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Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Eat for Victory! - Recipe Book FREE PDF
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/25/2024 13:33:01

Cooking Cthulhu - a Mephisto review

Eat for victory!

For Achtung! Cthulhu, another free little sourcebook, has been published, which, as the title suggests, turns out to be a cookbook. Eat for Victory! contains four recipes, which are basically normal cooking recipes, but some ingredients have been adapted to the Cthulhu setting. Harissa squid, for example, is described here as Harissa Cthulhu, although it is stated that Cthulhu tentacles can also be replaced by normal squid. There is also a Moroccan almond cake, a cocktail and, as a fourth recipe, locusts prepared in mirin.

Even if the idea of a cookbook is interesting (other role-playing games have already gone down a similar path), the recipes here present somewhat difficult choices, as the grasshoppers are unlikely to be a suitable recipe for most readers, and many will not even dare to try squid.

In itself, the idea of the cookbook is nice, but simply using existing recipes from the Internet and only adapting the name and the description of an ingredient to the Cthulhu setting offers little added value for the game, so this book is only suitable for collectors who really want to have read everything about Achtung! Cthulhu - on the other hand, it's for free...

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: Eat for Victory! - Recipe Book FREE PDF
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The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/25/2024 12:07:37

The Starting Dead - a Mephisto review

The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set

After being frowned upon as a horror scenario for a long time, the zombie apocalypse has become again a popular theme in the horror genre for many years. One TV series that has both benefited from and fueled this trend is The Walking Dead, which revolves around the survivors of a zombie apocalypse in the USA. After computer games set against the backdrop of The Walking Dead, a role-playing game for this setting has now been released.

As with the zombie genre in general, although the walking dead appear to be the primary threat, it is the interactions with the other survivors that can be much more dangerous, as the fall of civilization does not always bring out the best in people.

With The Walking Dead Universe role-playing game, Fria Ligan has bought another license for a film or series universe and published a corresponding starter set in addition to the core rule book for getting started. The starter set consists of two booklets, a rule book and a scenario booklet, as well as ready-made characters and cards. In terms of rules, The Walking Dead uses the Year Zero game system, in which players roll six-sided dice, and every six rolled is a success. Attributes and skills define the dice pool and suitable tools can increase this dice pool even further. Players also have the option of pushing a roll, which allows them to repeat the roll to increase their chances. This involves re-rolling all dice that were previously unsuccessful. However, the character takes a stress point for this, which also directly adds a stress die to the roll. Stress points can also be accumulated in other ways (e.g. lack of food, attacks by walkers, terrible experiences), and each stress point adds one stress die to the pool. On the one hand, stress dice increase the chance of success, but on the other hand, they carry a risk, as every one rolled on a stress die causes complications and problems.

There are also other special dice that are used by the game master in particular, such as rolls with d66 or d666 for random tables, or the so-called double high or double low dice, where two d6s are rolled and then the higher or lower value is taken.

The Walking Dead role-playing game uses four attributes and twelve skills, with three skills being assigned to each attribute. The skills are adapted to the scenario and include things like combat, but also scouting and survival in the wilderness as well as social interactions. As you would expect for a role-playing game about the zombie apocalypse, combat is an important aspect of the rules. The rules differentiate between three combat situations. The so-called duels are fights between two opponents in which comparative tests are rolled between the two opponents. The winner of the comparative roll causes damage to the opponent. In game terms, this is not to be considered an exchange of individual blows, but as a longer combat sequence per roll. As humans only have three health points in The Walking Dead, they are already eliminated after three normal hits or even fewer heavy hits. In addition to the duels, there are the so-called brawls, which depict the classic combat scenario with several participants. What changes here is that the fight takes place in phases and a character must decide in which phase to act. The phases include searching for cover, ranged combat, close combat, movement, first aid, and other actions. The phasing means that characters with firearms, for example, act before melee fighters. As the characters only have three health points, there is a relatively high risk that they will be broken at the end of a fight, i.e., have no more health points. This means that, on the one hand, they are knocked out for a certain period of time, and, on the other, they have to roll d66 on a table for critical injuries. In addition to injuries such as shortness of breath, which means that they have a penalty for a few hours, the spectrum at the other end includes a heart attack with immediate fatal consequences.

As already mentioned, there are rules for stress, and of course, there is also the possibility of reducing stress. The idea here is that this is done through social interactions, in particular through the so-called Anchor, who is one of the other characters. By spending a little quiet time, the characters can reduce stress. The rule book also includes some rules for other threats, equipment, and, of course the third combat scenario: the fight against the undead. This is not a classic battle at all, as individual walkers play no role here. Instead, the walkers are grouped together in swarms and represented in game terms by the size of the swarm and the threat level. The threat level indicates the extent to which the undead have already noticed the player characters and are hunting them. Accordingly, rules are introduced on how players can avoid walkers or reduce the threat level, and how individual walker attacks that can be triggered by a high threat level are to be handled in terms of rules. Of course, the player characters also have the option of fighting a swarm. However, there is always the risk that the noise will attract more walkers. There is another d66 table for the walker attacks, which also includes harmless but nevertheless drastically described attacks, as well as attacks that mean a fatal and terrible end for the characters. One concept in The Walking Dead is that the game can be played in two modes: the so-called Survival Mode and the Campaign Mode. Survival mode is designed for the player characters to play a single adventure — with pre-made characters if necessary. The level of threat is correspondingly high, as the characters are not part of a campaign, so it is quite possible that they will not survive the scenario in order to keep the horror level high.

With The Wolf's Den, the second booklet also contains a short survival scenario in which the player characters are part of a group of survivors, two of whom have deserted. The group sets out to find the missing and recover the stolen resources. The scenario takes place in three locations. First, the player characters have to find some clues and then search two locations. The locations are each provided with a map and short descriptions of the houses, and they offer some starting points to keep the player characters busy. At the second location, the player characters also have to face a threat that fits in well with the Walking Dead setting. Nevertheless, there are no elaborate scenes here, just starting points with which players and gamemasters have to tackle the story, which is described in a compact 20-page booklet.

The Wolf's Den is perfectly suitable for a first foray into the world of The Walking Dead and for trying out the rule mechanisms. In other systems by Fria Ligan, however, the introductory settings were much more exciting, and the really original scenes are missing here.

