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Liminal: Prodigal Son
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2020 07:35:44

Vampire and werewolves of Yorkshire - a Mephisto review

Prodigal Son

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

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

(Björn Lippold)



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

A haunting case - a Mephisto review

Haunting House

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

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

(Björn Lippold)



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

Ghost-story with a scenery - a Mephisto review

Ghosts of Glencoe

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

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

(Björn Lippold)



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

Abandon hope all ye who enter here - a Mephisto review

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

Kult - Divinity Lost

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

The whole world is an illusion

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

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

Everything one size smaller

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

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

Rules and systems

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

On the other side

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

Horror behind the illusion

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

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

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

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

No game for everyone

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Björn Lippold)



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

Rebirth of the vampires - a Mephisto review

Vampire V5

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

The world of the Vampire

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

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

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

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

Vampires as characters

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

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

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

The rules

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Material for the game master

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

Old and new

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

(Björn Lippold)



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

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

Anarch

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

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

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

(Björn Lippold)



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

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

Camarilla

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

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

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

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

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

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

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Camarilla (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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Shadow of the Demon Lord
Publisher: Schwalb Entertainment
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/21/2020 12:44:21

Dark fantasy in a brutal world - a Mephisto review

Shadow of the Demon Lord

For the world of Urd the end is near. The mighty empire crumbled after its army of orc slaves has killed the emperor in a bloody uprising. But this civil war is only a symptom of a much worse truth: the shadow of the demon lord has fallen on Urd, and the terrible entity of the void is pressing to destroy the world. The cracks between the worlds are still too small for the Demon Lord himself to break through, but his influence is continually expanding...

Even with the significant threat in the background, at first Shadow of the Demon Lord seems like just another fantasy roleplaying game in which daring heroes face the forces of evil. However, if you take a closer look at the roleplaying game, you quickly realize that at least heroes are less than radiant. Even the selection of races for the player characters is not the typical standard. While humans and dwarves are certainly found in most fantasy roleplaying games, there are also unusual candidates: Goblins - outcasts of the fairy folk who live in the dirt and have disgusting habits; Orcs - the bestial slave soldiers who have fought for their independence; Clockworks - mechanical creatures powered by stolen souls and changelings that can change their appearance. The game statistics are not determined by the roll of dice but are fixed. Physical traits, strange habits and backgrounds can be rolled to emphasize further that the player characters also have their dark sides.

The characters start at level 0, with the whole group always advancing one level - up to the maximum of level 10. The game is designed so that at level 0, the characters are ordinary people who have regular professions. From level 1, players choose an apprentice path that includes the usual classes such as warrior, priest, rogue and warrior. At the next levels, expert and master paths are added, which further develop the character and give them special abilities or access to individual magic schools. These career paths are not hierarchical, but the player can choose freely: A character who started as a warrior can also learn magic later. Magic is divided into a vast arsenal of different schools, each with their own spells and in some cases special rules. Some schools change the personality or appearance of a character - and some evil schools corrupt it. Despite all the advancements, the characters always have a limited number of health points and are also threatened by corruption and madness, which can make life even harder for them.

Many of the rule mechanisms are based on D&D and Warhammer and developed further in a meaningful way. For example, there are advantage and disadvantage dice, which are included as d6 with the standard d20 roll.

The game world is presented with a wide range of regions and challenges. Rules, tips for the gamemaster and the inevitable bestiary round off the book. The book's illustrations make it clear that Shadow of the Demon Lord is a tough setting, and the game starts by stating very clearly that the player characters not only have a good chance of dying, but that their death is definitely a relevant game element. The world is dirty, ugly and brutal, and there is little room for shining heroes.

Thus, Shadow of the Demon Lord succeeds in carving out its own niche in the broad field of fantasy setting. From my point of view, this is a unique roleplaying game. The rules are coherent, the background is exciting, and the game has its own flair. However, Shadow of the Demon Lord is certainly not a roleplaying game for everyone, because of the very dark and drastically brutal world (both in description and illustration). The clear message that players have only little chances here will not please every gaming group. Friendly fantasy is something else, but here players will find a very exciting and also quite easy to learn challenge (which is probably brutal enough to kill the player characters often).

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Shadow of the Demon Lord
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Liminal
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/16/2020 01:01:00

Supernatural crews in a European world of darkness - a Mephisto review

Liminal

Besides the world, as most people know it, there is a hidden world. In this world, magic and monsters exist. While vampires, ghosts, and fairy creatures are part of the hidden world, there are also the Liminals, who sit on the border between both worlds. They do not belong to the hidden world, but they are also not completely human or know too much. They are magicians, werewolves without packs, dhampirs, changelings, or simply people who have come into contact with the hidden world and now know the truth. And as liminals, they stand between the worlds.

