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Red Planet • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 13:25:56
Red Planet

The inspiration for the Fate World of Adventure Red Planet is Soviet pulp science fiction. In this science fiction setting, communist idealists have developed the philosophy of progressive materialism and traveled to Mars to found the Union of Materialist Republics there. Arriving at Mars, however, they first had to overthrow the Martian dictatorship and convince the Martians to join the Union. Over the following centuries, the Union has expanded over large parts of the solar system - from Venus, overgrown with jungles, to icy Pluto. But the Union still has many enemies: the corporate-dominated capitalist USA, the corrupt USSR, and the two-dimensional aliens of the Geometrists.

Characters first choose a class, each giving them a bonus to skills. In addition to scientists, soldiers, bureaucrats, etc., there are also preserved brains, cyborgs and uplifted animals. The skill system features a few minor changes, where Pilot replaces Drive, and Renown is introduced. Pilot is necessary for flying within the atmosphere and in space, while Renown reflects the fame and reputation that can help get respect and help. Since Red Planet wants to convey a utopian idealism, one rules mechanic revolves around how to convert people to the Union (instead of taking them out by force). The book introduces a few vehicles and technologies, as well as typical enemies. As usual, there is a sample adventure in which the player characters must foil a plot of the Geometrists threatening Earth and Mars. A few ready-to-play characters allow you to jump right in.

Red Planet offers a classic pulp science fiction setting, where the planets of the solar system are not only habitable but have their own species. The setting deliberately goes the route of capturing pulp flair with dinosaurs, dirigibles, four-armed gorillas, etc., and foregoes any illusion of realistic science fiction. The idea of combining the pulp genre with the utopian "progressive materialism" is fitting. The book also quite clearly distances itself from real-world communism and its historical atrocities (and also from capitalism), presenting a fictional utopian philosohpy (after all, in this setting, both the USA and USSR are the antagonists of the Union). The author clearly states that Red Planet is about a fictional role-playing world rather than a hidden attempt at political propaganda in any direction.

The book thus offers an interesting pulp setting with a space opera touch and a unique perspective.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Red Planet • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Behind the Walls • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 12:21:29

Calm prison life after the apocalypse - a Mephisto review

Behind the Walls

The starting point of Fate World of Adventure Behind the Walls sounds interesting: the year is 1959, and eight years ago, there was a nuclear war. The player characters have spent this entire time in prison. The setting revolves around the Collins Park Correctional Facility, where the characters are incarcerated and separated from the rest of the world. Therefore, character creation also begins with what crime (whether committed or not) the character was imprisoned for. In addition, there are the usual aspects and skills, but all skills are expanded that the player specifies how the character usually uses that skill. In addition, one skill is replaced (Lore by Knowledge), and with Invent a new skill is added. As for stunts, the setting distinguishes between personal, cooperative, and secret stunts, which have a simple format that describes what advantage a character gets and where it comes from. Cooperative stunts give a bonus to the player character and their partner, while secret stunts combine a strength with a weakness - and they are usually kept secret. Secrets play yet another role in the setting, as each character has a secret that also provides them with advantages. The book offers two approaches to how these secrets can be presented in terms of mechanics and discusses how they can be used to drive the story.

Finally, a ready-to-play story involves the confrontation between the two major gangs in the prison that the characters are drawn into.

Behind the Walls is based on a one-shot adventure, and it shows in the finished book. Even though the setting has potential, the limitation to the prison means that the post-nuclear war world does not play a particularly visible or essential role for the setting. Even the aspect of prison life remains vague. This impression is especially noticeable in the adventure hook, which focuses on prison conflict, missing a lot of the action and/or drama to be expected. In this regard, the ideas to adjust the scenario do not help much. The rules concepts regarding secrets provide an interesting rules variation. Still, in the end, this book fails to provide a consistent setting that lives up to expectations and can carry an ongoing campaign.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Behind the Walls • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Trinity Continuum: Dawn
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 11:44:45
Few risks, few fun - a Mephisto review

Dawn

The ISRA sends Jay and her team to Far Nyumba to help a research settlement with its irrigation system. The disappearance of the Upeo wa Macho isolated the colony for a long time, and it had to fend for itself until new Leviathan jump-ships provided a way to reach it. As an added motivation for the team, the brother of one of Jay's team members lives on the moon, so a long-awaited reunion is imminent. However, shortly before the psions' arrival, an extraterrestrial artifact crashes near the landing zone - and soon aliens show up, claiming the artifact for themselves, ready to take possession of it - even by force. So Jay's team has their hands full, trying to solve the situation and protect the settlement.

At just under 80 pages, Dawn is a novella in the Trinity Continuum: Æon universe. The initial situation is promising - the journey to the distant colony that has long been isolated, some sort of key leaked to the team's clairsentient leader, and a threat from an alien force. However, the story remains shallow, and the characters pale. The powers of the psions play a rather subordinate role, and the background remains vague. Also, the way in which the predominantly female team solves the mission non-violently and always with harmony in mind by stumbling onto the solution seems too contrived. Unfortunately, my hopes for an exciting insight into the world of Trinity Continuum: Æon were not fulfilled here.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Trinity Continuum: Dawn
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M20 The Rich Bastard’s Guide to Magick
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 11:37:10
If magick alone is not enough - a Mephisto review

The Rich Bastard's Guide to Magick

Mage - The Ascension focuses on high goals, personal enlightenment, and the definition of reality. On the other hand, money seems so banal - yet it would be so easy for an experienced magician to build up riches with the diverse spheres. The Rich Bastard's Guide to Magick is therefore dedicated to the topic of wealth and money in all its facets.

