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[Everyday Heroes] Whispers from the Alley
Publisher: Epic Table Games
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 06/09/2024 13:18:13

Whispers from the Alley is an immersive neo-noir meets Lovecraftian horror adventure from Epic Table Games for Everyday Heroes. It has the plot twists, rich characters, and in-depth investigations of a Phillip Marlowe or Sam Spade story – if those two hard-boiled gumshoes had punched out magic wielding cultists or faced mind-rending horrors.

The setting is noir stories is a character unto itself, and it’s no different here. The player characters are gumshoes earning their living in the shadowy streets of Eldritch, a city perpetually wrapped in a shroud of mist. Superficially it appears like any city from a classic noir film but dig deeper and you find something else. Venture beyond the neon-lit streets into darkened alleys and you’ll find terrifying monsters, hidden cultists, and dark mysteries. It’s a setting you’ll likely want to return to. Its also a city of fantasy, inhabited by races like tieflings, elves, and dwarves.

The adventure begins when the PCs, investigators of the Bureau of Cosmic Horror Inquiry & Paranormal Investigations (CHIP Investigations), receive a cryptic message. As they subsequently follow leads, they gradually uncover a web of arcane conspiracies that, left unchecked, might bring the city to its knees. Each clue uncovered will bring characters one step closer to unravelling the mystery but at the risk of also unraveling their own minds (Whispers from the Alley includes an excellent sanity subsystem). Along the way they will uncover all the trademarks of a noir story – femme fatales, corrupt officials, sleezy crime lords.

Some mysteries languish at times – if PCs fail to uncover just the right clue the story slows, and players grow frustrated. That’s never a concern here. Even those who might normally be drawn to mystery adventures should enjoy Whispers of the Alley as the scenes – and inevitable action sequences – are compelling enough to grab the imagination.

The adventure a framework of sorts – almost a mini-campaign in its scope - which allows groups to follow leads and investigate the web of deceit in whatever order they wish. That’s ideal for any mystery adventure. However, it does mean that GMs need to do more work than normal to bring the adventure completely to life. In this case that should a joy, however, because as dark as Eldritch might be it’s also a vibrant and exciting setting. Numerous side missions are outlined to help GMs fill in the gaps.

Beyond the adventure itself, Whispers from the Alley includes a host of support materials: more than a dozen new feats, four hideous new cosmic horror, and monster template that can be added to PCS.

Production value is extremely high. Editing and layout are both top notch, there are numerous excellent illustrations (AI, just for clarity), and like any good Lovecraftian adventure there are handouts to enhance the immersion.

Whispers from the Alley is an excellent addition to one’s Everyday Heroes library. An edge-of-your-seat mystery that makes you feel like you just have to know the answer to the riddle at all costs, it is cinematic and action-packed, with a noirish atmosphere and an escalating sense of dread. The setting, though brief, hints at something larger that begs to be uncovered further in the future

Whispers from the Alley is an adventure that Marlowe would raise a glass to in a cigarette-smoke shrouded bar.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
[Everyday Heroes] Whispers from the Alley
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Tower of the Spectral Sorceress
Publisher: WatcherDM
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/07/2024 19:51:03

A Shadowdark adventure for 4th level characters, Tower of the Spectral Sorceress is ridiculously fun. A cohesive plot, truly memorable encounters, welcome touches of whimsy, and hints of the fairy tales we grew up on elevate this adventure well above the norm.

“Sorceress Cosima Fantine assembled her coven for that most ancient of wizardly rituals — Book Club.” That’s the first line in the adventure and I was hooked. Instantly I knew I was in for something refreshing original.

The meeting ended when Fantine opened a forbidden text, transforming all the assembled sorceresses into ghosts. With Fantine dead, other spellcasters covetously eye her tower for the riches it must surely hold. But it would be unseemly for wizards to loot the sanctum of a member of their community. So, they hire the PCs to do it in their stead.

Along the way, there is a rollicking encounter with a lovesick undead butler who wields a magic sword that can only be drawn from its scabbard by someone in love, a ghost that will attempt to possess a PC so that she may flee the island, and carnivorous books hungry for human flesh.

Charming touches abound. That magic blade mentioned above, for example? Any blood it sheds turns into rose pedals.

Cosima Fantine, the Spectral Sorceress of the title, must be reckoned with if the PCs are to complete their task. Though not quite the Wicked Witch of the West, she’s nonetheless memorable. So too is the encounter in which they at last meet her – I’ll say nothing more so to not spoil surprises.

Mention must be made of the dynamite artwork and cartography of Gabriel Hernandez. No small part of the adventure’s appeal stems from the way he brings the text to life.

At 14-page pages in length and playable in about three hours, Tower of the Spectral Sorceress is perfect for an evening of gaming. Players will be ensorcelled by its charm.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tower of the Spectral Sorceress
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It Came from the Cellar! 5e
Publisher: Tabletop Outfitter
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/28/2024 22:14:30

It Came from the Cellar is a brief 5e adventure for levels 1-3, the latest in the Tabletop Outfitter line of single-evening scenarios. It represents the best and most ambitious release in what was already a solid collection.