In the roleplaying game Liminal, the players take on the role of the same name at the border between the normal world and its mystical side. Liminal assumes that the players form a so-called crew, which solves cases in the world of the supernatural. Because of their position at the interface between the two worlds, Liminals can act as mediators. Beyond that, the liminals are a very mixed bunch. There are, for example, the academic magicians of the Council of Merlin, who form a very exclusive circle and who distinguish themselves from the "alley magicians." Then again, there are changelings who grew up as fairy creatures in the world of humans or as humans in the world of fairies. Dhampirs are vampires who have not yet completely lost control and have been able to preserve their human side. Werewolves without a pack join the Liminals. Even ordinary people belong to them—investigators or scholars who have learned about the hidden world. There are people who are in the service of one of the organizations of the hidden world or who, like the Order of St. Bede or the policemen of the P Division, face its dangers. The character concepts can be very varied, but the central idea is that these individual persons can only exist as a team, as a crew, on the edge of the hidden world, and so cooperation is possible and necessary.

The rules of Liminal is very simple: you roll two d6s and add the skill value and possible bonuses to this result. This way, you have to beat a minimum difficulty. If you exceed it by more than five points, you have achieved a critical success. If the roll fails, it is possible that the test simply failed or leads to unpleasant "side effects": the character takes damage or simply takes much longer. Players choose a drive and a focus for their characters, which indicates where their specialty lies. Skills and traits also define the characters. The traits are a mixture of supernatural powers and other benefits. For supernatural beings, there may also be limitations, which give them the chance to acquire additional traits. Apart from a good range of skills, the differentiation lies in the traits. These also serve to determine whether a character might be a werewolf or a mage. Because traits (and limitations) can be chosen individually, not every werewolf or mage is the same and can be adjusted regarding their supernatural characteristics. In addition, there are traits that simply make a character better in certain areas, so that he/she has an artifact or is very well-read, for example. Magic is divided into different schools, which have to be learned separately and teach magic skills in a certain area. In addition, traits acquired in addition to these magic schools can expand the possibilities here.

While the rule system is simple, and the traits allow you to create very individual characters, much of the book's focus is on the background. Liminal offers a world with vampires, werewolves, ghosts, mages, fairy creatures, and much more. Even though this range reminds of the World of Darkness, Liminal conveys the game world with a completely different flair. The number of supernatural beings is much more limited, and their power, although substantial, does not result in global conspiracies. The game, which presents England as the default setting, therefore feels less directly "American" and more subtly "European." Even if there is some kind of inquisition with the Order of St. Bede, it does not have the power of a 2nd Inquisition in Vampire. The vampires also operate as local nests rather than as global sects. The rulebook also provides two example cases, and several cases are available as extensions. The unique thing is that these cases are described very efficiently so that the average adventure has only ten pages.

From my point of view, Liminal is a fascinating done roleplaying game. The background of the hidden world may remind superficially of the World of Darkness, but offers its own flair and is much more subtle. Due to the freer character creation system, the player characters can be designed individually, so that even the abilities of a werewolf in the player's group can differ fundamentally from those of other werewolves. The background offers many chances to integrate the characters into the game, because even if the organizations are less powerful and comprehensive, the Council of Merlin or the werewolves of the Jaeger family, for example, offer clear points of contact with their ideas. The system of rules is simple and reminds a bit of Powered by the Apocalypse. The concept of short and compact adventures is, in my opinion, an excellent approach, which offers gamemasters a quick start and possibilities for individual modifications. It should not remain unmentioned that Liminal was illustrated very atmospherically and that the photos, often transformed into drawings, leave a very fitting impression. Liminal successfully combines a simple and fast game with a wide range of possible characters and a coherent and atmospheric - and very European - background to a recommendable roleplaying game.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Liminal
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Free From the Yoke
Publisher: UFO Press
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/15/2020 14:08:50

Rebuilding a country with mighty houses - a Mephisto review

Free from the yoke

Free from the yoke is an expansion for Legacy that offers another alternative scenario for roleplaying. The focus of Free from the yoke is not the rebuilding of civilization after a great catastrophe in the future. This time the background is a medieval world. The setting is a country that has just shed the shackles of a vast, foreign empire and is trying to rebuild after the struggle for freedom. On the organizational level, there are several large houses with a lot of power both during the occupation by the empire and after its fall. For example, there are the Brethren of the Sea Serpent, a strong naval power, the Glorious Merchant Republic, a mixture of guild and trading house, or the Church of the Forgotten Land, a foreign faith that has taken root. Besides the houses, which have their usual playbooks, there is also the character level again, which is occupied by fighters, vagabonds, and scholars.

