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Weird World News • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/13/2021 06:15:33

In Scooby-Doo's footsteps - a Mephisto review

Weird World News

The cover of Weird World News already clearly shows what the inspiration for this Fate World of Adventure was. Weird World News is set in a world where in the '60s and '70s, it became fashionable for groups of young people to chase down sightings of monsters - which usually turned out to be just people in disguise. A continuation of this tradition still exists in the form of newspapers that follow up on any story, no matter how bizarre. In this game, the player characters are members of one news crew investigating such eerie sightings. The fact that the crew consists of young people, each of whom has a role between leader, looker, etc., who travel around together with a mascot and a minibus, clearly shows that Scooby-Doo and other series inspired the roleplaying game. The game does not make any secret of this but references this template's various series and typical patterns and approaches in detail.

For character creation, the player characters are divided into several archetypes. For example, the leader is good at anything, or the looker is particularly stylish - or even the looney who is a bit odd. Instead of the usual skill set, Weird World News used only four skills. Instead of stress and consequences, this setting uses conditions to keep the game simple. Part of the rules revolves around rolling out monsters, locations, and characters and describing the typical structure of such a roleplaying episode. A ready-to-play adventure and some sample monsters round out the book.

Weird World News shows a lot of love for the genre, and those who like series like Scooby-Doo and are looking for a simple, quick roleplaying game will do well with Weird World News. However, even though the game is presented with a lot of attention to detail, it's not my cup of tea and therefore did not convince me personally - not because it's not well done, but because I've never been a fan of the series.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Weird World News • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Haunting Shadows: The Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Anthology
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/13/2021 06:13:04

Haunted ghosts - a Mephisto review

Haunting shadows

Titled Haunting shadows, this anthology for the Wraith roleplaying game takes the reader into the world of the ghosts of the World of Darkness with nine short stories. The stories take up typical concepts of the roleplaying game: the social order of the wraiths, shaped by the Hierarchy, which always threatens to use new ghosts as raw materials; the confrontation of the wraiths with their shadow - that is, their dark side; the fight against specters and, of course, simply the fact that the ghosts end up in a dark parallel world after the end of their lives.

As with the other anthologies, the stories cover a wide range. For example, in one story, a duo of ghosts explores the sinister labyrinth and faces its horrors. Another one is about a group of researchers who slip into the spirit world more by accident than anything else. The next story features an investigator who is a wraith investigating the machinations of a haunted house. The stories are excitingly written and offer the unusual variation of ghost stories, written from ghosts' point of view, but here the wraiths must also face horror themselves.

Again, with Haunting shadows, you do not necessarily need to know the roleplaying game, but this certainly helps with understanding. For fans of the World of Darkness, there are also the re-encounter with a particularly unpopular ghost and links to the roleplaying game Orpheus. For Wraith players, Haunting shadows is recommended for reading.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Haunting Shadows: The Wraith: The Oblivion 20th Anniversary Anthology
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Deep Dark Blue • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/13/2021 06:08:59

Under the sea - a Mephisto review

Deep Dark Blue

The Fate World of Adventure Deep Dark Blue takes you to the depths of the oceans. While mining on land has exhausted resources, the corporations have discovered the bottom of the oceans as a new source of raw materials, so the seas are the new frontier to which humanity is advancing. In these regions, buried under several thousand meters of water, the corporations operate their mining stations, and an infrastructure has developed with underwater bases and independent submarines. The player characters are the crew of one such submarine, trying to stay afloat financially with freelance contracts.

Deep Dark Blue's character creation makes a few changes from the Fate standard. A central aspect of each character is their role, which includes various positions within the ship's crew. Other new aspects are the background story and the personal mission. In addition to the crew itself, there is the submarine to work out, and here the group must decide on a class of boat. Instead of stress, the rules for conditions are used for boats. Then, of course, there are basic rules for combat between submarines and aboard submarines.

