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Brindlewood Bay (Kickstarter Edition)
Publisher: The Gauntlet
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/10/2022 13:14:50
Murder, they played - a Mephisto review

Brindlewood Bay

Brindlewood Bay is the name of a picturesque coastal town in Massachusetts that began as a whaling port and has evolved into a cozy town for tourists. Brindlewood Bay residents include a mystery book club of older ladies, the Murder Mavens. They are fans of the Gold Crown Mysteries series featuring super sleuth Amanda Delacourt. But the Mavens are not just passionate mystery fans who appreciate a good book; they also emulate their great role model and investigate as amateur detectives – with real success and to the chagrin of the local police force. And their cases are not just petty crimes, but mostly murder cases the Murder Mavens run into. And for a seemingly innocuous small town, Brindlewood Bay has a terrifying murder record – almost as if sinister forces are at play...

Brindlewood Bay is an unusual detective role-playing game that uses the Powered by the Apocalypse (PbtA) rules concepts. All characters are older, single ladies with a murderous hobby. The characters are defined by five traits, which are used in moves typical of PbtA. As an additional mechanism, rolls can be made easier or harder by rolling three dice instead of the usual two and using the two best or worst results. The moves are boiled down to the essentials: There is one move each for risky situations by day and by night, an investigation move, and the Cozy Move. The interesting concept is that hazards at night carry greater risks, while one standard move (fittingly called the Meddling Move) represents all types of investigative work. The Cozy Move is used to eliminate negative effects, conditions, in a cozy scene. Therefore, each character is also defined by her favored cozy activity. Furthermore, there are two special moves: the Gold Crown Mysteries Move generates a perfect success once per story by inventing a reference to one of Amanda Delacourt's adventures. And through the Occult Move, new supernatural moves can be developed.

In addition, each Maven is not only described by her background but chooses a unique Maven Move based on allusions to movie characters of the 80s/90s or well-known fictional detective characters. Eventually, the group has to select one of the two sets, but has a wide range of choices in both. For example, the Angus MacGyver move allows improvising something helpful with just three random items. In contrast, the Jane Marple move allows entering anywhere during the day and moving (and snooping) around undisturbed.

However, the most fascinating feature of Brindlewood Bay is the approach to the criminal cases: Each case provides a starting situation, clues and hints, and suspects – but no predetermined solution. Instead, the players must develop a solution with their evidence at the end of the case. Then a single move decides whether their solution is correct. The more evidence is collected and incorporated into the theory, the easier the move is. This approach allows the game master to improvise with the given information during the game. The reason for this mechanism is simple: this way, players can never get completely stuck because they fail to find a crucial clue or make some other mistake. And the solution to the case – whether correct or not – is the players' creative solution, which will probably often surprise the game master as well. With this approach, a case can be presented in 5-6 pages and played without much preparation.

But Brindlewood Bay has an additional twist: The fact that murder abounds in the small town is due to the activities of a cult, which the Mavens must unmask in the end. And even though its background refers to Greek mythology, there is a hint of Cthulhu drifting through Brindlewood Bay. In addition to concrete suggestions, the game master gets various ideas to shape this cult – and again, he should not prepare everything in advance but develop this central threat based on the player's interactions during the game. A mixture of Murder, She wrote and Call of Cthulhu as a role-playing game would already be an unusual idea. However, combined with the mechanism that the cases are not predefined and spiced up with many intriguing approaches that capture the genre and the flair of TV series, Brindlewood Bay is not only a surprising but, above all, extremely fascinating game. Even though the layout and illustrations are relatively simple, the role-playing game is designed with great attention to detail. The book guides the game master perfectly through rules and setting – up to a complete case series ready to start the game immediately. If the cozy-crime/cosmic-horror crossover appeals to you, Brindlewood Bay can be highly recommended as an original highlight regarding both setting and rules.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Brindlewood Bay (Kickstarter Edition)
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Achtung! Cthulhu 2d0: Halloween Horrors (FREE PDF)
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/07/2022 23:50:35
Achtung! Halloween Horrors - a Mephisto review

A Grimoire of Terror

Just before Halloween, the free booklet A Grimoire of Terror for Achtung! Cthulhu has been released, which introduces five archetypal horror creatures as opponents for the player characters on a double page each. A dangerous mummy, a brutal werewolf, a scary mesmer, a barghest, and a deadly clown make up the selection of enemies, which have been fitted into the setting by their background (e.g. the barghest is a creation of the Nachtwölfe) but still deviate from “normal” cosmic horror opponents. In addition, ten adventure seeds present these monsters or other puzzles in a few sentences for investigation by the game group. A Grimoire of Terror is definitely a suitable expansion for a Halloween special. Even though the style is a bit of a departure from the typical Achtung! Cthulhu setting, this supplement is well worth reading – and not just because it's free.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu 2d0: Halloween Horrors (FREE PDF)
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Cults of the Blood Gods (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
Publisher: Renegade Game Studios
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/20/2022 13:30:51