The set also includes three maps for the scenarios from the adventure, as well as corresponding overview maps of the Atlanta area for the campaign game. Two sets of ready-made characters round off the starter set. On the one hand, there are the ready-made characters for the survival scenario, which are integrated into the plot accordingly and are characterized by interaction between the characters (including the fact that each character brings their own personal secret with them). On the other hand, four characters from the series are included to be used as non-player characters, for example.

The role-playing game The Walking Dead has an exciting setting due to the series and the general zombie apocalypse, and the series can probably be used as a comprehensive treasure trove of ideas. The approach of focusing on the threat posed by the survivors and the interpersonal conflicts and tensions in addition to the fight against the undead is convincing. The rule mechanisms are coherent, and the approach to stress and the extremely deadly combat system also fit the setting perfectly. The introductory scenario is suitable for taking your first steps in the world of The Walking Dead, but it lacks some exciting or surprising elements that the starter sets of Alien or Blade Runner offered. Nevertheless, The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set is a coherent introduction to the game world. Fans of the series or players who are still looking for a zombie apocalypse role-playing game will find a well-made horror role-playing game here.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Walking Dead Universe RPG Starter Set
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Vaesen - The Lost Mountain Saga
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/23/2024 00:02:04

Dark secrets in the North - a Mephisto review

The Lost Mountains Saga

The Lost Mountains Saga is another adventure book for the Vaesen role-playing game. The campaign comprises five individual adventures with several connecting elements. At the heart of it all is an ancient secret, traces of which are found in the form of unusual crystals in northern Scandinavia. However, the mine where these crystals were mined has been closed for a long time since an accident. Nevertheless, there are several parties that are following the trail of the crystals and have their own goals for these artifacts.

The book begins with a brief introduction that provides background information for the game master and presents the various people and power groups involved. The adventure Duty and Despair then gets straight down to business. In the first adventure, the player characters are asked by another member of society to help him investigate incidents in a mining town. When the player characters arrive there, they witness how the conflict between the miners and the town's reverend intensifies in the town. As usual for the Vaesen role-playing game, this is just one of the conflicts in the adventure. At its core, of course, it is once again about a vaesen that must be found to stop it and prevent a major catastrophe.

After this intro, the players have the opportunity in the second adventure, The Beginning of the Fall, to start some investigations on location in Uppsala. In the process, they discover that an influential industrialist and his young wife want to reopen an old mine in the north of the country that promises technical wonders. This allows the characters to immerse themselves in the larger story and find out more about their partner from the first adventure.

In the third adventure, Where the Sun Dies, the player characters are sent out to search for an island where contact with the local community has been lost during the winter, and an icy and deadly threat awaits them.

The fourth adventure, The Prince and the Witch, is again set near Uppsala. Here, the player characters have to help free some people from the clutches of the so-called Prince, who lives deep in the forest.

At the end, the eponymous adventure The Lost Mountain Saga leads to the heart of the story and the grand finale, where the various storylines are brought together, and the final confrontation takes place.

Without revealing more about the content of the adventures in detail, it can be said that the stories are woven together in such a way that, although they are part of a larger campaign, the connecting threads are often not clearly visible to the player characters at first. The players will probably only recognize the connections at the end, which in my view, is more of an advantage than a disadvantage. In fact, this campaign could also be combined with other adventures, thus building up the themes very subtly.

The individual adventures are designed quite differently. They range from the introductory adventure, which classically follows the basic Vaesen pattern, to the city adventure in Uppsala with its many investigative approaches and social interactions, to the survival adventure and the grand finale, the course of which also depends on the players' decisions.

In my opinion, The Lost Mountains Saga is an excellent campaign for Vaesen with five varied adventures in which the players will probably not recognize the common story elements at first, increasing the tension. Even though the core of the campaign revolves around larger secrets, it is only at the end that it becomes clear what is at stake. The well-written and coherently illustrated book thus offers Vaesen gaming groups adventure material for several evenings and can therefore be recommended.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vaesen - The Lost Mountain Saga
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Out of Time - Tales from the Loop
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/23/2024 00:01:44

It's just a question of time - a Mephisto review

Out of Time

It is hardly surprising that the topic of time anomalies is used in a supplement for Tales from the Loop. However, Out of Time is “out of time” in two aspects. On the one hand, time anomalies are addressed here and used as a hook for a small campaign; on the other hand, this volume is set between at the change of the decade from Tales from the Loop with children in the 1980s and Things from the Flood with teenagers in the 1990s.

The central element of the book is the Out of Time mini-campaign, which consists of three adventures: The Animal Ark, Summer Camp, and The Storm in the Hourglass. This three-part adventure campaign begins with the children investigating the disappearance of some animals and thus discovering strange events. In the second adventure, they spend time at a summer camp, which soon leads to even more confusion and danger rather than relaxation.

Finally, at the end of the campaign, a catastrophe must be prevented, which also links to the remaining adventures and clarifies the previous events.

Out of Time offers a varied, but also challenging campaign for the player characters, which increases the challenges from adventure to adventure. Even the game master needs a certain amount of imagination and mental flexibility to fully understand the complex sequence of events in the adventures, which use the usual tropes and concepts of the genre to create a tricky puzzle. In addition, the three adventures form a transition between Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood: while the first episode still appears to be an exciting mystery episode, the finale has much darker tendencies and threatens more than just the existence of the player characters. Although all stories can be played as Tales from the Loop adventures, a transition between the systems is offered as an alternative.

While the small campaign constitutes the majority of the book, Secret Places is a so-called Mystery Landscape for Tales from the Loop. Ten locations are described as mini-scenarios that can serve as a starting point for adventures and can be played as part of the Mystery Landscape according to the players’ interests and priorities. Each of these ten scenarios entices the player characters with mysterious events and thus leads to a short story. However, it is up to the player characters to decide which of these secrets they would like to explore and how they go about it.

The chapter The Mystery Machine, on the other hand, provides tables for randomly rolling certain framework conditions and ideas for your own mysteries and thus getting a corresponding starting aid. These tables can either be used as a source of inspiration or to fill in gaps, such as determining the personalities of corresponding non-player characters or similar.

The book concludes with the chapter Mixed CD of Mysteries, in which eight additional scenario ideas are presented. These adventure outlines are somewhat more detailed than the Mystery Landscape, but do not reach the length of the three campaign adventures. As these adventures are set in the 90s, they are better suited to the follow-up role-playing game Things from the Flood, not only for this reason but also thematically. Some mysteries here are somewhat darker and more dangerous, and they address themes that are better suited to teenagers in Things from the Flood. I really liked the idea that each adventure is named after a song from the 90s to do justice to the title of the mixed CD, which also contributes to the basic atmosphere.