The setting is briefly introduced with some some locations and corporations, and deep-sea threats - up to and including giant deep-sea creatures - are also presented. Finally, a sample adventure shows a typical mission where the player characters have to perform a rescue mission and take on a corporation.

Deep Dark Blue offers an interesting setting - namely the deep sea - and with the concept of free agents working for and against corporations, the game covers a popular theme. As usual, the gaming group will have to define many white spaces on the underwater map for longer campaigns, but Deep Dark Blue offers a solid basic setting that can be built upon well.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Deep Dark Blue • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Morts • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/13/2021 05:49:41

Zombie hunting after the apocalypse - a Mephisto review

Morts

The zombie apocalypse has happened, and humanity has lost. But humanity has also survived. Thus, although the USA no longer exists, a new nation has formed on the West Coast: Cascadia. While the cities and the interstate connecting them have been cleansed of zombies and other undead, the undead are still on the move in the wasteland. Between the cities, which are secured by high walls, and the wasteland, which is separated by another fence, there is a zone that should be relatively free of undead and is used for farming. Unfortunately, since the fence only serves to prevent the undead from accidentally coming to the cities and finding interest in them, undead stray into the zone now and then. It's up to a new professional group to put a stop to this problem. However, these zombie hunters, the Morticians or simply Morts, are not celebrated heroes, but a professional group of those with few alternatives...

The game world of Morts approaches the zombie apocalypse theme in an unusual and somewhat humorous way. Here it's not the zombie virus that has triggered the catastrophe, but somehow necromantic powers have been unleashed, so there are ghosts and necromancers in addition to zombies. In fact, the player characters do not have to be human but can also play as revenants, lichs, or ghosts. Of course, slightly different rules apply to these undead, especially when it comes to dealing with stress and damage. There are also rules for necromancy, but they are kept short and simple - and unconventional and mysterious. The book describes the structure of typical missions and how to use them for appropriate dramaturgy—the inevitable adventure rounds out the book.

Morts is well written, and the idea for the not-quite-serious background is quite fascinating. The idea of lightly serving up the zombie apocalypse (life practically resumes as normal in the cities) and making the zombie hunters a less popular job is also coherently presented. The setting, presented compactly in a few small sections, also sounds exciting. It definitely makes Morts well-suited for some short zombie hunting missions - so if you're looking for a quick casual zombie hunt with Fate, this is the place to go.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Morts • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Ghost Planets • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/09/2021 14:16:23

In space there is no one left to scream - a Mephisto review

Ghost Planets

In the 23rd century, humanity developed the technology to travel to the stars and cover interstellar distances within weeks. This gave humanity a chance to make a fresh start on distant colonies after the horror and chaos of the 22nd century and made them realize that they were not alone in the universe. In fact, humans found traces of highly advanced civilizations everywhere, but they had all already perished. In many cases, there was evidence of an Omega event, a major catastrophe that destroyed life on the planet. Much more mysterious and threatening, however, is something called a Sigma event. In many cases, the inhabitants of these civilizations seem to have simply disappeared within a very short period of time for no apparent reason. It is now up to the Xenohistory Corps to uncover the background of the Sigma event and, if necessary, prevent it from affecting humanity as well.

The Fate World of Adventure Ghost Planets offers an unusual science fiction setting. The player characters are a team of scientists who travel from planet to planet to investigate the legacies of alien civilizations - always searching for the background of the Sigma event. With faster-than-light travel available to humanity, the entire galaxy is open to the player characters. In addition to introducing the background, the rules are modified in a few places. For example, there are six basic character types that determine the approach to investigations: from analyst to empath to visionary. There are also a few minor changes in the skills, which become more differentiated in research skills. Rules for the research projects with the different methods of the character types and the rule-based handling of these research projects are also an addition.