Cults of Blood and Death - a Mephisto review

Cults of the Blood Gods

With an ominous cover and a title that does not bode well, Cults of the Blood Gods, this thick sourcebook for Vampire V5 is dedicated to both vampiric cults and a clan that was once many: the Hecata.

After the introductory story surrounding a family dinner of the various families and clans that became the Hecata, the book first gives orientation to the focus of this sourcebook. One central theme of the book is the cults and religions of Kindred; the other is the Clan of Death, the Hecata, which evolved out of Giovanni, Harbingers of Skulls, Samedi and other necromancer clans. An adventure rounds out the book.

The chapter Rise of the Methuselah Cult highlights the current development of the rise of vampiric cults and religions with various documents, comments, conversations, etc. from the in-game perspective. Here you get a first impression of the multifaceted cults that are no longer hidden fringe phenomena but are more or less openly gaining importance within the Camarilla. The chapter Kindred Religions supports this introduction with background information and game material by presenting a wide range of influential cults in detail on more than ten pages each. Here you will find old acquaintances as well as new movements. For example, the Ashfinders appear as a new influencer-driven Bacchanalia cult. On the other hand, the Bahari, who worship Lilith, are old acquaintances, just like the Church of Caine – even if they were not previously rooted in the Camarilla. On almost 100 pages, cult after cult is presented – with background, origins, philosophies, selected characters, and sometimes new disciplinary forces. In doing so, the book – unlike the core sourcebooks – ties in strongly with the extensive background of Vampire. For example, the Nephilim base themselves on the Toreador Michael, the Mithraic Mysteries continue to focus on the former Prince of London, the Church of Caine rescues a worldview of the Sabbat over to the Camarilla, or the Church of Set provides the perspective that the new clan version of the Ministry lacks. While the approaches are often exciting, in my view, they are too much of a good thing due to the sheer mass: seven major and ten minor cults are definitely more than one or more chronicles need. Newcomers to the game are left too much alone here, in my view. While experienced players might be able to understand the details of terms like Bahari or Lilin, beginners lack the glossary here. Furthermore, concepts like the Abyss, which is introduced with the Cult of Shalim, may be as mysterious as Latin phrases that do not get a translation. Perhaps even more severe here is the fact that the complex concepts and ancient mysteries that Vampire V5 left behind in the rulebook creep back in. For example, the Church of Set brings back large parts of the former philosophies of the Followers of Set, but turns it into a religion that spreads across multiple clans. This approach of creating a complex web of backgrounds shows up in details that mention relationships with other game characters, you can only know them if you own the corresponding sourcebook.

Here, the Mortal Cults, which the book presents in a separate chapter, are more accessible. In these cults, whose core followers are humans, the reader will find a mix of typical cults that exploit their members, groups that superimpose a philosophy on their goals and methods, and some surprising variants. A cult that has developed a dangerous momentum of its own as an experiment of the Second Inquisition is among the original ideas.

If the sheer amount of presented cults is not enough for the inclined game master, a whole chapter is still dedicated to the approach how to compose own cults for the game round – including a name construction kit and description fragments, which only lack random tables...

Several chapters are also devoted to the second central theme of the book. The Cult of Death and Undeath, which is placed between the Cult chapters, focuses on the changes that the Giovanni and other Clans of Death have undergone: in the so-called Family Reunion, the Hecata have come into being, uniting Giovanni, Harbingers of Skull, Cappadocians, Samedi, Nagaraja, Lamia under the guidance of the Capuchin to form the last independent clan. Even if these reorganizations cost many Elders their lives and the once hostile clans have not yet found complete peace, a powerful player has emerged outside Camarilla and Sabbat. What is also special here is that the Elders of the Hecata are not affected by the Beckoning, which gives them another unique role.

The Hecata are also the focus of another chapter as a playable clan. The formerly disparate clans have been merged and unified (which is explained as a change resulting from the Family Reunion), so that, for example, the Samedi are no longer rotting corpses. Gamemasters may, however, allow discipline variations for these branches of the family and use loresheets to differentiate bloodlines. The Hecata share the Oblivion discipline with the Lasombra, but have a distinct approach, their own powers, and new ceremonies that replicate the earlier Necromancy powers.