From my point of view, Out of Time is an excellent adventure book that offers a lot of exciting game material for both Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood with its three-part campaign, the Mystery Landscape and the adventure mix CD. Placing the supplement on the border between both systems fits the thematic focus and can be used to draw the transition between the optimistic 1980s and the darker 1990s. Out of Time is a highly recommended addition to both Tales from the Loop and Things from the Flood games.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Out of Time - Tales from the Loop
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The Clockwinders • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/25/2023 04:25:14
The clock is ticking - a Mephisto review

The Clockwinders

Cadvini is an unusual world that does not rotate on its own axis. As a result, one side is transformed into a permanent inferno by the sun, while the other lies in an icy cold night. Only a narrow strip between these two extremes is suitable for living creatures to exist, which is why there are several towns and settlements here. Another notable feature of the world is the Clockwinders, an ancient organization whose job it is to maintain the so-called movement cores. The problem is that if the movement cores are damaged, they emit an energy that can be used by witches and magicians and also attracts strange beings from other worlds. Therefore, some groups are greatly interested in ensuring that the movement cores are not maintained. On the other hand, this can have disastrous consequences for the world as a whole. While the Clockwinders were an important organization for a long time in the past, they are now just a ragtag bunch who are barely up to their tasks and no longer really understand the background of their mission. Nevertheless, the Clockwinders have to face an critical and adventurous mission.

This World of Adventure for Fate starts with an unusual fantasy scenario and describes the world in short sections, as is usual for these books. The focus is on the central elements, such as the movement cores and the creatures that have entered the world as a result of their failure. As usual, this setting takes a unique approach to character creation and, in this case, uses the so-called modes, which comprise groups of skills. There are also a few additional stunts. Ideally, the setting should be played with the Fate deck, which allows players to have certain cards on their hands, allowing them to control their success better than with regular dice rolls. The idea of the adventure track, which logs success within the adventures and the resulting consequences, is also an idea that exists specifically for this game.

The bulk of the book, however, is a campaign that takes players from movement core to movement core and confronts them with challenges to repair them. They also encounter all sorts of interesting characters, such as witches, fairies, and other creatures, who have no interest in the player characters completing their work.

The Clockwinders introduces an exciting world and also provides the appropriate material for a mini-campaign. However, the story and background remain vague in some places, which is not always an advantage for the free interpretation of the game master but also gives the feeling that some details are missing. If you are looking for a somewhat strange but not wholly predefined fantasy scenario, The Clockwinders is a World of Adventure that offers a fitting background and fascinating rule mechanisms for using Fate cards.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Clockwinders • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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House of Bards • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/22/2023 13:27:46
Bards & politics - a Mephisto review

House of Bards

At the center of a gigantic empire lies a city-state that has grown over generations. For 17 generations, its emperor has waged war and expanded his sphere of influence. While it is the emperor's role to extend his empire's power, the council governs the city's fate. A unique role is played by the so-called House of Bards, which in some ways represents a somewhat unusual version of the press. The members of the House of Bards are reporters, troubadours, or editors who report on the events of the city and thus also have indirect political influence — and often, of course, their own goals.

What reads like a classic fantasy world in the first few sections of the book later takes a bizarre turn, as is usual with Fate Worlds of Adventure. House of Bards assumes that the players are members of the illustrious association and allows them to embody characters from a wide variety of backgrounds, each pursuing their own personal and/or political goals. This approach makes House of Bards a fantasy setting that is less about fighting monsters and more about using political influence, contacts, and power to achieve your goal. Accordingly, it is also about influencing the elections in the various districts. The book takes time to detail the city's administration and the different power players' interests. Of course, in a fantasy setting like this, there is also magic, and as a counterbalance to the magicians, there is a church inquisition that ensures magic does not get out of control. But apart from that, there are also other groups with their own goals, so House of Bards focuses on the political game of intrigue.

House of Bards is like many of the World of Adventure for Fate: the basic idea is given some unique twists and turns, and although some aspects of the game world are described well and in detail, other concepts are left open to provide some freedom for the gaming group. In addition, House of Bards has a very clear focus, as the political power plays and intrigues of the characters take center stage — and this can certainly put the player characters at odds with each other. Anyone who wants to try out a fantasy world that combines political intrigue with magic will find House of Bards an exciting starting point. However, for those who inevitably expect dungeons and monsters, House of Bards is definitely the wrong game.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
House of Bards • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Cohors Cthulhu RPG Quickstart (PDF)
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/14/2023 13:43:11
Fighting ancient evils in the ancient Roman Empire - a Mephisto review

Cohors Cthulhu

Even though the 1920s is the typical time period for stories set against the backdrop of the Cthulhu mythos, the Great Old Ones and other horrors of the mythos are far older than humanity. Therefore, it is not surprising that Cthulhu role-playing games repeatedly open up into other eras, such as the present time, World War 2, or the Middle Ages. Cohors Cthulhu presents the battle with the Cthulhu mythos against the backdrop of the Roman Empire.

The Cohors Cthulhu RPG Quickstart Guide gives a first look at the new setting and the underlying rules.

In Cohors Cthulhu, player characters once again face the horrors of the Mythos – be they sinister cults, monstrous creatures, or corrupted survivors of Atlantis. The Roman Empire has conquered large parts of the known world, but other powers operate in the background. Nyarlahotep corrupts the cults of other gods with his many masks; Sarthorthus tempts the survivors of Atlantis; and powerful beings slumber beneath the sea. The Deep Ones exact tribute from coastal cities, and the Mi-Go experiment on humans and plunder earthly resources.

Even though these horrors are everywhere, they operate secretly in the background. The player characters in Cohors Cthulhu are humans who come into conflict with forces of the Mythos and confront them – regardless of what corner of the Roman Empire or beyond its borders they come from. Not all of them fight on their own, as the Temperari, for instance, are supported by a Hyperborean warrior named Maeren in their fight against the Mythos, while the Fingers of Dawn recruit descendants of Atlantis for their struggle. On the opposite side are various cults, of which the Cult of Mormo is particularly influential and corrupts the north of Germania, while the legacies of Atlantis promise longevity and powerful artifacts.