The game world is presented compactly, as is the level of technology. The background is more detailed where necessary. For example, you will find deck plans and other information about the typical spaceship. Of course, the book is not without an adventure. Here, the player characters must investigate an ancient structure that could offer clues to the Sigma event. I liked both the setting and the gameplay approach of Ghost Planets very much. This world has an exciting background that lends itself well to having the player characters either explore alien civilizations or investigate the mystery of the Sigma event. In addition, the rules focus on the research projects is coherently implemented and offers a rules concept that can be used elsewhere.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Ghost Planets • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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The Fallen World Chronicle Anthology
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/09/2021 14:10:21

The worderful world of mages - a Mephisto review

Fallen World

Since every system of the Chronicle of Darkness gets its own anthology, Mage - The Awakening does not go empty-handed thanks to Fallen World either. Twelve stories take the reader on a multifaceted journey through the world of mages. At one point, it's about a young magician who experiences a personal crisis and finds magical enlightenment. Then again, the focus is on the conflict between two mages who interfere with a custody dispute for their own interests.

While most stories focus more on their protagonists and less on the major organizations and powers within the game world, one story with an interesting Seers of the Throne perspective provides a very original look at one of the larger conflicts in the game world.

Not much can be said about the stories without running the risk of giving away their surprises. While the themes and presentation vary (which is what makes a good anthology, in my view), the stories have in common that they are entertainingly written and worth reading. You do not necessarily need to know the world of Mage, but it certainly helps when reading - which also means that there is no "secret knowledge" of the game world to be found here.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Fallen World Chronicle Anthology
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The Ministry • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/09/2021 14:05:23

Fighting aliens in post-war UK - a Mephisto review

The Ministry

The Fate World of Adventure The Ministry is about a familiar theme: the struggle of a secret government force against alien forces - but in new packaging. The players are the agents of the eponymous organization, the Ministry of Rocketry, which in 1950s Britain tries to neutralize the dangers posed by alien invaders secretly. In this setting, the aliens act not as conquerors attacking Earth with their flying saucers but as a background threat using their powers to infect or take over humans. Among the aliens introduced in the book, one thus also finds some variants that seem pretty familiar - be it the plant-like cocoons used to replace humans with alien duplicates or the spider-like creatures that dock onto the brains of their hosts and take over control.

The idea of the setting is to transfer the action to post-war England, which is deliberately presented as a gray and dreary background where the population is primarily concerned with their work and has little time for anything else. The backdrop with the war damage also presents a gray and bleak picture.

Rules-wise, the book presents systems for aliens taking control of hosts and expands the takeover of humans through rules for conflicts between resulting mobs. Of course, there is also an adventure here for immediate play, where the player characters get directly involved in happenings within the English royal family.

While the basic idea and setting are very exciting from my point of view, the presentation did not convince me that much. The bleak setting is only touched upon and not followed up in the adventure. The listing of the English cities, their size and their mechanistic impact for infection and mob rules are a bit too rule-heavy and schematic for me. On the other hand, the ideas for the aliens are quite exciting. Still, the adventure, in which the English royal family is immediately involved in the events in a very drastic way, does not fit well with the setting in my view either. In my view, The Ministry offers a good basic idea but does not fulfill its potential.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Ministry • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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The Constellation of Alarion & Other Stories
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/09/2021 13:57:08

Science fiction, fantasy and both - a Mephisto review

The Constellation of Alarion

The Constellation of Alarion is a short story collection by John Houlihan, known in the roleplaying scene for his publication for the roleplaying game Achtung! Cthulhu. In The Constellation of Alarion he presents ten short stories, usually set against a science fiction background and sometimes with a dash of fantasy. One story, for example, is about competition and confrontation with a robot assistant. Then a mismatched brother and sister must prepare for a gladiatorial battle in a chariot to secure supplies for their town. Sometimes it's about the consequences when lies become impossible, and sometimes about the devious machinations of a supposed war hero in a futuristic retirement home. The stories are varied, original, and well told. Especially Most Exalted from the villain's point of view has an exciting and black-humored approach. But the eponymous story, very reminiscent of classic roleplaying scenarios, in which a diverse group of characters seeks treasure in a trap-filled labyrinth, also provides excellent reading entertainment.