Not long ago, the town of Dawnfell was destroyed by a minotaur war party. Residents of nearby Duskmire worry that their community may be next. The danger they face, however, is from within. An attempt by a young wizard to conjure a magical guardian for Duskmire has gone awry, resulting in a monstrous blend of rat and centipede that quickly snapped loose of its creator’s magical control. This beast – the ratipede so evocatively displayed on the cover – emerges from its subterranean lair at night to hunt. Thus far, the beast has sated his appetite on cats, dogs, and barnyard animals, but its only a matter of time before its hunger is turned on the people of Duskmire. The PCs are charged with determining what stalks the village at night and putting a stop to its depredations.

The adventure is pleasantly deep for a mere 13 pages (the balance of the 27 pages consists of supplemental material). It involves some investigation and roleplaying, and a side trip to a nearby farm being preyed on by a monster that turns out to be a red herring beast. Then, when the PCs are enjoying the atmosphere of the local tavern – perhaps celebrating what they think to be the end of the adventure – a terrifying scream emanates for the basement. A barmaid has been taken by the ratipede, leading the PCs into a subterranean on a desperate rescue mission.

Beyond the giant ratipede, It Came from the Cellar includes three new monsters: the horrific and always hungry aethergeist; a tiny but nonetheless deadly ooze called a dipsa; and doppelrats, which can create duplicates of itself to overwhelm foes. There are also new magic items suitable for low level characters, the standout of which is the filthbane ring which grants protection from disease and poison, advantage to perception and investigation checks in sewers, and ability to communicate with sewer vermin.

Production quality is excellent, elevated by seven beautifully rendered maps of the town, cellar tunnels, the inn, and other key locations.

The title suggests something that would have lingered on the back shelf of the schlocky horror section of a 1980s video store. But It Came from the Cellar is far better than that. If you’ve toyed with the notion of running a sidetrek for their party, It Came from the Cellar may just what you’re looking for.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
It Came from the Cellar! 5e
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Yarthe Campaign Setting
Publisher: Draconum Imprint
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 04/24/2024 09:48:34

In the market for a new campaign setting? Consider the Yarthe Campaign Setting, a new 5e/Pathfinder by Draconum Imprint. Yarthe is a fantasy-steampunk/gaslamp world that bears superficial resemblance to Earth. Its geography and some aspects of its history and culture approximates that of Earth, but it’s an entirely fresh – and exciting – setting. Technology is roughly analogous to a highly fantastical version of the Renaissance, one where flying ships have been created, the darkness of industrializing cities is held back by gas-lamps, and submersibles plie underground waterways.
The world is inhabited by a diverse range of cultures, from the humans of the Europan city states, newly emerging from the Dark Ages and undergoing a technological, cultural, and magical renaissance, to the Pictish halflings of the Western Isles that have resisted Europan’s expansionism, from the mysterious Clockwork City of Technomancers to the learned and ancient civilizations of Mauretania and Aegyptus. There is an equally rich range of detailed species for players to choose from. The Strix, winged desert-dwellers, are considered the ‘first people’ as they are the oldest of the races. Elves are the scattered remnants of a once advanced civilization on the island of Lemu, the Atlantis of Europan myth. Some exist on the surface, others adapted to an underwater existence, and still other fled to the underground after the disaster, birthing the xenophobic pale Ghost Elf species, centered upon the city of Melnibos. Other subterranean species include the dwarves, who maintain Deep Roads that run underneath much of Yarthe, the draconic-decended goblins and kobolds, and the savage, war-like Hobgoblins. Humans, halflings – who have a cultural analogous to the Celts of the ancient British Isles – and the technomancer gnomes, one step removed from their fey roots, are considered the ‘Young Races’. Far to the north, where the midsummer sun never sets and in winter the sun never rises are the feline reindeer people, savage in battle but noble in bearing. This is a world rich in adventure possibility. Indeed, scenario ideas leap off the pages. Stop a band of ghost elf smugglers plying underground rivers in their U-boat. Travel the Silk Road to the Orient and meet its undying Emperor. Hunt down a fiend unleashed upon the world by cultists wielding Nightmare magic. Launch an expedition to search for the lost Lemuan civilization.
Yarthe also includes mechanics for terrifying Nightmare magic wielded by dark cultists (and characters of any class), rules for Nightmare Sites and eldritch incursions, new magical and technomagical artifacts, and a small bestiary of new creatures.
The setting feels complete – you can play Yarthe right out of the box, as it were, and have a good time doing it. A sample adventure to illustrate the tone and possibilities of the setting would have been welcome, but its far from a gamebreaker. There are some aspects that let down an otherwise top-notch product. Being duo-stated for Pathfinder and D&D 5E is an understandable move to allow the game to reach the widest possible market. What is does mean, however, particularly in a book as heavy in mechanics as this one, is that there is a lot of duplication and, therefore, wasted space from a gamers’ perspective. Perhaps more troubling was the use of AI art, not for ethical reasons (I leave that up to the individual reader to decide) but rather because I don’t feel that it matched the picture of Yarthe as a setting that the text was painting. And that’s too bad because the setting oozes pulpish atmosphere and charm. The final verdict is this. While it has some warts, Yarthe dares to be different. It doesn’t attempt to painfully squeeze just a bit more from bland high fantasy that we’ve seen for decades. Instead, it ventures on its own path, often with exciting results.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Yarthe Campaign Setting
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The Tower of Sovergauth, DELUXE ed.
Publisher: dungeonismlab
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/01/2024 08:28:34