The numerous lore sheets thematize the smaller families and bloodlines, such as the Dunsirn, Samedi, Nagaraja, Gorgons, but can also be used in part for the cults.

In the end, the Styx and Bones adventure lets the player characters participate in the reunification of the family and its pitfalls alongside the Hecata in Munich – and again picks up on old secrets in the form of a former signature character. Unfortunately, the adventure describes hard challenges for the players, but remains very vague about the solutions.

I have a hard time rating Cults of the Blood Gods. The book offers extremely extensive material, tying back into the complex background of times past while attempting to continue the simplifications of V5. It also introduces the Hecata, an essential clan that probably experienced gamers will not miss – and it does so in epic breadth with an additional 25 pages of background, bloodlines, and their own discipline (which they only formally share with the Lasombra). This comprehensiveness seems almost unfair compared to the other simplified clans like Ministry or Banu Haqim, which were much more streamlined. On the other hand, from my point of view, the book falls back into the earlier approach of overwhelming game masters with too much material. The cults overwhelm the reader with philosophies and their details, although many of the cults will probably never appear within a chronicle. The fact that three additional books (Forbidden Religions, Trails of Ash and Bone, Children of the Blood) published as part of the Kickstarter offer further cults, characters, and adventures makes the topic even more complex. In other words, the material is provided here could make Vampire all about the topic of cults.

Personally, I liked the tie-in to the old complex backgrounds of Vampire. However, the approach of making V5 more accessible to newcomers is wholly left behind here. Cults can add a facet to the intrigue within the cities, but the amount of material in the book almost seems to make this a dominant game theme. The Hecata approach is also ambivalent – the Family Reunion as a metaplot is an exciting theme and cleaning up the chaos of the death clans makes sense, yet the approach seems a bit forced and then comes up with surprises like the return of the Lamia. The fact that Necromancy is now the other side of the Oblivion discipline is done coherently. On the other hand, it may also blur the lines between Lasombra and Hecata (if players should not mix discipline powers from both clans, Oblivion could have been left as two separate disciplines). Unfortunately, for the complete picture of Oblivion, you also need to know Chicago by Night, which you will notice in the adventure at the latest, where Oblivion powers appear that are not found here.

Those who love a complex variant of Vampire, know the storylines that extend into the Dark Ages, and need the Hecata in the game will not be able to avoid Cult of the Blood Gods. However, beginner players risk being overwhelmed with a sourcebook on a particular topic that is 2/3 the length of the basic rulebook.

In the end, I enjoyed reading it despite some overly detailed aspects, though I, too, will only be able to actually use a fraction in my game.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cults of the Blood Gods (Vampire: the Masquerade 5th Edition)
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ALIEN RPG Heart of Darkness
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/18/2022 23:57:44

Abandon all hope - a Mephisto review

Heart of Darkness

Heart of Darkness is the third and final scenario of the trilogy that began with Chariot of God. Once again, in this scenario, players take the role of pre-made characters to confront them with the horrors of the Alien universe in a brutal and cinematic storyline. This time, players take on the role of a research expedition sent out to investigate a new life form on a remote research station. The facts that the station is run by the conscripted convicts and is located near a black hole are only two of the complications the players will encounter, as soon mental disorders, secret research projects, and alien life forms increase the threat level to the maximum.

Heart of Darkness, as the third part of the adventure series, also has certain parallels with the third part of the movie series. Here, too, the setting is a prison colony, and the goal is to prevent a catastrophe and, if necessary, to put the safety of humanity above one's own survival. If the previous adventure Destroyer of Worlds was already very challenging, Heart of Darkness manages to step it up a notch, as the ultra-hard scenario features a complex, extremely dangerous threat, player characters with very conflicting goals, an extreme Xenomorph danger and taking place on the edge of a black hole. The story continues the arc begun with Chariot of God, picking up elements from the previous adventures, but it can be played on its own. Again, there are new variations on the Xenomorph threat, and the adventure offers extensive handouts on player characters and more in addition to the story itself. Despite the comprehensive material, the story will also require some preparations from the game mother due to the complex plot.