The Constellation of Alarion provides a diverse and entertaining collection of short stories that has to offer a good range of original ideas in the science fiction genre - and the fact that some of the stories are somewhat reminiscent of roleplaying game settings is a bonus, in my view.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Constellation of Alarion & Other Stories
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CTHULHU: Grenzland
Publisher: Pegasus Press
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/04/2021 15:00:58

Grenzlose Schrecken - eine Mephisto-Rezension

Grenzland

Dass cthulhoide Mächte oft in entlegenen Regionen wirken, ist allgemein bekannt. Entsprechend führt der gleichnamige Kampagnenband die Investigatoren ins Grenzland, in diesem Fall von der Metropole Berlin bis hin zu den entlegenen Gebieten von Ostpreußen. Die Grenzland-Kampagne beginnt mit einem sehr persönlichen Einstieg der Spielercharaktere, die entführt und Opfer medizinischer Experimente werden. Ihren Peinigern zu entkommen und sich von diesem Schrecken zu befreien, ist nur der erste Schritt, und so geht es in einer weiten Reise von Berlin über Breslau, Danzig und Königsberg bis in die ostpreußische Provinz. Auf dem Weg entwirren die Investigatoren eine Verschwörung, in die Drogenhändler, Umstürzler, Mutanten, Gangster und Mythos-Mächte verwickelt sind. Sechs Abenteuer führen Schritt für Schritt zum großen Finale, das am Ende apokalyptische Züge annimmt.

Ohne mehr über die Details der Kampagne verraten zu wollen, bietet Grenzland einen sehr umfassenden Handlungsbogen, bei dem die einzelnen Episoden an ihren jeweiligen Orten eine jeweils eigenständige Geschichte bieten, die jedoch durch die große Verschwörung im Hintergrund verbunden ist. Entsprechend gibt auch jedes Kapitel eine Übersicht darüber, welche Figuren möglichst diese Episode überleben sollten, weil sie in späteren Kapiteln noch benötigt werden. Die Abenteuer decken eine große Bandbreite ab. Zunächst beginnt es mit der Flucht, dann ermitteln die Investigatoren in der Unterwelt Breslaus und in der Gesellschaft Danzigs, um in Königsberg eines der zentralen Geheimnisse, das sie selbst betrifft, aufklären zu können. Danach geht es in die feindselige Provinz, wo die Investigatoren die Chance haben, einen großen persönlichen Erfolg zu erringen, nur um dann festzustellen, dass das buchstäblich apokalyptische Finale noch auf sie wartet. Tatsächlich könnte man die letzte Episode – wenn die Apokalypse mit ihrem extremen Hintergrund für die eigene Spielrunde zu viel ist – theoretisch sogar streichen und würde immer noch eine gelungene, in sich geschlossene Kampagne behalten.

Auch wenn Grenzland wieder mal ein Abenteuerband ist, den man mit neuen, unvorbelasteten Investigatoren spielen sollte (und bei denen nicht sicher ist, ob man sie am Ende noch weiterspielen möchte), bietet dieser Ausflug in cthuloide Welten aus meiner Sicht eine sehr gelungene Kampagne. Die sechs Abenteuer sind abwechslungsreich, stimmig aufgebaut und gut ausgearbeitet – und sie bieten zusammen einen herausfordernden Handlungsbogen. Meiner Meinung nach ist dies ein Vorteil gegenüber den typischen One-Shot-Abenteuern, denn hier bekommen Spielrunden eine komplette, knallharte Kampagne, die subtil beginnt, sich immer weiter steigert und im großen Finale endet. Aus meiner Sicht gehört damit Grenzland zu den klar empfehlenswerten Abenteuerbände der aktuellen Reihe.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
CTHULHU: Grenzland
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The Crisp Line • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/15/2021 12:49:26