The Tower of Sovergauth is the first adventure from DungeonisM Lab, and it’s a fairly auspicious beginning.

An Old School Essentials adventure for characters level 4-7, it’s imaginative and well-designed, and a lot of fun to play. Especially if you really like to go retro and lean into those old-school D&D vibes.

Here’s the deal in a nutshell.

The vile wizard Sovergauth used his potent magic to usurp the throne of Stakbourg and destroy the kingdom. The heir to the Stakbourg throne was smuggled out at the last minute, along with the crown that is his birthright. In the years that have passed, the young prince became separated by his crown, and he needs it back if ever he is to recover Stakbourg. Enter the PCs.

It turns out the crown is in the possession of a vampire. And where does this bloodsucker live? By coincidence, in the tower that once served as home to Sovergauth. The PCs are tasked with entering this edifice and returning with the crown.

The set-up is great (if you overlook the coincidence of the unaffiliated vampire and wizard lairing in the same tower at different times) with a suitably significant goal that has the potential to kick start further adventures.

Writers Diego and Andrea Zap have crafted a very challenging, old-school with deadly traps and even deadlier. As in the days of yore, surviving is worthy of celebration. And yet the adventure isn’t unfair – cautious, careful, and thoughtful players should do just fine.

I loved the quirky moments. There is plenty of strange, magical Gygaxian elements that add a sense of wonderment to the adventure, such as unnerving eggs with a staring eye on their shells or a wall that forms a giant fist intent on squashing intruders.

Also adding interest are the new monsters, which include lave men, fire drakes, and a guardian cat that literally has nine lives and becomes more powerful with each resurrection. And the final combat against the vampire is suitably dramatic (just change the name; Hibiscus does not a terrifying vampire make).

The cover illustration immediately draws you in, while the interior (Ai) artwork is just as evocative and served the adventure well.

There are only two (connected) weaknesses to an otherwise excellent adventure. First, English is the second language of the Italian writers, and it occasionally shows. The Tower of Sovergauth is still well written – indeed there are hints that in their native tongue the duo must have a real flair for descriptive text – but there are some clunky passages. This is made worse by lengthy read-aloud box texts, which GMs will likely want to edit so as not to hinder player immersion.

The Tower of Sovervauth is a throwback to the imaginative, sometimes off-the-wall adventures that used to be made decades ago in the infancy of the hobby. Gary Gygax, I believe, would have approved.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Tower of Sovergauth, DELUXE ed.
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Creator Reply:
Thanks Andrew for your review, we will indeed follow your suggestions for the next modules in preparation and for an updated version of the Tower to offer a better quality translation. In the meanwhile just reading about the Gygax inspiration in your review makes me EXTREMELY happy :) thanks again, cheers
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[Everyday Heroes] Rise of the Street Legends
Publisher: Epic Table Games
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/14/2024 21:03:50

Rise of the Street Legends, by Epic Table Games, is an introductory level, kung fu inspired adventure for Everyday Heroes.

It promises “thrilling cinematic action balanced with investigational intrigue”. But does it make good on the promise? Let’s find out.

Faster than you can say Bruce Lee, the characters are thrown into the action. And like a flurry of Chuck Norris blows to the face, it never lets up, fast and furious, culminating in a bloody finale.

The adventure begins when the characters find themselves brought together for a common goal – infiltrating the back-alley hide out of the notorious Rising Serpents gang as they unite to aid of a common ally. This unknowingly sets the PCs on a path to becoming champions, ‘Street Legends’, as they become embroiled deep mystery and must work together to foil a nefarious plot.

From street fights against gangsters to tense negotiations, fending off a military-style assault on a police precinct and to the pulse pounding chase through the crowds of a Chinese New Years style street festival, the characters are dragged deeper into the intrigue and the stakes inevitably grow higher. There is no – I mean no – meandering in this adventure. The only moment when characters can catch their collective breaths is the obligatory kung fu training montage, where a wizened master helps them unleash their hidden potential.

The relentless action never feels like it is just checking boxes. Rather, it moves the story forward toward the inevitable climax, in this case within the underground lair of an ancient and evil self-titled master of the martial arts. The characters must defeat him to prevent his plot from being realized. But rest assured, the fight will be tough. Indeed, the scene is masterfully staged to be tense and challenging – a Boss Fight worthy of the name.