From my point of view, Heart of Darkness is an impressive conclusion of the trilogy, which succeeds in both finding connecting points to the first three Alien movies (for example, a cat now also plays a role) and, on the other hand, still telling its own exciting story that offers diverse facets and captures the atmosphere of Alien. If you survived the first two adventures of the trilogy and wonder if it is possible to increase the challenge a bit more, Heart of Darkness is just right for you.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ALIEN RPG Heart of Darkness
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Into the Odd – Remastered
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/17/2022 12:54:35

As odd as it gets - a Mephisto review

Into the Odd

Into the Odd is another old-school role-playing game set in a bizarre fantasy world that has entered the industrial age. Most importantly, it is a role-playing game with very lightweight rules: Characters have only three statistics, Strength, Dexterity, and Willpower, as well as Hit Protection (HP). In fights, the damage is simply rolled, and the armor is subtracted. The remaining damage first decimates the Hit Protection and then the Strength attribute of the target. Once characters lose Strength points, they are considered wounded and must now roll to take critical damage that will incapacitate them.

Character creation takes only a few seconds: attributes are determined quickly by die rolls. Then, depending on the game stats and health points, the characters get a starter package that contains the more or better things, the worse their stats are. An essential element of the game are the so-called Arcana, which are magical items with sometimes very unusual effects. Arcana can be small handy items, as well as pieces of furniture or larger objects. They usually have an extraordinary power that their owners can use – if they know about it. Accordingly, the book also provides a d66 of Arcana right away. 

If the information about the gameplay is still vague so far, a short playing example quickly shows in which direction this role-playing game should go. Here, the reader gets to experience a role-playing group that explores a labyrinth and is willing to try out wild things – even without considering the corresponding risks (and with the expected consequences). 

The other rules revolve around how further levels of experience are achieved. Player characters must fulfill certain conditions and then receive additional hit protection and the possibility to increase their stats, which, however, is also decided by a die roll. In addition, there are rules for how to make extra money with an enterprise, hire assistants, and command troops and lead them into battle. 

The game master is also encouraged to simply roll out random encounters by dice. There are some notes about chance encounters, traps, and other obstacles, the rule here being that unless the player characters are entirely inattentive, they always have a chance to notice such dangers beforehand. The players should be able to make a conscious decision to deal with the risk. 

The monsters are defined by brief game stats, motivation and description, and the game provides some examples. A brief introduction of the game world follows, but it remains only very roughly described. First, there is the great city of Bastion, humanity's largest metropolis, and beneath it lies the Underground, a network of tunnels, where both valuable treasures are hidden and great dangers lurk. Beyond the city, the world is relatively sparse in population and also dangerous.

To provide the players with a starting point, the book presents The Iron Coral as an introductory scenario, where the players search for the eponymous iron coral. This is a typical dungeon, where the individual rooms are described in an extremely short format and are characterized by bizarre encounters and peculiarities. Beyond the Iron Coral, the Fallen Marsh is a setting for wilderness adventure (in classic hex style). In addition, another scenario presents the small town of Hopesend. Thus, the book provides a typical dungeon adventure, a wilderness exploration, and a minimal town setting that can be played together.

The role-playing game lives up to its name, as the game world is bizarre. Although industrialized and featuring firearms, it is reminiscent of a typical old-school fantasy setting. The rule mechanisms are minimal, and the setting should be suitably deadly. The odd style of the game is also reflected in the illustrations, which are often collages of images from various styles, conveying an alien atmosphere. 

The book concludes with short expansion rules in case the players would rather not play characters on Bastion, but mutants or other creatures, so the character creation rules are minimally adapted. In addition, a considerable arsenal of random tables is supplied in the form of the Oddpedium, which can be used to quickly roll dice for encounters, locations, and the like. 

Into the Odd is a role-playing game for spontaneous play, fighting your way through bizarre dungeons and recovering treasures in the form of Arcana (or dying trying to do so). Even though the rules expand the prospects for individual characters with the systems for units and enterprises, the whole setting focuses heavily on typical dungeon adventures. 

Ultimately, rating this game is difficult: Into the Odd is a highly bizarre scenario, which probably will not appeal to many players. In addition, the rules are extremely reduced and simple, reminiscent of the early days of role-playing. Those who expect a complex rules system or story-oriented adventures here should rather flee this oddity. However, if you are looking for a simple, functional and unique role-playing game that allows you to quickly and spontaneously assemble a group and experience adventures, you can definitely get your money's worth here – as long as you accept that characters will probably die as quickly as they are created. As for my personal opinion, I really enjoyed the idea of the book, but I am also convinced, that I will never play it.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Into the Odd – Remastered
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Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Operation Ultimatum - PDF
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/17/2022 11:03:17

The ultimate quick introduction to Achtung! Cthulhu? - a Mephisto review

Operation Ultimatum

As Professor Guilbert Paschal, a member of Section M, tries to evacuate his research from Normandy, his convoy is attacked. It's up to the player characters to search for the professor and secure his artifacts before they fall into enemy hands.