More or less than human? - a Mephisto review

The Crisp Line

Fate worlds usually have one or two central ideas, and in the case of The Crisp Line, this is summed up in the subtitle DNA is not our destiny. In the near future, genetic engineering and, in particular, the CRISPR/CAS gene scissors have been advanced. In this brave new world exist genetically modified persons (GMPs), which come in two varieties. On the one hand, there are the perizygotic GMPs (Perries for short), who were optimized before they were born and, while they appear like normal humans, are not only improved, but theoretically pass these improvements on to their offspring. On the other hand, those who did not get this advantage at birth can have themselves optimized afterward - with risks and side effects. Of course, this development also has social consequences, with GMPs being viewed rather critically. Nevertheless, the first genetic modification is not the last for many, even if there is a risk of ending up as a mutant monster.

Genetic enhancements come as packages named after the animals from which the traits are taken: the gorilla package makes you stronger, the axolotl package more robust. Gameplay-wise, the packages improve stats, offer stunts, and change appearance through mutations. During the game, more packages can be acquired - with the risk of becoming less and less human. So naturally, such characters are suitable as agents who complete missions in this cyberpunk setting to get money for further improvements.

As usual, the book offers an adventure in which players witness an operation against the local GMP scene. They encounter a conspiracy between politicians, organized crime bosses, and free agents.

The Crisp Line has an exciting hook that is coherently implemented rules-wise, even if the number of enhancement packs is limited. However, the book focuses on the one aspect of the game, so the broader setting can (and must) be developed by the individual group. As the adventure provides a fitiin introduction to the setting, so The Crisp Line provides a solid starting point for Fate players interested in cyberpunk settings.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Crisp Line • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Straw Boss • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/15/2021 12:47:01

Familiars in an unfamiliar world - a Mephisto review

Straw Boss

In a world where supernatural forces coexist with humanity, it is up to a cult to keep this threat at bay. This cult is organized into various cells that operate in secret. Its members not only know that alien entities exist, but as a sign of their power, each member binds such a being to himself as a familiar. The player characters belong to the scholars who have grown up within one of the cult's compounds and who have bonded with a familiar in order to gain the necessary power to face their opponents. The cult has been around since the days of John Dee, and its central tenet is that belief can shape reality - with dangerous consequences....

In Straw Boss, players create characters that are part of the cult. They know about supernatural influences in the world, and each of them is bound to a familiar. The familiar is a supernatural entity with whom the character makes a pact to gain power - but of course, this power comes at a price. Thus, the character creation with the usual aspects also revolves around this familiar in particular. Likewise, the common bond of the group is also in the foreground.

Rules for controlling the familiar are introduced, which is defined by its Vice and Virtue and uses the approaches of Fate Accelerated in terms of rules.

Thus equipped, the players arrive in a world altered by supernatural influences, and their task is to stop the worst dangers. There are people who stumble upon the secrets that the scholars also know about and thus become a danger with their magic. On the other hand, some entities act independently in the world or push to enter it.

A central rule concept is the corruption die, which can be added as a bonus die. In a roll, the four best dice are used for the player. However, the use of the bonus die causes corruption, and thus there is a risk that the familiar will take over the player character's body. This is solved by turning the character sheet upside down in the game, which brings the familiar's game statistics into play.

Of course, a ready-to-play adventure is included. Here the player characters must follow the trail of chaos left by a truck-driving preacher.