Supporting an exciting story is amazing anime style (AI) art, great maps, and several well conceived, detailed NPCs that players will learn to love and to hate.

The setting, New Shangchester, hints at being something really interesting, with elements of kung-fu, cyberpunk, action movies, and even modern fantasy rolled into one. Sadly, its only ever hinted at as the setting is given short thrift (I’m told a setting guide may appear in the not-too-distant future).

A new subsystem involving chi points is introduced, then quickly dropped before it is fleshed out enough to be usable. Its absence doesn’t in any way impact the adventure.

The only real potential drawback to Rise of the Street Legends is its linear nature. Characters are guided from scene to scene, sometimes even to events within scenes, in the name of moving the story forward. I’m more than willing to give up some agency on occasion in the name of an epic cinematic storyline (which Rise of the Street Legends delivers in spades), but others may balk at being railroaded so heavily.

It has often been said that the worst thing an action movie can be is forgettable. Rise of the Street Legends is anything but that.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[Everyday Heroes] Rise of the Street Legends
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Creator Reply:
Andrew, thank you again for your glowing review. I have read it a hand full of times with absolute delight as you've been able to comment on so many of the points we tried to include. In fact I laugh out loud every time I read your line "obligatory kung fu training montage," because I explicitly remember thinking "how am I going to pull that off?" Regarding Chi, yes it was included but dropped unintentionally. It's intended use was as players build chi (earn chi), they can spend it to enhance their chances by spending it before their d20 roll to roll with advantage, or spend it after an opponents roll to force a d20 re-roll and take the lower of the two (force the opponent into disadvantage). Re reading the section, it isn't as clear as intended which makes it more ambiguous. I'm absolutely thrilled you enjoyed Rise of the Street Legends!
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Bandits of Siege Tower 5e
Publisher: Tabletop Outfitter
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/22/2024 21:37:40

Bandits of Siege Tower, a loose sequel to Trouble with Gnolls, has a simple premise – track down and eliminate bandits that are bedeviling the region. It’s a straightforward story without complications, perfect for a sidetrek. But its not really the story that sets this adventure apart.

What’s noteworthy here are the set-piece locations. In chasing the bandits down the PCs come upon the haunting – and haunted -ruins of a castle surrounded by near impenetrable swamp. Do the characters try to wade through the murk, fighting terrain and swampy denizens alike, or do they press on through the castle, little more than a shell, whose shadows hide a powerful evil. Pick your poison. Either avenue is tough, and either can be played for chills.

Later, the PCs come upon the lair of the bandits, a former siege tower used in the battle that saw the abovementioned castle fall. The tower has been further fortified to serve as a lair for the bandits. I’ve not seen a siege tower employed in this manner before, so major points are earned for originality. Another welcome surprise comes in the shape of the bandit leader - without giving away spoilers, its likely not what you’d expect, leading to a fun climax.

From the locations to the monsters, there is a darkness to this adventure that adds a bit of mood and atmosphere to what could have been a simple “track down and eliminate bandits” scenario.

The adventure includes a couple of new monsters and two new magic items, though one lacks relevant rules (it grants resistance to necrotic damage and advantage against being charmed – but no specifics are given).

Battlemaps are a real highlight of the adventure as they are universally excellent. Illustrations are of high-quality stock art.

Bandits of Siege Tower is extremely GM friendly, thanks to the format used. Characters have boxed text with Appearance (how an NPC looks) and Does (her actions and motivation). Important elements within the text are boldfaced. Each encounter includes handy Development notes and ends with a Transition section that helps guide GMs to the next step in the adventure. These elements make the adventure ideal for new GMs or those running a session on the fly with little or no prep time.

What the adventure doesn’t do, purposefully, is provide much depth. Encounters are barebone, a paragraph or two each, just enough to provide the pertinent details, and there is no detailed backstory.

There is nothing about Bandits of Siege Tower that feels like a big deal. But its not meant to have major ramifications. That’s not the role of a sidetrek. But if you’re short on prep time, if you’re looking for a quick and easy adventure that can be run in an evening with minimal notice, you could do far worse.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Bandits of Siege Tower 5e
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[5e Horror] Echos of Vaerock
Publisher: Epic Table Games
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/13/2024 17:46:34

Echoes of Vaerock is a horror-themed adventure of rather epic proportions for 5e. Moody, dark, and oppressive, it isolates characters and leaves them feeling truly threatened as they confront unknown, impossible horrors. There are obvious echoes of Ravenloft, and for me that’s a very good thing indeed.

Though nowhere does it clearly say so, the adventure is designed for upper 2nd tier or third tier characters (ideally levels 10-14).