Operation Ultimatum is a free introductory adventure composed of three short scenes appropriately structured to illustrate key game mechanics and concepts. First, it is necessary to investigate the location of the attack, then to eliminate or evade Nachtwölfe at a ruin, and finally, to confront the plans of an alien force.

Operation Ultimatum offers no real story but is rather a showcase of the game, its mechanics and themes. Veterans of the game will probably find too little here. However, for newcomers or at a convention, Operation Ultimatum offers a quick and easy showcase introduction to the world of Achtung! Cthulhu.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Operation Ultimatum - PDF
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Songs of the Sun and Moon: Tales of the Changing Breeds Anthology
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/17/2022 11:00:44

There is more than the Garou - a Mephisto review

Songs of the Sun and Moon

The subtitle Tales of the Changing Breeds already shows that this anthology book for Werewolf W20 does not focus on the Garou, but on the Fera - the other were-beings besides the werewolves. So at one point, the reader accompanies the unusual team of Ajaba and Ratkin to Malfeas. Then an archeologist is confronted with Bastet and Ghural or an Ananasi has to master an intrigue in London.

To do justice to the number of different Fera, most of the short stories take on several types at once. The stories are entertaining and illustrate the alliances and rivalries among Gaia's children, while the stereotypical fight against the Wyrm plays only a limited role here. Yet, the seven stories are varied – from the horror of a confrontation with the Rokea to an archaeological exploration adventure to a story of self-discovery – and yes, there is an attack on a Wyrm base. I particularly enjoyed The Sins of Sharks and Threads of Steel and Glass, but this anthology as a whole provides some entertaining reading material.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Songs of the Sun and Moon: Tales of the Changing Breeds Anthology
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Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Operation Snowstorm - PDF
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/21/2022 13:05:33
Out in the cold - a Mephisto review

Operation Snowstorm

While the British agents of Section M and their fight against the Black Sun and the Night Wolves in Europe have been in the foreground of the Achtung! Cthulhu adventures, Operation Snowstorm takes players to British Columbia in the role of Majestic agents. There, in the wilderness, a Majestic research facility is located, to which contact has suddenly been lost. When the agents check up on the site, they get caught in a blizzard, which is only the prelude to their fight for survival.

The adventure begins with the tour to their destination, which becomes the first challenge due to the weather and wilderness. Still, the real threat awaits the agents unsurprisingly at the base. Cthulhu connoisseurs will already suspect what awaits them there. The research outpost plays as a typical dungeon adventure, where the agents have to explore the rooms, fight enemies and gain access to certain areas. Ultimately, it is up to the players whether they just want to escape alive or stop the greater threat, which will confront them with a challenging finale.

Operation Snowstorm takes up an iconic Cthulhu setting and offers a tough fight against the elements and dangerous enemies. Unfortunately, the finale falls slightly short in description and elaboration compared to exploring the base, although showing lots of potential for more.

Nevertheless, this operation also offers an exciting adventure. It also deviates from the standard approach with its location and opponents, and thus provides a nice change from the constant fight against Nazi occultists.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Operation Snowstorm - PDF
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Liminal: Shadow to the Light
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/21/2022 13:00:39
The dark side of the Arthurian myth - a Mephisto review

Shadow to the Light

A gutter mage of the Mercury Collegium has disappeared, and various parties are looking for her - because she betrayed the Council of Merlin and sent out a call for help to the Mercury Collegium. The crew of the players is supposed to pick up her trail, which leads them first to an old fort and then to Avalon.

As usual for Liminal, the adventure Shadow to the Light is presented in a few pages with a few scenes that allow (and necessitate) freedom in filling in the details for the game master. Again, the game master is presented with a basic plot that he can and must adapt to his group. The story framework linking to aspects of the Arthurian saga creates a connection to the folklore of Britain and combines it with the factions of Liminal. If you are willing to spend some time fleshing out the details, you will get a case for Liminal that can also serve as a prelude to larger developments.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liminal: Shadow to the Light
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Liminal: One Boggart's Rubbish
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/21/2022 12:58:20
Treasure hunt in London - a Mephisto review

One Boggart's Rubbish

The feuds and intrigues between fairy creatures are often confusing and incomprehensible to outsiders. But the consequences of these intrigues and disputes between courts such as the Winter King and the Queen of Hyde Park can throw more than just London's fortunes into chaos. So, it makes sense for a group of Liminals to take on the task of recovering a lost piece of jewelry before it ignites a dispute that threatens more than the fate of a fae knight.