Straw Boss offers two interesting aspects defining this Fate world. On the one hand, the game world presents the fascinating conflict between the cult on one side and the supernatural forces on the other. In the adventure, it alludes to a twisted interpretation of Christian mythology (which is certainly not appropriate for players who dislike movies like Dogma). The idea of the familiars and the shifting control is well-implemented rules-wise. Even though this setting leaves room in many places for the gamemaster to fill in the details, as is usual for these Fate worlds, it offers a fascinating glimpse into a strange world. In my view, this makes Straw Boss one of the Fate worlds worth recommending.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Straw Boss • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 Quickstart
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/14/2021 13:24:50

A free trip into a new system - a Mephisto review

A quick trip to France

Achtung! Cthulhu is a roleplaying game that started with an unusual rulebook that supported two game systems at once - the classic Cthulhu game system and Savage World - and for which there are several rule versions for Fate or PDQ, for example. Now Modiphius, however, focuses, Achtung! Cthulhu on its own rule system 2d20, and in the run-up to the two essential rulebooks, publishes a quickstart for testing first.

This quickstart consists of two parts: on the one hand, the short rules and, on the other hand, a first introductory adventure. The rules and background give a brief insight into the world of Achtung! Cthulhu and the conflict between Section M on one side and the Black Sun and the Nachtwölfe on the other, transferring the Cthulhu setting to the backdrop of World War 2.

The rule system is based on rolling d20 for tests, rolling below a difficulty. Therefore, a 1 is an excellent result, while a 20 is a bad roll, causing additional problems. The dice are rolled against the sum of an attribute and a skill. The number of successes is determined by how many d20 beat the target value. Additional successes allow players to gain Momentum, which is used to bring positive game effects into play. While two d20 are rolled by default (hence the name 2d20), Momentum points and other mechanisms can be used to gain up to three bonus dice.

Another option is giving the gamemaster Threat, a currency that the gamemaster can use to buy additional threats and complications later. Also, non-player characters can use Threat the way player characters use Momentum. Luck - in the form of Fortune - gives players additional options. Of course, the rules system of the starter focuses heavily on combat. In fights, the player characters first accumulate stress; only greater damage causes injuries. The topic of magic is only briefly touched upon in the quick starter. The possibility of casting counter-magic offers the player characters a way to ward off the dark magic of their opponents.

Another new concept in the 2d20 system is the so-called truths, which are similar to the aspects in Fate. They describe and define something in the game world, which then has rules implications. Similar to Fate, players have the ability to define truths through the use of Momentum.

A quick trip to France is a short adventure in which the player characters are sent out to France. Here, Black Sun activity has been reported and needs to be investigated. The adventure begins with the parachute drop over occupied France and with searching and contacting the resistance. Eventually, the player characters must penetrate the Black Sun's fortress, where, of course, a sinister ritual must be stopped at the last second. While the plot looks pretty archetypal, the adventure is primarily set up to introduce various rules, mechanics, and concepts, making this a good tutorial for new players. Of course, there is a small arsenal of pre-made characters (character creation rules are missing from the quick starter) that players can start with right away.

If you would like to get a first glimpse into the world of Achtung! Cthulhu and its implementation for the 2d20 system will get a great chance to get some insight here. Both the basic rules are well summarized, and the adventure offers an interesting introduction to the setting. And as this frist trip is for free, it is worth trying it out.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20 Quickstart
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Symbaroum Starter Set - Treasure Hunts in Davokar
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/30/2021 13:00:54

Out in the woods - a Mephisto review

Symbaroum Starter Set - Treasure Hunts in Davokar

Starter sets for role-playing games are almost standard nowadays. Still, for Symbaroum, the appearance of this starter set is relatively late since the rulebook was published several years ago and has already been expanded with a large-scale campaign in the meantime. Nevertheless, Treasure Hunts in Davokar offers an excellent introduction to the world of Symbaroum.