Rules-wise, Cohors Cthulhu unsurprisingly relies on the 2d20 system, using a rules base developed further by Achtung! Cthulhu. Of course, the game statistics as well as the skills have been adapted, and some rules have been modified. As before, you have to roll several d20s compared to a threshold that is the sum of the corresponding attribute and skill, while the difficulty determines the number of successes needed.

Again, there are the rules for Momentum, which is gained from particularly successful tests and can be used to improve other tests. In addition, players can give Threat to the game master to make current tests easier, but the game master can use it to increase the difficulty later. Using Fortune, players have another option to make life easier for themselves and to repeat rolls, avoid defeat, etc.

Also adopted is the concept of Truths, which, analogous to the aspects of Fate, are short descriptions that can modify samples.

The combat system is based on stress, which is initially caused by attacks but simply dissipates between fights. Only when characters are hit particularly hard or often do they suffer injuries that can incapacitate them and affect them more in the long term. The combat system, which is more melee-based fitting to the setting, features two new concepts with Guard and Reach. Reach is the weapon's range, while Guard represents a character's readiness for defense. For example, if a character is thrown to the ground, they lose the Guard state and become easier to hit. Furthermore, weapons with a longer range have advantages.

Magic rules are also presented in short form, as in Achtung! Cthulhu, distinguishing between battlefield magic and ritual magic. Casting spells causes mental damage to the user, and spells must be prepared in advance.

While the rules section briefly outlines the background of the game and then presents the main rules (though without character creation), the bulk of the Quickstart is made up of the Rude Awakening adventure.

This story gets off to a fast start: The pre-made player characters are traveling with a caravan that is under attack. The action starts in the middle of the action, and once the attack is repelled, the player characters are supposed to get help in the next village. There they then stumble into a sinister plot because, in the village, they find traces of a cult that must be stopped before its influence becomes too great.

Without revealing more about the plot, the adventure mixes the classic “player characters must stop a dangerous ritual” approach with interesting enemies, making it an excellent introduction to Cthulhu threats in the Roman Empire.

The first impression Cohors Cthulhu gives is a solid, adapted rule base, with which Achtung! Cthulhu worked well, mixed with a background that offers many exciting possibilities. The adventure is good for a first impression, and the Quickstart is clearly and compactly put together, with illustrations worth seeing. The background is only touched upon, but it shows much potential.

The only thing that bothered me were some historical errors in the adventure. Even though potatoes in the cellar or weapons that are not contemporary are only details that can easily be corrected by the game master, I hope that the rule books will be more consistent in this regard. Nevertheless, Cohors Cthulhu offers a (free) Quickstart that Cthulhu fans should not miss getting a first look into this variant of the fight against the Great Old Ones and their followers.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cohors Cthulhu RPG Quickstart (PDF)
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Vaesen - Seasons of Mystery
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/14/2023 13:38:26
Mysteries throughout the year - a Mephisto review

Seasons of Mystery

As a supplement to the role-playing game Vaesen, Seasons of Mystery is a collection of four adventures, each of which, as the name suggests, is assigned to a season.

The first adventure is A Dance with Death, which takes the player characters to the seemingly peaceful area around Lake Siljan in the spring. Near the lake, animals are kept for grazing in the spring, and a group of young women take care of herding the animals there. But the supposedly idyllic atmosphere is broken when a young farm girl is found by the lake with amnesia, and shortly after, two cows drown in the water. The task is to solve the mystery and prevent an escalation.

The adventure Fireheart focuses on an area called Smolandia, which suffers from heat waves and fires, causing many residents to immigrate to America. One of these people, who wants to leave the area, does not want to leave his brother, who runs a successful steel mill and may be under the influence of a preacher. Of course, there is much more to do than just mediate between the two quarreling brothers because, this time, the player characters will encounter a truly epic creature.

The Devil on the Moor is about a group of engineers who try to open up an abandoned moorland through canals. However, during their work, they encounter strange events and constant setbacks. The chief engineer fears that dark forces are at work. The players must investigate this matter and mediate between the engineers and the villagers, who are critical of the project, to solve the strange incidents' mystery.

Finally, the adventure A Winter's Trail takes the player characters towards St. Petersburg, where they want to participate in a meeting with like-minded people. However, a dangerous snowstorm forces them to seek shelter on their journey. There, they are confronted with a threat that they must identify while fighting for their survival and that of the other guests of the inn in the middle of the wilderness.

Seasons of Mystery offers four well-crafted and, above all, varied adventures, each capturing the mood of its season. The settings and challenges are unique, and each adventure should offer enough for a few sessions before the characters have solved the mystery and hopefully averted the conflict. As usual with Vaesen, it is not just about identifying the supernatural threat, but also trying to solve the problem at its core. And since a physical confrontation is not the method of choice, it is a matter of understanding the background and trying to resolve the conflicts in other ways - if possible, which is not always the case here.

I liked the approach that each adventure takes place in a limited, self-contained setting that offers the player characters many opportunities for interaction, be it with the young farmhands, the aggressive brothers, the engineers, or the inn guests, who offer entirely different points of view. For each scenario, there are also hints on how they can be adapted for the Mythic Britain & Ireland setting.

For players of Vaesen, Seasons of Mystery is definitely recommended, as the adventures provide exciting challenges and offer varied environments for the player characters to investigate.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vaesen - Seasons of Mystery
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A Wicked Secret
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/14/2023 13:35:52
The secret world of Vaesen - a Mephisto review

A Wicked Secret

With A Wicked Secret, the first adventure volume for the role-playing game Vaesen has been published. This volume contains four fully fleshed-out adventures, each of which revolves around a particular type of Vaesen on the one hand and, on the other hand, also addresses the other themes of the game - above all, the social changes of industrialization.

The first one is about a fishing base that has become a successful herring factory and, at the same time, has attracted the suspicion of a clergyman.

The following story focuses on a small town in the northern woods where the interests of a sawmill collide with ancient secrets.

Deadly secrets also lurk in a modern seaside resort when the wrong people play with the wrong forces.

And finally, university research is shown to be dangerous when it comes into contact with trolls.