As with Legacy, it's all about how the houses want to build a new society after the fall. It is important to know that although the empire was defeated here, it still exists. As is usual for Legacy, a map of the land is created during play, and already during character creation, the houses can set certain landmarks, which change during the game, since a large time frame is also used here. Also, as with Legacy, there are the resources, which are measured for the houses in surplus or need. These resources are, for example, necessary to advance projects and, thus, further development. A unique feature of the game is the so-called Arbiter. He is the one who fought back the empire and is, therefore, at the center of the new order. The great houses work together with him (or against him) and also vie for his favor. The influence of the Arbiter is measured with two statistics. They show how strong his control of the country and how great the unrest is. Unusual for Legacy is that there are also three playbooks for the Arbiter, each of which gives the game its own character. The Arbiter also has its so-called agents at the character level.

Free from the yoke takes its inspiration from Russian history and legends according to its own statements. At some points, I felt a little bit reminded of the power struggles in Game of Thrones. The houses and their champions offer a broad range and always also the possibility to create them very individually beyond the basics. The setting of a fantasy realm, which also includes mysterious magic, gives Legacy a unique setting of its own and makes it more accessible to players who don't like the more futuristic scenarios. The idea that the Arbiter is a central game master figure is also an exciting addition.

I think that Free from the yoke is an exciting alternative setting for Legacy, which appeals especially to those players who sometimes want to control the destiny of a medieval country through a large house - and sometimes want to work together for bigger goals and sometimes want to betray the others for their personal advantage. For those who have rebuilt enough civilizations in the future (or who are not quite so familiar with the future), Free from the yoke is the ideal setting for Legacy.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Free From the Yoke
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Legacy: Worldfall (Worlds of Legacy 5) PDF
Publisher: UFO Press
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/15/2020 14:05:42

New start on a new world - a Mephisto review

Worldfall

Worldfall is another world for Legacy that offers a science fiction setting. The idea here is that the player characters belong to a group of colonists who dare to make a new beginning on a foreign planet. Whether this planet is an idyllic place or the characters have crashed into a world hostile to life is up to the players. The focus of the game is on how the various cabals shape the new colony and what kind of civilization will emerge. Therefore, political intrigues have greater importance than military conflicts. The first great miracle to be built is the Constitutional Congress, which shapes the constitution and, depending on its influence, gives players the opportunity to define so-called positive and negative liberties. Examples are the establishment of national parks, freedom of the press, and the right to bear arms. Besides, the corresponding cabal is given influence over this area and thus special rules. The player, e.g., who has campaigned for the national parks, also holds the national park administration. Depending on whether the government is more democratic or authoritarian, there are further modifications.

The cabals as organizations cover a broad spectrum, from a church organization to an artists' collective to the former officers' class. As before, all cabals thus have their own features and characteristics. Also, there are various playbooks for the respective characters, which often fit very well to certain cabals, but explicitly allow unusual combinations. One special cabal, Worldsoul, offers the possibility to embody the living planet and thus bring a faction into play that is clearly different from the others.

Even though I liked the basic theme - namely the colonization of a foreign planet with different power groups that have to fight together - the partly comic style was not really my cup of tea. However, if you as a player want to experience what it's like to run your own colony and see how it develops (which, as with Legacy, will also manifest itself on the corresponding map, where new buildings and other things keep popping up), you'll find a setting that is less gloomy than the classic Legacy.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy: Worldfall (Worlds of Legacy 5) PDF
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Worlds of Legacy: Rhapsody of Blood: Choir of Souls
Publisher: UFO Press
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/15/2020 14:03:06

New heroes for the fight against evil - a Mephisto review

Choir of Souls

The small expansion Choir of Souls delivers seven new playbooks for Rhapsody of Blood. Assassin, Captain, Joker, Knight, Mascot, Medic, and Professor offer new roles in the fight against evil and expand the range of characters with a few new ideas - no more and no less - but at what I consider to be a comparatively high price.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Worlds of Legacy: Rhapsody of Blood: Choir of Souls
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Legacy: Wasteland Almanac
Publisher: UFO Press
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/15/2020 14:01:17

Strange ideas for a strange world - a Mephisto review

Wasteland Almanac

The Wasteland Almanac is a sourcebook for Legacy that promises unusual encounters in a world distorted by chaos - in other words: it is a toolbox with 60 ideas about places, artifacts, and threats (20 each). All these entries are described in a few lines and rounded off with a few questions to stimulate the imagination of the game master. The book covers a wide range of bizarre, threatening, and sometimes funny ideas that can either be used directly within your campaign or motivate you to develop your own ideas. What most of the ideas have in common is that they are both puzzling and very strange. It becomes obvious that the world of Legacy was already much more advanced before the downfall than ours, or has clearly moved away from it. For example, there is an idea about finding bicycles, which would be a great technical achievement - if someone still knew how to ride them.