The set consists of two books and pre-made characters. The first book introduces the rules and the setting in a compact form. The central element in Symbaroum is the forest Davokar. Where the dark and mysterious forest stands today, there used to be a highly advanced empire that perished. Only a few barbarian tribes live on the edge of the forest. However, the forest itself is a kind of forbidden zone, where the elves do not want anyone to enter and where dangerous monsters dwell. However, when the dark rulers of Alberetor were defeated just over 20 years ago, the land was so devastated that the humans moved north and founded a new kingdom of Ambria on the edge of the forest. The kingdom conquered the plain south of the forest and defeated some of the barbarian tribes. However, it soon became clear that the forest held ancient ruins, treasures, valuable secrets, and resources. Thus, the Davokar became the destination of adventurers searching for riches and valuable secrets.

However, the forest is a dangerous place. On the one hand, the elves do not tolerate any intruders there; on the other hand, a menacing darkness lurks here, trying to corrupt everything. Some terrible creatures that have fallen to the darkness are an additional threat. At the edge of the forest, however, there is the small town of Thistle Hold, founded by a former treasure hunter, which serves as a base for adventurers who venture into the forest.

Symbaroum's rules system is a typical d20 derivative. Characters are defined by eight attributes, from which derived stats are calculated. In the starter set, character creation is kept simple in that eight predefined values must be distributed among these game values. More important than the game values themselves are the modifiers calculated from them, which are obtained by subtracting them by the average value of 10. Values higher than 10 mean positive modifiers, values lower than 10 mean negative modifiers. Several professions are available for the characters, covering the usual suspects and providing some variants. Thus, in the starter set there are warriors in the form of Knights, hunters in the variant of the Witch Hunter, mystics as the Theurg and Wizard and rogues in the form of the Treasure Hunter. What differentiates the characters are their abilities, which can be acquired at up to three ranks. They either confer bonuses or, for example, also enable ritual magic or similar abilities. The starter set thus offers an exemplary cross-section but does without the third level of abilities. Of course, there are also different races from the humans to the goblins to the ogres. Magic is also presented only in parts. The idea with magic in Symbaroum is that it causes corruption and thus (like other things) can ruin the character.

Of course, the combat rules are briefly described, which work with the usual elements, and the rulebook introduces some other basic rules.

A unique feature of Symbaroum is that the dice system is completely player-centric, meaning that only the player characters roll dice in the game. This means that, on the one hand, they actively use their abilities rolling dice against their opponent's defenses when attacking. On the other hand, they must actively defend themselves against their opponents' fixed attacks with a dice roll. Equipment, artifacts, and the pre-made characters connected by a few common backgrounds round out the book.

Even though the basics of the setting are already explained in the first volume, the second volume focuses on playing adventures. Basically, it is the game master volume of this small set because the role of the game master is also explained. The book introduces the village of Thistle Hold in more detail and provides a brief overview, but unlike the basic rulebook, it does not introduce several other locations. An essential part of the book describes expeditions into the forest. Here, rules for orientation and events are provided, tables for treasure are presented, and of course, there are some selected enemies and monsters to confront players. Somewhat surprisingly, all of these monsters have basically the same stats, only distributed differently in each case. The distinction then comes from the derived stats and additional abilities. Two adventures provide straightforward game material. In the first adventure, the player characters find an old graveyard that promises treasure but offers danger. In the second adventure, the characters discover an old abandoned tower. This setting confronts them with several other parties at once. Thus, they may find allies or even opponents.

The rule system is a coherent variant of the d20 system, here with the peculiarity that only the players roll dice and all NPCs use passive stats. This puts the action entirely in the hands of the player characters. The setting of Symbaroum is exciting, and the basic idea of providing a huge exploration area with the forest is a similar approach to Forbidden Lands, except that the setting here seems to be a bit more compact and distinctly defined. What I liked most about the starter set is that the included chapters are relatively complete. Here, for example, many places are not introduced only very briefly, but the book focuses on a few aspects but takes over virtually the entire chapter from the basic rulebook. Therefore, the reader gets a good impression of the depth of the individual contents. From my point of view Treasure Hunts in Davokar chooses an excellent approach to get a taste of the system and actually run several adventures. For me, this starter set has incited interest for more, especially since there is a comprehensive campaign for Symbaroum that is supposed to encompass several volumes.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Symbaroum Starter Set - Treasure Hunts in Davokar
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Blood on the Trail • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/30/2021 12:13:54