Each of the four stories has a central entity in focus, but the settings, the conflicts, and the themes are pretty varied. Furthermore, the adventures offer more than just monster hunts that must end with a final battle; rather, the horror theme is approached in various ways. Without revealing more about the adventures, in my opinion, A Wicked Secret is a recommendable addition to the role-playing game Vaesen, with which game masters can easily spend their first game sessions.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
A Wicked Secret
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Vaesen - Mythic Britain & Ireland
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/14/2023 13:33:28
Different countries, different vaesen - a Mephisto reviewEdit

Mythic Britain & Ireland

With Mythic Britain & Ireland, a sourcebook for Vaesen has been published, which is about moving the game's setting from Scandinavia to England, Scotland, Wales, and Ireland. Of course, this region is very suitable for Vaesen since, on the one hand, the heart of the industrialization of Europe beats here, and on the other hand, the region is probably more familiar to players than Scandinavia due to its presentation in movies, books, etc. Players should be better acquainted with this region than with Scandinavia at that time.

First, the book introduces the four countries and covers aspects such as industrialization and social development. In addition, there are details on how the somewhat complicated monetary system works or how to incorporate social classes into the game regarding rules. Of course, the book looks at the various cities, which are briefly described but usually come with a local legend that can inspire the game. A large part of the description is, of course, devoted to London, which is introduced more comprehensively and again offers various points of connection and reference for the game. Some fictional and real celebrities, as well as a larger list of mysterious places, round out the ideas presented here. In addition, a more extended section is dedicated to the aspect of fairies from Celtic mythology, which introduces legends like the Wild Hunt, the Shidhe, and other fairy creatures in more detail once again.

The second chapter revolves around the organization to which the player characters belong, which for this region is the Apollonian Society, founded by John Dee, which pursues supernatural entities similar to the Order of Artemis. In fact, the Apollonian Society is also in contact with the Order of Artemis, so theoretically, it is also possible to have a game in which the characters are active as guest agents in another region. Besides the description of the society and its historical development, its base, Rose House, is also introduced, which has some secrets to offer. Three new archetypes - the Athlete, the Entertainer, and the Socialite - round out the chapter and provide more character options that fit perfectly into the setting.

The third chapter offers very specific game material, in this case, more vaesen for player characters to face. Here, you will find an arsenal of mythical creatures from Celtic and British legends, such as the Banshee, the Knocker, the Pixie, the Selkie, and many others. The book also provides notes on how vaesen, already published in the basic rule book, can be adapted accordingly for the setting.

So that gaming groups can get started right away, there are three adventures for the setting, but these could generally be moved to Scandinavia with a few minor changes. In the first adventure, Old Meg, a girl, has been found dead. Her fiancé is suspected of being involved. Thus, conflicts arise between the two families and between the population and the police, who are not pulling in the same direction in the investigation.

The Llantywyll Incident, the second adventure, moves the action to Wales, where an accident has occurred in a slate mine after a priest has held mass there. The mine is closed for the moment, threatening the economic existence of the village. Here, ancient superstition and Christian religion collide.

In The Hampstead Group, the player characters are hired by a young woman looking for her brother, who has disappeared from a hedonistic artist colony. Here, the player characters must find out where the young man has gone.

All three adventures have in common that, as is usual for Vaesen, they focus heavily on investigative work and drive the players to find a solution that is not simply to find and fight vaesen. Combative confrontation is usually not a valid solution. All three adventures capture the local atmosphere well and offer exciting stories that fit the setting perfectly but could theoretically be set in Scandinavia.

Thus, Mythic Britain & Ireland offers an excellent sourcebook for Vaesen. Gaming groups that have so far found it difficult to use the somewhat unfamiliar Scandinavian setting will get a background here that will make it much easier to get started. The small rule additions are not essential but enhance the game. With the chapter about other vaesen, the game gets even more challenging. There are three adventures for actual play, which are very varied and offer exciting challenges. In addition, they can be integrated into an existing campaign if the player characters act as local guests or because the game master can simply move them to Scandinavia with a few adjustments.

This makes the book an excellent addition that enriches the game in many ways. For those who have previously put Vaesen on the back burner because of its background, here is an opportunity to play in probably more familiar regions. For Vaesen fans, the book is a definitive recommendation anyway.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vaesen - Mythic Britain & Ireland
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Blade Runner RPG Starter Set
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/28/2023 12:56:00
On the hunt for replicants - a Mephisto review

Blade Runner Starter Set

Blade Runner is one of the outstanding science fiction films of the 1980s. Still, unlike other films of the genre at the time, which focused on action, Blade Runner presents itself as visually powerful and rather thoughtful and philosophical. The story revolves around the Blade Runner Deckard, who hunts down the manufactured replicants that returned illegally to Earth. It also deals with the question of what constitutes humanity and how it relates to artificial life forms. After almost forty years, the sequel Blade Runner 2049 continues the plot, builds on the themes, and continues certain concepts, like the Blade Runner at the center of the story himself being a replicant.

In the case of the Blade Runner role-playing game, Fria Ligan uses two of its typical concepts: on the one hand, the role-playing version of another science fiction classic (after the Alien role-playing game), and on the other hand, the release of a Starter Set with abbreviated rules, an adventure, and various other game materials to get you started. In the case of Blade Runner, the box includes a short rule book that summarizes essential rules on 84 pages to allow playing the adventure Electric Dreams. Additionally, the box (or its digital counterpart) contains blank sheets for case notes, time logs, character sheets, and several ready-made characters for the adventure. Furthermore, there are handouts consisting of newspaper pages, magazine covers, printouts from the police database, photos of surveillance, etc. For visualization, there are mug shots of the characters in the adventure. Furthermore, there are initiative cards used to determine the order in combat, cards for various maneuvers and obstacles in chases, a large map of Los Angeles in the future, and plans of the locations in the adventure rounding out the material. Thus, in addition to rules and adventure, the box contains a lot of material, although for the digital version, you have to print it out yourself, which is not ideal due to the design, which uses black pages.

The setting of the Blade Runner role-playing game builts on the second movie, Blade Runner 2049. Humanity has left for the stars, and in their colonization efforts, they used the so-called replicants: artificially created, human-like beings that are more powerful than their creators but also have a shorter life span. Some of these replicants illegally returned to Earth to demand an extended life from their creators. In continuity with the second film, the problems with the replicants led to their production being banned, and the Tyrell Corporation, which initially invented them, went bankrupt. Years later, the Wallace Corporation picked up the concept and began reintroducing it with a new replicant series. Both films revolve around Blade Runners, a special police unit that hunts down renegade replicants. The replicants are indistinguishable from humans to the naked eye and usually have to be “retired” by force of arms.