Those who get this book with the expectation to find a lot of material for direct use in their campaign will probably be disappointed, as the ideas still hold many puzzles and questions. As a source of inspiration, however, the Almanac is an excellent tool. It is just a pity that there are only a few illustrations here.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legacy: Wasteland Almanac
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The Art of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins
Publisher: UFO Press
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/15/2020 13:59:37

Visual inspiration for a life among the ruins - a Mephisto review

The Art of Legacy

Unsurprisingly, the content of the Art Book on Legacy is primarily a compilation of the various illustrations from the rulebook, but also from sourcebooks and the first edition of the roleplaying game. In some cases, readers will also find the description of the illustration, as well as various design stages that led to the final result.

Even if various illustrations may already be familiar to the inclined reader of the rulebook, the art book with its landscape format gives a beautiful impression of the manifold ideas that have been realized here. The mixture of ruins, futuristic technology, partly monstrous creatures, and enigmatic backgrounds inspires you to develop your own mysterious (and sometimes maybe a bit bizarre) setting. Various motives challenge the viewer to find his personal stories to what he has seen.

By putting the illustrations together, The Art of Legacy offers an interesting introduction to the possible worlds of Legacy. The book can inspire players and game masters to create their own world of Legacy. Although the illustrations shown here from the first edition a quite good, the comparison emphasizes how much the new illustrations inspire the imagination. Personally, I really liked the art book, and it made me want to play Legacy even more.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Art of Legacy: Life Among the Ruins
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Achtung! Cthulhu - 7th edition Investigator's Guide
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/15/2020 13:57:32

Fighting the Great Old Ones in a secret war - a Mephisto review

Achtung! Cthulhu 7th Edition

The horror of the Great Old Ones of the Cthulhu mythos is timeless, and various roleplaying games have covered the fight against this horror from the Stone Age to the distant future. Achtung! Cthulhu takes the plot from the primary setting of the '20s and '30s further into World War II.

Achtung! Cthulhu focuses on the secret war, in which the horrors of the mythos play a role on the battlefields. The world is not only threatened by the horrors of war. The player characters are recruited by the mysterious secret Section M, which fights for the Allies against cthulhoid dangers and occult secret societies like the Black Sun. As a result, the characters usually have a military background (although civilians are also playable) and are sent on dangerous missions by Section M.

The setting is much more action-oriented, and, in contrast to the classic Cthulhu, investigative work has less importance. While the rules initially focus on "smaller" creatures of the mythos, the player characters are allowed to save the world at times in the published campaigns.

Achtung! Cthulhu follows the classic tradition and is divided into two books: The Investigator's Guide is aimed at players and describes character creation. Apart from a clear chronological outline, the setting is presented from a military point of view, but also from the perspective of "normal" life.

In the new edition, the rules are adapted to Cthulhu in the 7th edition. All background texts and other information are unchanged from the previous version. The rules to play the setting with Savage Worlds rules are removed, so the books focus on one rules system. Accordingly, redundant information from the Cthulhu core rulebooks like the regular spells or books of the mythos is now missing. Therefore new material like spells or enemies - including experiments of the Nazis with mythos powers - is now provided.

Achtung! Cthulhu is a significantly different setting from the classic Cthulhu because here, the action is more important than library research. Fights are more frequent. Because of the background with Section M, this setting offers a clear structure for campaigns. With the military context, the players get much more robust and better-equipped characters. Personally, for me, the approach of combining the real horrors of war with the fictional horrors of mythos does not always feel right, and, e.g., the Black Sun as a mixture of Nazis and cultists seems a bit one-dimensional. Whether you need game statistics for tanks to use them against the horrors of the mythos is also questionable, in my opinion. On the other hand, the approach that the characters are in the service of a secret organization and have to pass dangerous missions as agents provides a lot of potentials. World War II is a background where major mythos outbreaks are possible, which are overlooked in the turmoil of war. In the end, the background is a matter of personal taste or what you make of it. Based on the ideas and the extensive material, Achtung! Cthulhu definitely offers a challenging and exciting setting for the fight against the Great Old Ones.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu  - 7th edition Investigator's Guide
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