Wild West vampires - a Mephisto review

Blood on the trail

Vampires in the Wild West - that would be the short summary of the Fate world Blood on the trail. Two ideas collide in this game world: on the one hand, it's about the development of the American West, when wagon trains of settlers set out to claim land there and find a new home. The other idea is that vampires have also found their way to North America and lie in wait for their victims. For them, the wagon trains represent an ideal target.

Blood on the trail first introduces the setting and outlines the background, which is partly based on historical developments, but in addition, mixes in the vampire stories and also sprinkles in some bizarre rumors. The vampires, who are the opponents of the settlers here, are presented in different variations. Among others, there are feral vampires hunting as animal-like packs or the hungry ones that seek their victims among their own family. There is even some kind of swarm vampires that act as a single organism. While this gives the game master some options to adapt the primary enemies to his players, on the player side, it is first necessary to define the wagon train, in addition to creating the characters. The wagon train is described by several statistics such as size, speed, supplies, etc. Next, leaders - which can be player characters but do not have to - are selected for the various resources. Important non-player characters are also specified at this point.

The journey to the West proceeds over several stages, each consisting of legs of the journey and stop-overs. Depending on the setup, the game master can make the campaign longer or shorter. Thus, each leg of the journey has its own challenges, problems, or opportunities that confront the player characters on a daily basis. At a certain point, the main threat is added: the attacks by the vampires. With Seven Brides for seven vampires, the book also provides a short sample campaign that makes the setting a bit more accessible and immediately playable. As with most Fate worlds, Blood on the trail is a rather unusual setting that combines two different ideas. Thus, the inclined game master will find ideas for the wagon train scenario as well as approaches to include vampires in his game. However, the way the setting is described, this unusual mixture of ideas seems coherent. From my point of view, Blood on the trail is a fitting setting for a smaller horror campaign with a unique background.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Blood on the Trail • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Truth Beyond Paradox
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/30/2021 12:11:28

It's worth to go beyond - a Mephisto review

Truth beyond Paradox

The title of the anthology Truth beyond Paradox is a direct allusion to the first short story volume published for Mage: Truth until Paradox. In this new volume, the authors again set out to illuminate the highly diverse world of Mage with their short stories. Accordingly, as diverse as the role-playing world is, the short stories also turn out to be very different in terms of plot, characters, and backgrounds. However, a common denominator is that they all generally focus on individual characters and disregard the larger metaplot of the game world. Here, it's not about the large groups of mages that clash in the Ascension War, but rather the individual paths to a mage's enlightenment.

For example, Wildfire Sky describes a mage for whom magic literally means playing with fire. Here, her personal interpretation of magic is much more important than the actual plot of the story. In Theogenesis Gimmick, the reader experiences the spontaneous and somewhat bizarre awakening of a mage. Famished Road, in turn, is about the confrontation of a mage and his friends with a dangerous threat from the spirit world. Each other story finds its particular topic. From my point of view, however, the highlight of this anthology is the last story. A Firm Place to Stand describes the rise of a young mage. Here, the larger organizations and their far-reaching goals in the world of Mage play a role. What is remarkable here is that the focus is not on the Traditions, but on the Technocracy - and that the portrayal of this organization is quite different from what one might expect.

As with most World of Darkness short story volumes, the focus is not on the system's metaplot or the larger game world. Instead, the stories present individual mages and thus a multi-faceted spectrum of backgrounds, ideas, moods, and characters. Therefore, even if no great metaplot secrets are revealed here, Truth beyond Paradox does an excellent job providing inspiration for Mage players. Alternatively, you can simply enjoy this collection of entertaining and well-written stories.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Truth Beyond Paradox
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