In the Blade Runner role-playing game, players take on the role of Blade Runners, hunting down replicants, so they are part of an elite police force. The rules use several concepts familiar from other Fria Ligan role-playing games. Again, there are four primary attributes as well as corresponding skills. Each of these is rated at levels from A to D, with D corresponding to a d6, while the maximum of A gives a d12. 

In addition to skills, essential characteristics of the characters are the Health and Resolve stats as well as Promotion Points and Humanity Points. Promotion Points indicate the character's standing in the police hierarchy and are used to learn new skill specializations or utilize connections in the police force. Humanity Points measure how in tune a character is with their human nature. These points can be used to increase skills. Promotion Points and Humanity Points are sometimes at odds with each other because actions can increase Promotion Points if you follow the rules. In contrast, Humanity Points can increase if you act humanely.

Importantly, as in Blade Runner 2049, characters can be replicants themselves, which causes some rules to work differently for them, similar to the androids in Alien. The game offers 15 skills, covering relatively broad areas, from driving skills to firearms and stealth to observation. 

Tests always involve rolling on one attribute and one skill, and the goal is to roll at least a 6 on one die. If you get two or more successes (which is unlikely with the standard two dice), you achieve a critical success that gives you another bonus.

You can also push to roll again and hope for a better result. However, this can have additional negative consequences in the event of failure. The rules also account for advantages and disadvantages. A good part of the book then deals with applying these rules to the two essential concepts in which they are used: fights and chases.

The game considers damage in two ways: Damage and Stress. When you push a test or suffer an attack, you lose Health accordingly. If this causes your Health to drop to 0, you are out of action. More brutal hits also cause critical damage, which is rolled on random tables and can lead to either unpleasant side effects or, in the worst case, instant death. Stress, on the other hand, concerns the mental state. Stress is accumulated when a roll is pushed unsuccessfully, when the character gets into a stressful situation, or when they work on their investigation without taking breaks. The chase rules are also detailed and handled dynamically, with random obstacles and other complications.

An essential concept in Blade Runner is that the day is divided into four shifts. Each of these shifts corresponds to a scene, so to speak, so that the timeline of an investigation can be clearly divided. In this regard, the game envisions characters devoting three shifts of the day to the investigation and resting or pursuing their personal lives during the fourth shift; otherwise, they accumulate stress. 

The rest of the book presents a brief introduction to police work and the resources of the LAPD. Here, individual characters such as informants are introduced, as are descriptions of police equipment, from service weapons to spinners (flying cars). Here, it is most obvious that, throughout the book, the layout takes up a lot of space for illustrations. For example, the few weapons are described and illustrated in detail, but the selection is also focused on the essentials. 

Thus, the gaming group gets a compact form of the rules, which, as usual with starter sets, excludes character creation. The appropriate pre-generated characters suffice to solve the first case, Electric Dreams.

The concept for Blade Runner is that the game will be flanked by a comprehensive campaign, with individual cases building on each other and revealing a larger story arc. Electric Dreams is just the first case in this campaign where players must follow the trail of a missing Blade Runner. Along the way, they come into contact with both the android underground, which smuggles replicants from Earth, and hate groups that campaign against the replicants. The powerful Wallace Corporation also plays a role.

The case is first introduced with the detailed background and characters and their motivations, and then the different locations that can be visited. Players are offered different approaches to solving this case and various places to visit before they dive into the bigger mystery. The scenes are described in detail, and there are also corresponding handout cards for all the locations to show them.

A noteworthy mechanism in the game is that there are pictures as handouts for some locations, on which the players have to find certain elements that will help them in their investigation. This concept is reminiscent of the image analysis scene from the first Blade Runner movie. The case itself is exciting and detailed but demanding and presents players with some interesting challenges, especially since time does not stand still.

As with previous Fria Ligan releases, the Blade Runner Starter Set offers an intricately designed first introduction to the game world. Thanks to pre-made characters and a complete adventure, you can also get started right away because the compact rules are quick to learn. However, the option to create your own characters is not offered here; for that, you need the core rule book. Similar to the Alien role-playing game, the books are impressively illustrated and give a lot of space to the illustrations. The adventure tries to put its scenes into words, reminiscent of the visually stunning movies. 

Fria Ligan offers a solidly crafted role-playing game here that is impressive in its presentation. Still, there is a catch in my opinion: The focus on a single profession, or more specifically, a single task, hunting replicants as Blade Runners, lends itself well to a single story, as it did with the films, to highlight particular themes. However, in a campaign game, it could potentially become repetitive and boring. In addition, the game master faces the great challenge of conjuring up the impressive settings of the films for the players' imaginations. The Blade Runner movies live predominantly on their images and mood, which is a challenge to capture. Playing Blade Runner as a simple action role-playing game would not do justice to the original. 

Finally, it depends on the gaming group here. Role-playing game collectors, fans of the films, and those who want to try Electric Dreams as a one-shot will definitely get a great introduction to the game with the Starter Set here. Gamemasters who wish to play the role-playing game as a campaign will either have to try to live up to the claim of the original in further adventures themselves, or rely on the epic campaign delivering what it promises and coming onto the market at a reasonable speed.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Blade Runner RPG Starter Set
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Forbidden Lands: The Bloodmarch
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/27/2023 13:23:59
Marching into new adventures - a Mephisto review

The Bloodmarch

With The Bloodmarch, Fria Ligan now delivers the third region for Forbidden Lands and, thus, another campaign for the fantasy role-playing game.  After the Ravenlands and the Bitter Reach, this time, the adventure leads west into the Bloodmarch. The campaign assumes that the events in the Ravenlands have resulted in the reopening of the pass to the Bloodmarch so that settlers and adventurers flock to this new region to seek their fortune.

The Bloodmarch is an entirely different region than the Ravenlands. Demons have also ravaged here, but the demonic threat here is now more bizarre and dangerous, with flesh-like forests growing across the landscape. The ruling power in the region is the Horse Clans, but the five individual clans disagree with each other, although some candidates would like to change that and seek to unite the clans. But the Horse Clans, too, are actually relatively newcomers who have displaced the original inhabitants of the lands, the Vasnians, and driven them back into a small area of the land.