One Boggart's Rubbish is another case file for Liminal, this time allowing the player characters to investigate the fragments of a piece of jewelry in London. Finding the fragments is less complicated than getting hold of them because, of course, the current owners won't just hand them over - and taking them by force is no solution either. The adventure's approach is a tour to introduce London in the world of Liminal and the city's inhabitants as a setting. Still, the case challenges the player characters to succeed in the end. Here, it is often up to the ingenuity of players and game masters to flesh out the setting and find solutions to the challenges. As an introduction to the world of Liminal in London, the adventure serves its function well with its exciting story.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liminal: One Boggart's Rubbish
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ALIEN RPG Colonial Marines Operations Manual
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/10/2022 13:38:31
Welcome to the Marines - a Mephisto review

Colonial Marines Operations Manual

The Colonial Marines Operations Manual is the first major sourcebook for the Alien roleplaying game and focuses on the organization that is probably the most interesting for many players: the Colonial Marines. The book starts with background information on the history and organization of the military.

Of course, a chapter on character creation is not to be missed in this book, and here the focus is on the so-called Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), which allow for additional differentiation of Marine characters. There are also random events for the characters' backstory, as well as a few new talents. In this respect, the character material is limited, but this is not a disadvantage from my perspective.

More tangible help is provided to the player characters in the form of a detailed equipment chapter, which presents an arsenal of vehicles, ranging from the classic APC to interceptors, artillery guns and spaceships, in addition to various weapons and armor for both the Colonial Marines and other organizations.

The fact that only about 100 of the 300+ pages are devoted to this background, with the rest focusing on the included campaign, clearly indicates that this volume is intended to be less a sourcebook than a comprehensive campaign book. To that end, the book first introduces a Marine unit to which the player characters belong. Of course, the unit's frigate as their headquarters is part of the description. The chapter also explains typical missions and thus provides hooks for designing your own missions and incorporating them into the campaign as regular intermediate missions. The chapter also has insightful advice on how to deal with the issue of non-player characters, especially in terms of ranks and combat, and provides helpful information here.

As a preparation for the campaign, first, some new star systems are introduced, which play a role in the campaign, but also expand the overall background. In particular, a human-like alien species from the Arcturus system is presented. The game mother gets insights into various secret military projects that also make their appearance in the campaign. The introduction of the larger setting follows, namely the border war that breaks out between the UAC and the UPP (which apparently involves additional parties). In fact, this border war is already touched upon in Destroyer of Worlds, and here the plot continues accordingly. The actual campaign includes seven missions described in detail, which lead the players further and further into the war, but above all into a sinister conspiracy. Of course, the Xenomorphs are involved, but other complications play important roles as well. It's up to the player characters' choices, on which side they position themselves and how much they reveal the conspiracy.

I found the first background chapters with timeline and various military operations confusing to read, as many abbreviations are used and the compact information overwhelms with a great deal of trivia so that the larger context is sometimes lost. Still, it helps to get an impression of how the Colonial Marines fit into the world of Alien, what their role is, and who their opponents are. The character chapter provides some small additions instead of essential material. While this start seemed somewhat slow, the campaign could fully convince me quickly. Of course, the campaign uses aspects that you would inevitably expect: conspiracies and corporate intrigue, horrific alien lifeforms and the constant fight for survival. However, these are aspects that are so deeply rooted in the basic setting of Alien that anything else would have been surprising. Here, in my view, both typical elements of the Alien universe like the Xenomorphs and also the Engineers and the corporations are used, but combined with new elements like the border war with the UPP. The book even reflects the original Alien setting in the 80s, as e.g. the Cold War is reflected here in the confrontation of the American Colonial Marines against the Union of Progressive States. Nevertheless, the book refrains from painting this conflict in black and white. The campaign should be very challenging for the player characters and also requires some preparation by the game mother to cover the various plot threads and options. The comprehensive maps of the facilities, bases and starships help to illustrate the setting. Besides, the book offers the fitting layout of the core rulebook, supported by impressive illustrations. If you want to play Alien with a Colonial Marine campaign, you will probably need this book less because of the rules and background material, but you will be provided with a comprehensive and challenging campaign that should captivate you for many sessions (but might also cost one or two player characters).