The cursed town of Vaerock, shrouded by a menacing mist, is cursed by the malevolent influence of a demon lord. The characters find themselves in the tragic town, trapped by the mist that plays on their minds and warps creatures into foul monsters. To leave, and save Vaerock from perpetual twilight, they must unravel a conspiracy and defeat a demon lord.

The story takes place over the course of seven days and nights as the PCs race to thwart the summoning of Zharock, said demon lord. The choices the PCs make drive the story forward and determine how strong the demon is when at last they confront it in epic battle. Every decision matters. This makes for a dynamic experience.

There are number of optional side quests as well, which creates more agency for the players. PCs can fight a wendigo, hunt for a lost artifact, or encounter werewolves.

Echoes of Vaerock is also helped by the evocative writing of author Rob de Ville, who captures the atmosphere of horror perfectly. His text helps to both make the adventure both enjoyable to read and immersive for characters. Read aloud text is more extensive than many adventures; some may not find this appealing, but in a horror adventure I think it help set the scene.

The 107-page adventure includes two dozen magic items and a bestiary of four new beasts: shadow mastiff, marrowmere (looking like a dark Swamp Thing), bloodthorn imp, and veilshade spectres (their horrifying wails are nasty). The highlight of the appendix is a unique form of magic called Arcane Rites – essentially rituals for cultists. Performing a ritual is time consuming and requires successfully completing a number of steps in the form of seven successive skill checks. Succeed and great power is at your disposal; fail and things go sideways badly, with horrific results.

The artwork is excellent, though all AI generated. Unfortunately, neither of the towns featured in the adventure have a true map, a minor quibble but a bit disappointing nonetheless. Layout and editing are both top-notch.

The only place where the adventure flounders somewhat is in its organization, or lack thereof. As the adventure takes place over the course of seven days, breaking the adventure up more clearly into identifiable 24-hour periods would have been extremely helpful to GMs. A quick-reference timeline and adventure outline would have been of use as well, but sadly both are lacking. That said, these issues can be overcome by familiarity with the adventure and with preparation.

There’s nothing contrived or predictable about Echoes of Vaerock. Its just a darn solid adventure oozing with mood. You could power through it fairly quickly, but far better to savor it and slowly build the tension and horror. The adventure is good enough that it deserves it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
[5e Horror] Echos of Vaerock
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Creator Reply:
Thank you for the review. I really appreciate the critiques where i can build improvement. That is more than helpful. I am glad that you and your players enjoyed the adventure, and I love the feedback.
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The Trouble with Gnolls 5e
Publisher: Tabletop Outfitter
by Andrew [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/19/2023 10:55:32

The Trouble with Gnolls is a 5e adventure for a party of 4-5th level characters. At 11 pages long, its ideal for a night’s gaming.

A retired adventurer built his home over caves so he could make use of them as natural vault for his treasure. A sound plan, save for the fact that, unknown to the retiree, the caverns contained a secret shrine to Yeenoghu, deity of the Gnoll race. The conceit behind the adventure is that a band of gnolls, led by a shaman, have taken over the homestead to conduct a vile ritual in the shrine below. It’s up to the PCs to take back the home, save the retired adventurer (if indeed he still lives), evict the gnolls, and stop the ritual. It’s a straightforward story without complications, perfect for a sidetrek.

Further making the adventure straightforward is a format that’s extremely GM friendly. Characters have boxed text with Appearance (how an NPC looks) and Does (her actions and motivation). Important elements within the text are boldfaced. Each encounter includes handy Development notes and ends with a Transition section that helps guide GMs to the next step in the adventure. These elements make the adventure ideal for new GMs or those running a session on the fly with little or no prep time.

Writer Gabe Degel assembles some fun encounters in the adventure, including a possible chase and fight involving a racing wagon. I have one minor complaint: as it is the climax of the adventure, the ultimate showdown against the shaman with the completion of the ritual at stake to have been developed further to enhance the drama.

The adventure includes a new magic item (Totem of the Hunters Nose, a useful item) and three new monsters (gnoll shaman, bandit enforcer, and the hideously cool exploding hyena, beasts tainted by magic that explode upon over-gorging or death in combat, birthing from their swollen bellies fully formed gnolls).

Writing and editing are good, maps equally well done, and the artwork by Dean Spencer is excellent.

The Trouble with Gnolls relies on classic formula, but that’s not a strike against it – quite the opposite, that make the adventure approachable for players and GMs alike, a winning combination for a quick night’s game or for those dipping their toes into the game.

The Trouble with Gnolls is Degel’s first published adventure, and the first from his TableTop Outfitter. Its good enough that one can’t help but look forward to the next.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Trouble with Gnolls 5e
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One Sheet - Race for the Jade Scroll (Savage Worlds)
Publisher: Atomic Overmind Press
by Andrew H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/27/2023 11:07:37

It's one page - essentially an extended chase scene - but boy is it fun. There's more pulp in this little adventure than in a gallon of orange juice.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
One Sheet - Race for the Jade Scroll (Savage Worlds)
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Myrrorside
Publisher: Parallel Publishing
by Andrew H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/27/2023 10:54:22

Leaves crunch underfoot, the air chills, Jack-o-Lanterns leer from front porches – Halloween approaches. What better time to review a new horror rpg? In this case, the horrifically inspired Myrrorside from Parallel Publishing.