In addition, there are the Horned Dwarves, who are allied with the Horse Clans, and another elven power, the Red Elves, who are associated with the demonic forests, not to mention the elusive moon elves. The fact that these factions are not all friendly to each other is unsurprising. Therefore, The Bloodmarch offers several power groups and conflicts at once.

For example, two of the churches from Alderland are active in the region with opposing goals. In addition, there are the oneiromancers, a mage sect led by an exceptional leader. The Horse Clans are trying to unite under one of the tribes, and the Vasnians would like to drive all invaders out of their land. And, of course, the remaining demonic forces here also have sinister goals. Add to that an even more sinister newcomer, and you get a hint of the resulting conflicts and alliances. This situation is the starting point for the campaign, which also involves the search for several magical artifacts for which the various power groups have their own uses.

What's important, without giving too much away, is that more secrets about the entire setting will be revealed in the course of the background story. Thus, the arrival of the humans in the Ravenlands is explained and appears in a different light, and another sinister threat comes into play. First, the sourcebook provides a basic overview of the region, which is characterized by volcanoes, ash fields, cliffs, and the demonic Crimson Forests. Then the book highlights the different kin and their roles and introduces the region and some selected locations. 

In terms of gameplay, the book also offers several new magic schools. First, there is the Magma Song, which is a variant of the Stone Song that can be used to manipulate fire and stones. There is also the school of Mentalism, which can be used to influence people's minds. Oneiromancy, a kind of dream magic, plays a unique role. For the followers of the Rust Church there is also Magnetism, another small magic school. Essential for the setting are also some potions, especially of the blue tar consecrated to the gods, and other things.

Of course, the book describes traveling in the Bloodmarch, and offers tables to roll for random encounters and terrain that suit the setting accordingly. 

The magical items of divine origin central to the setting are described in depth and covered in terms of rules. It is also essential to determine where the corresponding objects are located at the beginning of the campaign, for which there are sometimes several possibilities. After that, the core characters of the campaign are presented, of which there are quite a few. From the Horse Clan warrior who wants to unite the tribes to the leaders of the different churches who follow their secret missions to powers that can endanger the entire region, The Bloodmarch offers a complex and dynamic background. 

As expected for such a setting, there is also a bestiary with new monsters briefly described. The strange creatures encompass, e.g., the mechanical mecha built by the dwarves, dangerous plant creatures, and winged horses. Of course, the book features random encounters that can serve as a prelude to small adventures before the descriptions of places kick off in about the last third of the book.

The Bloodmarch follows the same path as the previous books in that it introduces places, their inhabitants, and story hooks, but there are no concrete adventures with a specific course of action. The campaign is based on the actions and initiative of the player characters. These scenarios can resolve quite differently depending on how the players proceed and how they antagonize or ally with the various other powers. Each adventure site offers hooks for the campaign before finally coming to an epic finale at some point. The book concludes with rumors for the player characters. Interestingly, these are not limited to the region but look at other areas and describe the overall world more precisely. On the other hand, the rumors already hint that other regions will probably soon be covered in future setting books. And again, it is possible that at the end of the campaign, another region of the game world will become accessible, which can be expected to be covered in a sourcebook in the future.

The Bloodmarch is a well-crafted sourcebook for Forbidden Lands, which is especially useful if you are more interested in a region among barren rocks, volcanic landscapes and horsemen clans instead of the previous settings of Ravenlands or Bitter Reach, or if you have successfully worked through the other regions and now want to follow the overall campaign to the next epic goal. The book is well written and atmospherically illustrated, so this sourcebook can definitely be recommended to Forbidden Lands game groups. The Bloodmarch presents an exciting campaign, fascinating non-player characters, a look at the wider background, and a few new magic schools and monsters.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Forbidden Lands: The Bloodmarch
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Tales from the Loop: They Grow Up So Fast
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/26/2023 13:02:21
Growing up at the loop - a Mephisto review

They Grow Up So Fast

They Grow Up So Fast is a short campaign of four connected adventures for the role-playing game Tales from the Loop. The Norfolk Loop in Great Britain serves as the backdrop for the story, but the action can also be set in the other two settings, Sweden and America, with minor modifications. 

The book begins with a concise introduction that introduces the Loop in Norfolk and the surrounding area, giving an overview and setting the atmosphere for the period in England in the 1980s. After this brief introduction and an overview of the campaign, things can get started. 

The campaign, divided into four seasons, begins with the Easter Egg Hunt adventure in the spring, where the kids witness a strange incident. Through the events and against some odds, they should come into possession of a strange egg, which apparently comes from an alien life form. 

The story continues in the summer with The Best of What Might Be, where the egg's contents are revealed, and the player characters have to face a new challenge. 

The story escalates as the year progresses and finally comes to a conclusion in The Year's Last Loveliest Smile and You Can't Get Too Much in the fall and winter.

Without giving too much away about the story, They Grow Up So Fast is about the player characters having to take care of an alien creature that first has to be hidden and taken care of, but then brings more and more challenges. 

Of course, as usual in Tales from the Loop, the adults are no help here (and more of a problem). In fact, besides the challenges of the main story with a group of quarrelsome children and a dubious scientist, there are other antagonists that make the game exciting. 

What is also interesting here is the fact that the Norfolk Loop, which is run by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, is being taken over step by step by Regional Geomagnetic Information Science, a division of the Ministry of Defense. This new management is quite willing to face challenges in a tougher way, which continues to change the atmosphere around the Loop and creates additional challenges.

Basically, The Grow Up So Fast offers an exciting four-part story that starts slowly in the first episodes, increases significantly in stakes, and occasionally offers interesting new challenges for the players. 

At some points, the approaches to solving the problem are described relatively simply for my taste, especially when it comes to how the kids cheat their way past government officials or fast-talk them with just a short roll of the dice. But the idea that the characters here can solve the challenges with simple tests and a few tricks at the end is probably just part of the genre conventions. If you are still looking for a small campaign with more adventures around the Loop, you can find an atmospheric mini-campaign in They Grow Up So Fast.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Loop: They Grow Up So Fast
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Tales from the Loop RPG Starter Set
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/25/2023 13:48:16
Get the Loop running - a Mephisto review

Tales from the Loop Starter Set

As usual for Free League, there is also a Starter Set for the 1980s children's role-playing game Tales from the Loop. This consists of two booklets, pre-made characters, and a map.