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ALIEN RPG Colonial Marines Operations Manual
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ALIEN RPG Destroyer of Worlds
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/10/2022 13:36:11
This time it's war - a Mephisto review

Destroyer of Worlds

Destroyer of Worlds is the second part of the Alien role-playing campaign that began with Chariot of the Gods. This time, however, the players take on new roles, namely that of Colonial Marines stationed on Ariarcus in the Kruger 60 system. The base is located on a cold moon, far away in the frontier. Originally, Ariarcus was a successful oil production colony, but there was unrest that led to the military taking over the moon and adding a garrison. After the neighboring system is invaded by the Union of Progressive People (UPP), most of the troops stationed on the moon are sent out for a counter-offensive. Although a large part of the civilian inhabitants has long abandoned the colony, the remaining colonists now want to flee from a possible invasion by the UPP.

Against this backdrop, the player characters are sent out on a special mission to track down four deserted Marines who have stolen military secrets. But this is only the prelude to a three-act horror story. Finding the deserters in a colony full of disgruntled colonists who cannot leave the moon due to a blockade is no easy task. After locating the Marines, however, the story really picks up: not only does the war reach the colony, but dangerous alien creatures turn the mission into a brutal fight for survival.

Destroyer of Worlds, as the second part of the trilogy, has clear parallels to the second film in the original Alien series. Here, the focus is on a group of Marines, and the subtitle of Alien 2 “This time it's war” would fit Destroyer of Worlds perfectly. Chances are that one or more of the pre-generated characters will not survive the story. The personal goals of the various characters also help to increase the challenge through additional tensions. A new element, the story cards that come into play as the game progresses, complicating things even further. Similar to the personal agenda, players earn points if they follow the story cards.

The setting is extensively described and offers various maps of the major facilities. While there is an overarching story arc, there is a large number of optional scenes that depend heavily on the actions of the player characters. Included are various handouts in the form of maps, pre-generated characters, and equipment cards in the usual format for Alien.

Those who enjoyed Chariot of the Gods will find a fresh and even harder challenge in Destroyer of Worlds. Although the story is only vaguely connected to the first adventure from the player's perspective, this adventure confronts the players with an exciting conflict and a good dose of horror from the Alien universe. Moreover, the additional material such as the maps, the equipment cards but also the personal agenda cards and intrigues of the various players and non-player characters greatly enrich the story. Conveniently, all necessary information about the Xenomorphs is once again summarized in this adventure. From my point of view, Destroyer of Worlds is definitely worth a recommendation, provided the players are willing to let their characters suffer (and probably die) and the game mother is willing to spend some time to prepare the complex and multi-faceted setting.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
ALIEN RPG Destroyer of Worlds
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V5 - Vampire - Die Maskerade - Auld Sanguine (PDF) als Download kaufen
Publisher: Ulisses Spiele
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2022 10:56:14
Neujahrsvorsatz: Mehr Vampire spielen - eine Mephisto Rezension

Auld Sanguine

Als „Neujahrs“-Geschichte bietet Auld Sanguine ein kurzes Einführungsabenteuer für Vampire V5. Die Spielercharaktere sollen auf einer Silvesterparty Kontakt mit einer Online-Streamerin aufnehmen, die sich okkulten Themen wie Paganismus und Hexerei widmet und nun offenbar bedroht wird. Dadurch geraten die Spielercharaktere schnell in einen Konflikt mit anderen Vampiren und Mächten.

Ohne mehr über das Szenario und dessen Hintergrund zu verraten, bietet Auld Sanguine eine kurze, gradlinige Geschichte, der es gelingt, mehrere verschiedene typische Szenen für das Rollenspiel Vampire zu präsentieren. So gibt es sowohl die Möglichkeit, mit sozialen Fähigkeiten und Disziplinen zu agieren, als auch mehr oder weniger unvermeidliche Kämpfe auszufechten. Hinzu kommt ein wenig Ermittlungsarbeit, wenn die Spieler gut vorbereitet ins Finale gehen wollen. Das Szenario, das über den Zeitraum von nur wenigen Stunden spielt, ist kompakt und bietet eine leichte Herausforderung, die es den Spielern erlaubt, ihre eigene Herangehensweise zu wählen. Es kann sowohl als Intermezzo in eine laufende Chronik eingebunden werden als auch die Möglichkeit für einen One-Shot oder ein Testspiel bieten. Für letzteren Fall bietet das Abenteuer auch gleich sechs vorgefertigte Charaktere.