The conceit of the brilliantly horrific Myrrorside is there are two realms, mirror images of each other. One realm, our realm, is based on the foundations of science and logic; magic, here, is weak and monsters hide themselves in dark places, out of view. The other realm – Myrrorside - is one of horror and magic, where technology rarely works and the worst horrors our imaginations could conjure up commonplace. Some people – and many monsters – can travel between these realms.

Myrrorside is founded on a slick a simple game system. Characters have four attributes: Physical, Mental, Social, Attunement (the latter representing closeness to Myrrorside and its powers). Attributes and skills are rated on a step system, from d2 (terrible) to d12 (superlative). Situations may result in advantages or disadvantages causing step-up or step-down in rolls. When trying to perform a task, a player rolls the relevant Attribute and Skill, selecting the higher total.

Character generation is quick and easy, though with just enough options to provide depth. All Stats begin at d6 (save for Attunement, which starts at 0), with players selecting a +1 step up on one Stat of their choice. They then select skills, quirks with provide bonuses, and up to three burdens – for each taken players can compensate with another quirk, a step-up to an attribute, or step-ups to three skills. The whole process should take no more than 10 minutes.

Interestingly, characters are intended to be young adults, reflecting the teens and college-age individuals who dominated the horror flicks of the 1980s/90s. Optional rules are provided for younger or more mature characters. Whatever the age, its up these heroes to prevent monsters from emerging through the gates of Hell – so to speak – and rage across our world like a cold front.

Damage is measured in four ways: Physical for harm, Mental for distress, Social for humiliation, and Attunement in the case of some magic. Damage results in stresses that reduce Stats. When a Stat reaches 0 something catastrophic occurs, including perhaps death. It’s a unique system perfectly suited for a horror game.

Adding extra dimension to the game are a pair of innovative mechanics: Pulse and Collateral.

Pulse, in a nutshell, represents characters’ heartbeat and rising tension. Pulse quickens as terror slowly ratchets up and the emotion drain of the adventure begins to take its toll on player characters. The higher the Pulse, the more penalties impact you and your ability to do things.

Collateral, for its part, is essentially lucky, but at a cost. Players can accept collateral to succeed a test they otherwise would have failed. If a player chooses, he need never fail a test whatsoever. If it sounds too good to be true, that’s because it is. If a character ends the session with collateral she must accept a disadvantage of some sort – essentially, suffering some permanent trauma for accepting collateral.

The GM section provides helpful advice for running horror sessions, a pretty extensive bestiary of evocative monsters from Myrrorside – each one capable or bringing a character’s career in heroics do a literal dead-end, a grimoire of spells for those who learn how to harness the magic of Myrrorside, and some unsettling magic items (called enchantments). There are even optional rules for a GM-less game.

All in a tight, beautifully illustrated book. Author Angus McNicholl demonstrates dark ingenuity in both his words and the world he crafts.

Myrrorside is no fire-sale horror roleplaying game. It’s the real deal, well done, slick, balanced, inspired.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Myrrorside
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Curse of the Chupacabra
Publisher: The Sagaverse
by Andrew H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/12/2023 20:29:17

“As darkness descends upon Santego, merriment fills the air, but a sinister presence haunts the quaint town. Bizarre occurrences loom putting the tropical paradise in peril. Will you dare to unravel the ancient secrets of Isla Zardia and avert impending catastrophe?”

Players get to answer this question by playing Curse of the Chupacabra, a new adventure from Sagaverse duo-stated for 5e and OSE. At 288 pages it’s a meaty tome. But is it any good. The short answer is a resounding yes. Often, attempts to bring horror into a D&D adventure result in an experience deader than a Freddy Krueger victim. Not this time!

Curse of the Chupacabra avoids the by-now deadened familiarity of many high fantasy adventures by avoiding the pseudo-European medieval setting and instead opting for a Caribbean-inspired island that the title suggests. Indeed, principal designer Joe Ingenito cites a desire to explore Central American and Caribbean folklore as the driving motivation for writing the adventure. The team could have eked by simply through the freshness of the setting, but instead they opted for something far more ambitious.

Curse of the Chupacabra is epic in scale. Is it an adventure? A setting? In fact, it’s both as an engaging story with surprising depth and innovation largely plays out on a sizeable island sandbox. The adventure is designed to take characters from 1st to 6th level, but there are so many side quests and opportunities to expand up plot hooks that it may well extend beyond that.