It starts with the rule book, which summarizes the rules and background for Tales from the Loop in just over 30 pages. The game is set in an alternate version of the 1980s, where scientific breakthroughs have provided robots and other technological achievements such as hovering ships. Players take on the roles of children between the ages of 10 and 15 living near the Loop, a particle accelerator that is the center of technical breakthroughs but also strange phenomena.

The game mechanics are based on rolling attributes and skills together in the form of d6s, with each six being a success. Usually, a single success is enough, but rolls can be pushed or repeated with Luck. Since players play children as characters, player characters cannot die here, but they can be affected or incapacitated by various conditions.

The rule book briefly summarizes the rules and introduces the game background, how the alternate 1980s came to be, and what they look like. This background is always presented with lists of movies, music and similar aspects from that time. The rule book is also dedicated to playing the game and how to bring the background into the game accordingly. It also offers ideas on how players can help shape the background.

With this very compact rule book, the adventure The Recycled Boy can be played right away using the pre-generated player characters. In a handful of scenes, the characters experience a small story that fits well into the background of Tales from the Loop and also very much involves the personal connections between the characters. Because this is also an aspect of Tales from the Loop: in addition to the secrets that need to be uncovered, the characters' normal lives also play a role.

In just under 20 pages, you get an adventure that can ideally be played in one game session. The five pre-generated player characters, who have interesting relationships with each other, as well as a map of the Loop in Sweden as well as in the USA, complete the set.

The Tales from the Loop Starter Set is well suited for quickly introducing the rules and setting of Tales from the Loop, and that for a small price. Of course, as with most of these starter sets, there are no character creation rules, so once you start enjoying the game, you will need the core rules as well.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tales from the Loop RPG Starter Set
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PIRATE BORG Core Book
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/23/2023 05:41:50

Surrender your ships, resistance is futile.

Pirate Borg

Pirate Borg has now been released as a spin-off of the fantasy role-playing game Mörk Borg, which shifts the setting from classic OSR fantasy to a pirate background. The setting for Pirate Borg is called The Dark Caribbean, a gritty interpretation of a pirate-controlled Caribbean. As expected, this is not so much a historical simulation of real piracy. Instead, you quickly notice that the world comprises set pieces like Monkey Island, Sid Meier's Pirates, Pirates of the Caribbean series, and other fictional elements.

The Dark Caribbean is a dangerous place since, besides the colonial powers of England, France, and Spain together with the Inquisition, undead, monsters from the deep sea and bizarre cults also make the Caribbean a frightening place. An undead epidemic threatens the islands of this gloomy version of the Caribbean, so zombies, skeletons, drowned sailors, and the like are omnipresent.

The player characters take on the role of a pirate crew, and the individual crew members are quickly and easily created by a few dice rolls as they are for Mörk Borg. Here again, the usual five attributes are rolled out on a scale of 3 to 18 and then confer an appropriate modifier. In the game, only the modifier counts. Players can play a classless character or choose one of the six primary classes and, for more variety, two additional classes.

Among the primary classes are the Brute, a tough fighter, and the Rapscallion, whose abilities are defined by game cards during character creation and who fulfills a rogue's role. On the other hand, the Buccaneer is particularly good with flintlock weapons, while the Swashbuckler stands out for his sword-fighting style. But there are also “magical” classes, such as the Zealot, who performs magic with his prayers, and the Sorcerer, who appears as a voodoo-practicing mage. Two additional classes can be used to modify the existing classes. As a Haunted Soul, the character has a supernatural background, e.g., as a ghost or vampire. With the Tall Tale class addition, merfolk, mutants, and intelligent animals come into play.

Character creation is quick. The stats are determined by dice rolls, and then the traits from the character class are added. In addition, further dice rolls provide clothing and, very importantly, a hat. There is additional starting equipment, and then you can start adventuring. Of course, the book offers tables for weapons and equipment but also provides character disadvantages, physical characteristics, background aspects, and the like – as usual for the OSR approach – in detailed tables.

Furthermore, characters can be equipped with ancient relics, and arcane rituals and sea shanties provide them with opportunities for further advantages. Here, the arcane rituals are an interpretation of magic, while the sea shanties play a role during sea battles. In fact, a good portion of the rules take up the topic of sea battles. Here, maneuver rules for ships and boats are presented, as well as rules for wind, random tables for encounters, and especially game statistics for a whole arsenal of vessels, from small cobbled-together rafts to heavy ships of the line. In addition, there are some ghost ships and other horrors of the sea.

The monsters that Pirate Bork has to offer are also varied and bizarre. You will find everything from bilge rats and three-headed monkeys to giant kraken, zombies, sea turtles, and even strange plants. More detail is given to the monster groups of skeletons, zombies, and ghosts, which can often be enemy pirate crews. However, human opponents, such as the colonial powers and evil necromancers, can also appear.

If you want to start playing immediately, you can use dice and appropriate tables for just about everything. Encounters with ships at sea and their cargo, scenarios for abandoned ships, treasure maps, unknown islands, and even small missions are summarized through random tables. If more is needed, The Curse of Skeleton Point is less an adventure than a small sandbox scenario of an island with several things to explore, offering ideas for several game nights. From the disappeared governor's daughter to hidden temples in the jungle, witches, and an old fortress inhabited by the undead, the island has a lot to offer.

Pirate Borg also stays true to the principles of Mörk Borg. The rules are simple, quick to learn, and reminiscent of typical OSR rules. The setting comes across as gritty and dirty, and when in doubt, the approach to the game is to simply roll some dice on the countless random tables. Like the other Borg games, Pirate Borg has an extreme layout where large-scale drawings, extreme colors, and wild typography meet (and clash). My impression here, though, is that the style captures the setting much better. The presentation is still very extreme, but it spreads more atmosphere and fits better with the style of the game.

As with the other Borg games, Pirate Borg will divide opinions. If you are looking for a detailed, mechanistically complex, and demanding role-playing game that has a lot of background to offer, this is not your game. However, if you want to play a pirate role-playing game in which you can set sail in a few minutes and experience extremely wild adventures, in my opinion, you will find the best variant of the previous Borg games here. Indeed, the setting with giant kraken, mermaids, undead and depraved pirates is coherent with the rules system. It is also very helpful that, besides the PDF of the rule book itself, a reduced form is provided as a handout for players, in which the important rules for the players can be found.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
PIRATE BORG Core Book
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