Auld Sanguine bietet ein einfaches und solides Startabenteuer – und das zu einem unschlagbaren Preis. Insbesondere auch als Einstieg in Vampire V5 kann Auld Sanguine gut genutzt werden. Wer jedoch Informationen über die größeren Zusammenhänge von Vampire oder Regelergänzungen etc. erwartet, geht leer aus. Aus meiner Sicht ist Auld Sanguine aber ein Abenteuer, das auf jeden Fall einen Blick wert ist und gerade für neue Spielleiter und Spielrunden einen einfachen, kurzen Spieleinstieg bietet.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
V5 - Vampire - Die Maskerade - Auld Sanguine (PDF) als Download kaufen
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V5 - Vampire - Die Maskerade Kompendium (PDF) als Download kaufen
Publisher: Ulisses Spiele
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/31/2022 10:54:15
Mehr Vampire, Menschen und Ghule für Vampire V5 - eine Mephisto Rezension

Vampire Kompendium

Das Vampire Kompendium ist ein kleines ergänzendes Quellenbuch für Vampire V5. Das erste Kapitel widmet sich drei bisher fehlenden Clans, Ravnos, Salubri und Tzimisce (wobei die ersten beiden streng genommen keine Clans mehr sind), und deren Fähigkeiten. Damit werden die spielbaren Vampirclans um mehrere der üblichen Verdächtigen erweitert und ihre entsprechenden Disziplinskräfte vorgestellt. Auffallend ist hierbei, dass die bisher individuellen Disziplinen dieser Clans in bestehende Disziplinen integriert wurden, sodass etwa die Fleischformen-Fähigkeiten der Tzimisce nun in der Disziplin Protean enthalten sind.

Im nächsten Kapitel werden die Beziehungen der verschiedenen Clans zum sozialen Konstrukt der Klüngel vorgestellt und dabei aufgezeigt, wie die verschiedenen Clans einen Klüngel bereichern können. Ganz konkret gibt es hierfür sogar für jeden Clan einen speziellen Vorteil, den der entsprechende Vampir auswählen kann und von dem sein gesamter Klüngel dann profitiert.

Das dritte Kapitel dreht sich um alternative Spielerrollen innerhalb von Vampire, nämlich die der Sterblichen und der Ghule. Hier werden einige konkrete Charaktererschaffungsmechanismen vorgestellt, hauptsächlich aber der Kontext geliefert, wie sich solche Charaktere in eine Chronik einfügen können. Hierbei geht es auch darum, was spieltechnisch zu beachten ist, damit diese auch neben Vampiren eine interessante Rolle übernehmen können.

Abschließend gibt es Errata und Regelupdates, wodurch einige Dinge neu erklärt und einige Werte berichtigt werden. Das Vampire Kompendium ist nicht nur aufgrund seines Preises (Pay-what-you-want) lohnenswert, sondern eine essenzielle Ergänzung für Vampire V5, werden hier nicht nur drei Clans und ihre Kräfte vorgestellt, sondern auch zusätzliches Spielmaterial angeboten. Die Tatsache, dass diese Clans ihre Spezialdisziplinen verlieren und diese in normale Disziplinen subsumiert werden, ist eine regeltechnische Entscheidung, die sicherlich manchen Spielrunden nicht gefallen wird. Andererseits passt dies zu dem Ansatz der 5. Edition, das Spielsystem zu vereinfachen und zusammenzufassen (hier überrascht es, dass es die besonderen Tzimisce-Ghulvarianten der Szlachta und Vohzd es ins Kompendium geschafft haben). In dieser Hinsicht kann das Vampire Kompendium Spielrunden von Vampire V5 unbedingt empfohlen werden.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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Fate of Cthulhu Timeline • The Rise of Hastur
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/15/2022 09:25:57

Just another apocalypse? - a Mephisto review

The Rise of Hastur

Another timeline has been released for Fate of Cthulhu, this time focusing on the infamous Great Old One Hastur. As usual, the player characters have to save the world. The apocalypse that Hastur triggers starts harmlessly with an oil spill and mysterious suicides in the water – but then quickly leads to much more bizarre effects, which then escalate with a very extreme end of the world. As usual, there are several triggering events in this timeline that the player characters must stop accordingly. The characters have to stop the initial ritual, help a musician whose music can dampen the general depression, and or even find Cassilda who could stop Hastur.

Perhaps I was biased being focused on the classic King in Yellow scenario (which plays no role here), but this timeline for Fate of Cthulhu failed to convince me. Both the flow of this apocalypse is too bizarre for me (especially when four gigantic giant falcons appear), and the possibilities of how the players can avert the apocalypse do not really make sense to me. The approach of presenting Hastur as a mysterious concept and less as a physical entity certainly does justice to the mythos. But for me, both the threat and the way the characters can avert it were less concrete, threatening, and exciting than the previous timelines, so that for me The Rise of Hastur is one of the weaker titles of the series.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Fate of Cthulhu Timeline • The Rise of Hastur
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