The adventure begins in the town of Santego, where freshly minted adventurers can create relationships and cut their teeth taking on various side quests and exploring catacombs. It then proceeds into the jungle wilds in and attempt to uncover the nature of the horrors plaguing the island (spoiler alert: chupacabra) and venture into a variety of increasingly frightening locations, including the haunted wreck of a cursed ship, dark mines, and crumbling ruins holding ancient secrets. Finally learning the whereabouts of the chupacabra’s lair, the PCs delve into the heart of the island and a three-level dungeon.

It being D&D there are plenty of high fantasy elements to ground players in the familiar, but the real innovation comes when horror and science elements (most notably in the thrilling climax, which I won’t spoil but I will say it takes the adventure in a dramatic new direction.

The writing is engaging and evocative. There is occasional playfulness as well, such as with Admiral Prawn (an obvious play on Star Wars’ Grand Admiral Thrawn). The adventure looks as great as it reads; the full-colour artwork by Bolivian artists Miky Arango and former Marvel artist Terrell Bobbett is excellent, bringing the characters, setting, and monsters to dramatic life.

In Curse of the Chupacabra there are no tired and dull goblinoid meatheads to wade through. Instead, monsters are true to the setting, including 20 new monsters. These new monsters are largely inspired by Latin American myth - such as la Llorona, “The Weeping Woman”, who drowned her own children in a jealous rage and thereby cursed herself to roam forever as a specter searching for other kids to kill, or the Camazotz, bat-fiends inspired by the Mayan god of the same name.

Everything about Curse of the Chupacabra is fresh, from the setting and lore to the evocative, open-ended, take-no-prisoners adventure. Best of all, the experience doesn’t need to end as a sequel is in the works.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Curse of the Chupacabra
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Creator Reply:
From myself and the team here at Sagaverse, we thank you Andrew! We really appreciate your feedback and taking the time to check out our premier title!
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Beyond the Borderlands #1
Publisher: Gnarled Monster
by Andrew H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/30/2023 20:17:37

As gamers of a certain vintage might well suspect, Beyond the Borderlands #1 (the first of two 20-page zines) is an homage of sorts to the classic D&D module B2: Keep on the Borderlands. It’s an attempt reimagine the concept – a fortress on the edge of a frontier rich in adventure – with new flavor, new content, and new sensibilities for a modern audience.

This first release focuses much of its attention on Stronglaw Keep, which represents a base of operations for adventurers exploring the dangerous Wicked Palovalley. A dozen locations within the keep – ranging from pawn shop and tavern to smithy – are described in brief. A notice board with 20 adventure hooks designed to launch expeditions into the wilderness is a cool touch. And, in a neat twist aimed at rogues, there are useful rules for thieving within the keep – what can be stolen from the varied locations, when the watch might begin to take notice and what happens when they do. The map of the keep is stunning, a piece of art in its own right.

The zine includes simple but useful optional rules for running hexcrawls, including travel fatigue, getting lost, and reactions of randomly encountered individuals and creatures.

The hexcrawl itself consists of 36 hexes divided into 6 geographic regions (The Keep’s Domains, Hunting Groves, Dusky Woods, Sludgy Bog, Rockfall Range, Scarlet Forest). Each region has its own beautifully rendered isometric map, rumours, random encounter table, and set-piece locations. The variety of terrains and therefore encounters keeps things fresh and exciting – there is enough material here for countless game sessions.

And yet, most refreshingly, unlike many sandboxes that are lore-bloated, Beyond the Borderlands is free of such weight.

Volume #2, incidentally, details several dungeons in the Palovalley – you don’t need it by any stretch of the imagination, but it certainly adds options if you want to take your adventures underground.

Beyond the Borderlands #1 offers a sweet blast of pure nostalgia for gamers of a certain vintage who grew up with B2, yet it nonetheless stands on its own merits as a fine introductory sandbox. Its an excellent investment.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Beyond the Borderlands #1
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Great Plains Apocalypse
Publisher: Shadow Drifter Games
by Andrew H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/19/2023 09:41:01

Great Plains Apocalypse (GPA_ is a game of horror-survival after a dimensional apocalypse destroyed much of civilization. Its set in the Midwest, away from the shattered cities of the coast, out in the open where the fragmented remnants of human are vulnerable to the monsters that invaded our planet.

The source of these monsters is a clever conceit. Cryptids, like chupacabra and skunk ape, come from another dimension through small tears in the fabric of reality. Thankfully, few creatures made it through and thus cryptids remained elusive and rare. Then, in the process of trying to find the ‘God Particle’, physicists tore reality asunder like Godzilla shredding a Tokyo skyscraper. Through this rift poured more monsters, not merely cryptids but also devastating Kaiju that meted out punishment for mankind’s technological hubris.

The PCs survived the fall of civilization and are merely trying to stay alive.

GPA is delightfully rules lite. Making up a character is a breeze. You have 3 stats based around what you did in life prior to when monsters began eating people like Tic Tacs: scientist, scoundrel, and soldier. Scientist allows you to make more technical or knowledge base rolls; scoundrel is focused on Stealth, conversation, and thievery; and soldier is mainly focused on tactics and combat. Based on your past life experience you assign modifiers of 0/+1/+2 to these three stats. Finally, you roll a random talent for your highest attribute EXAMPLES (as you level you can select additional talents).

