sauron for a result of 0. Depending on the game statistics, additional six-sided success dice are rolled, and all dice results are added. The goal is to beat a target number, which usually depends on the character's three attributes and, in combat, the opponent's defense. This mechanic is extended as the success dice show another symbol that gives additional bonuses. In case characters have an advantage, two Feat dice are rolled, and the better one is used - in case of a disadvantage, the worse one is taken. Conditions can cause further modifications. Three attributes serve as character traits, which determine the minimum rolls. The 18 skills, in turn, determine how many success dice the characters have for specific actions. There are four weapon proficiencies for different weapon classes that work the same way as skills for combat. Damage is subtracted from endurance, and there are also hope points that can be spent on advantages.

Combat is very schematic and begins with an opening salvo and clear set-up rules for ranged and melee combat. An attack roll must exceed the target value based on the opponent's defense, and the damage determined by the weapon is subtracted from the endurance. If symbols are rolled on the success dice, they can be used for special effects such as heavy blows or armor penetration, which improve the attack. However, particularly good hits can cause wounds. Player characters can take one wound. If they suffer more (or lose all endurance), they are out of action. However, characters dying due to combat is not intended in the Starter Set.

The book The Shire presents the history, traditions, and homeland of the hobbits in over 50 pages. There is a brief background on how the hobbits came to the Shire, as well as a quick historical outline. This chapter focuses on aspects such as the art of pipe smoking and family traditions.

Then the reader is taken on a tour of the four Farthings of the Shire, as well as the Buckland and the Old Forest. Here, the various places and inhabitants are described, and random tables and ideas for adventures are offered to provide starting points for the player characters. Although the Shire seems mostly tranquil, some secrets and threats might challenge adventurous hobbits.

However, the book The Adventures, which offers a small story arc, provides a ready-to-play story arc. The story hook here is none other than the legendary Bilbo Baggins, who incites some young hobbits to some small adventures. Thus, they have to obtain a map from a museum, recover a historical treasure of the hobbits, secure fireworks, act as mailmen and confront a dangerous beast. The adventures are relatively simple stories with some minor challenges but few battles and no real threats to the hobbits. The story ties into the pre-made characters and also allows you to take on the roles of Balin and Bilbo later on.

Since the starter set comes without rules for character creation, eight immediately playable characters consisting of the character sheets and a brief background description are included. In addition to six different hobbits to support Bilbo, the selection also includes Bilbo himself and the dwarf Balin. Through the backstories, the characters are linked partly to each other and partly to the background of the setting. Since most of the characters do not have any combat gear to begin with, there are 23 cards of weapons and armor that show the item on one side and list the game values on the reverse.   The beautifully drawn maps show the larger region of Eriador and Shire in a more detailed version.

The starter set is aimed at beginners in two aspects. On the one hand, the rules are compactly reduced to the essentials and do without character creation in particular. On the other hand, the setting focuses on the hobbits and the Shire. Thus, compared to the rulebook, the Starter Set appears somewhat in the role of The Hobbit compared to The Lord of the Rings - namely, as the simplified, family-friendly version. This trend continues in the setting of the Shire and the adventures: Here, hobbits can experience a few harmless adventures where combat is hardly a factor, and the player characters are never in mortal danger. Unfortunately, the book about the Shire reminded me of the beginning of the Lord of the Rings about the hobbits: While the whole thing is well fleshed out, it's not what you expect for adventures in Middle Earth - and which is just an introduction before the real story starts.

Therefore, for me, The One Ring Starter Set is less of an introduction for roleplayers to the rules and setting of role-playing and more of a family-friendly, easy way to introduce children and possibly a still inexperienced game master to role-playing. In this respect, the Starter Set does an excellent job and provides a nicely crafted introduction. However, if you want to dive into the epic fantasy world of Middle-earth, more in line with The Lord of the Rings than with The Hobbit, you might want to give the Shire, and this set a wide berth and start your adventures directly with the core rulebook.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring™ Starter Set
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