Characters also have an attribute called Steadfast, used for endurance, sanity, and so on, representing wear and tear on the body and mind, essentially replacing hit points. You roll the die and if comes up a 1 or 2 the die type decreases (from d8 to d6, for example). If the character reaches 0 dice, you die. Clever and fun.

An attribute called Bullets is a measure of wealth and, perhaps more importantly, ammo. After every combat, the player rolls the resource die and if the result is a 1 or 2 then the die lowers to a smaller die level. Reaching 0 Bullets is bad news.

Finally, every character has an Escape Fate tokens, awarded for being heroic or exceptional roleplaying. Escape Fate tokens can be cashed in to do exceptional things and survive extraordinary circumstances.

Task resolution in GPA is simple: the player rolls 2d6 and adds the score from whichever Stat is most relevant. An 8 (or higher if the task is difficult) is a success. Simple. The back half of the book is devoted to GM resources, including some atmospheric supernatural weather phenomenon, 15 pages of foes to encounter (ranging from cannibals to cultists to mothman, shadow people, and wildmen (a catch all for hairy hominids like Sasquatch and Skunk-ape).

Lastly, the book includes a lengthy adventure called The Mist That Befell Telfer, a nice introductory scenario that highlights most of the game’s unique characteristics and themes.

Editing and layout are excellent, and the artwork helps to bring the game to life. GPA looks as good as it plays.

Great Plains Apocalypse offers a unique gaming opportunity simply by taking the ‘surviving the calamity’ genre out of the usual vistas of trampled skyscrapers and into to the wide-open grain fields and small towns of Fly Over Country where there is nowhere to hide. The implied setting is beautifully supported by an innovative, fun, and lightweight set of rules (which can be ported to any location should you not want to play in the Midwest).

Great Plains Apocalypse is, in short, a masterclass in rules-lite game design.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Great Plains Apocalypse
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whitewyrm: a fantasy rpg
Publisher: Shadow Drifter Games
by Andrew H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/05/2023 21:28:47

If your idea of purgatory is a players or gm flipping through rulebooks, searching for some arcane ruling or detail and interrupting the flow of action, then Whitewyrm: A Fantasy RPG is a game is for you. Shadow Drifter Games manages to craft a take on the earliest generation of D&D that is, as advertised, ‘rules light, but not lacking.”

Every facet from character creation to gameplay, whizzes past at a pace that would make any dice-roller drool.

Players choose from one of the classic D&D classes: fighter, cleric, wizard, thief. The game also uses the standard six stats. It differs in that players assign numbers to these stats: d4, d6, d8 or 3 d6s to STR, CON, DEX, then again for WIS, INT, CHA. To succeed at a Test, you roll a d20 and add the relevant Stat. Simple but effective.

Players select from among the four traditional ‘ancestries’ – elf, dwarf, halfling, human – each of which come with distinct benefits. Finally, you select a background, essentially a career, to add depth to the character. There’s no list of backgrounds so you simply create something – poacher, blacksmith, beggar, boatman, jester, etc. Backgrounds can provide bonuses to actions – a beggar might gain a bonus to saves against disease, for example, while a poacher may be better than most at tracking or concealment in the wilds.

PCs have a Defense score, equal to 8 + DEX. Monsters roll vs. this Defense to determine if they hit. Armour reduces damage. To attack, a PC rolls 1d20 and adds either STR or DEX (depending on whether it is a melee or ranged attack). If you meet or beat an opponents’ TN, you hit. Simple. There are some basic but sound combat modifiers (ganging up, for example).

After combat PCs can rest to gain some hit points and spell slots back. A night’s rest, of course, results in more substantive recovery.

A fun innovation is the Hero Coin. Every character begins a game session with 1 Hero Coin, which can be spent to reroll any failed check or save.

Spellcasting is intuitive and very freeform, with players determining what a cast spell’s effects are. Clerics and Wizards can cast a number of spells per day equal to their level. Casting a spell requires a WIS (cleric) or INT (wizard) roll vs. a Target Number (TN) determined by the opponent or difficulty of the task. In a cool twist, if the spellcaster rolls double 1s the spell goes horribly awry, hurting the caster or allies.

An extensive bestiary of standard fantasy monsters takes up half of the book. Stats, as one would expect, are threadbare – TN (target number; a number which characters have to beat when attacking), size (which determines hp and damage; small creatures, for example, have d6 hit points per HD and inflict d6 damage in combat), HD, # of attacks, damage per attack. Occasionally, as required, there is a line that details relevant additional abilities.

Whitewyrm is a slender game (only 49 pages) that moves faster than many, yet still retains enough innovative and depth to remain interesting.

Easy to GM, easy to play, hard not to like. Whitewyrm is a success.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
whitewyrm: a fantasy rpg
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