First, the volume looks at the relationship of traditions, conventions, and other groups to the subject of wealth and what they can and want to achieve with it. Then it goes directly to the topic of characters. Here, the focus lies on background resources beyond the usual 5-point limit, describing not only the mechanics of the game but providing a strong focus on what that means for the character's background. With appropriate new archetypes, advantages, and disadvantages, these backgrounds can also be modeled in terms of rules. A selection of rotes for the various spheres provides additional material for players. The focus here is not always on gaining wealth, but many of these spells fit the lifestyle of the rich. Corresponding paradigms and practices complement this chapter.

That wealth is the key to entering exclusive circles is the theme of the following chapter. Various organizations, from a wellness clinic to a sector in the digital web to a club of adrenaline junkies, provide different examples. What money can buy directly - whether the perfect home, excellent vehicles, or outright magic items of all kinds - is the next topic that the book addresses. These magical treasures are not necessarily powerful items but are always exclusive and sometimes quite decadent, like a billion-dollar work of art. If that is not enough, there are ideas for a private town or a chantry.

The book concludes with tips and tricks for playing with the rich and famous. This chapter is about how super-rich characters can change the game for the whole group, and how the game master can deal with players trying to solve every problem simply with money. A few adventure hooks from the world of the rich conclude the book.

The Rich Bastard's Guide to Magick is a special book. Hardly any gaming group will really need it, but it certainly provides interesting approaches and ideas - also in the form of concrete game material. The rotes, wonders, and organizations alone do not justify the book alone, but if you are thinking about a chronicle set in the world of the rich and famous and thus have considerably more room for over-the-top and fancy toys, this is the book for you. If this direction appeals to you, you will get plenty of ideas, tips, and hooks here. However, those who focus their Mage game on the street level or enlightenment will not miss this book. In short, if you want to play your Mage game in the world of rich bastards, you'll get your money's worth - everyone else does not need this book.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
M20 The Rich Bastard’s Guide to Magick
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The One Ring™ Starter Set
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/10/2022 11:24:53

A family-friendly introduction like The Hobbit - a Mephisto review

4 stars if you are looking for a family-friendly RPG, 3 stars as a starter for The One Ring

The One Ring Starter Set

There have already been several role-playing games about The Lord of the Rings and The One Ring (TOR) has now been released in a second edition. To facilitate the introduction to rules and setting, a starter set has been released, consisting of three books, two maps, character sheets, item cards, and a marker. The latter, however, is not used for the starter set and only comes into play with the complete rules.

In the book The Rules, less than 30 pages describe the basic game mechanics and explain the basic concepts of a role-playing game and how it works. In The One Ring, d12 and d6 are used. The d12, called the Feat die, is the primary die, providing the values 1 to 10 as well as two special results. The Gandalf rune stands for an automatic success, the Eye of Sauron for a result of 0. Depending on the game statistics, additional six-sided success dice are rolled, and all dice results are added. The goal is to beat a target number, which usually depends on the character's three attributes and, in combat, the opponent's defense. This mechanic is extended as the success dice show another symbol that gives additional bonuses. In case characters have an advantage, two Feat dice are rolled, and the better one is used - in case of a disadvantage, the worse one is taken. Conditions can cause further modifications. Three attributes serve as character traits, which determine the minimum rolls. The 18 skills, in turn, determine how many success dice the characters have for specific actions. There are four weapon proficiencies for different weapon classes that work the same way as skills for combat. Damage is subtracted from endurance, and there are also hope points that can be spent on advantages.

Combat is very schematic and begins with an opening salvo and clear set-up rules for ranged and melee combat. An attack roll must exceed the target value based on the opponent's defense, and the damage determined by the weapon is subtracted from the endurance. If symbols are rolled on the success dice, they can be used for special effects such as heavy blows or armor penetration, which improve the attack. However, particularly good hits can cause wounds. Player characters can take one wound. If they suffer more (or lose all endurance), they are out of action. However, characters dying due to combat is not intended in the Starter Set.

The book The Shire presents the history, traditions, and homeland of the hobbits in over 50 pages. There is a brief background on how the hobbits came to the Shire, as well as a quick historical outline. This chapter focuses on aspects such as the art of pipe smoking and family traditions.

Then the reader is taken on a tour of the four Farthings of the Shire, as well as the Buckland and the Old Forest. Here, the various places and inhabitants are described, and random tables and ideas for adventures are offered to provide starting points for the player characters. Although the Shire seems mostly tranquil, some secrets and threats might challenge adventurous hobbits.

However, the book The Adventures, which offers a small story arc, provides a ready-to-play story arc. The story hook here is none other than the legendary Bilbo Baggins, who incites some young hobbits to some small adventures. Thus, they have to obtain a map from a museum, recover a historical treasure of the hobbits, secure fireworks, act as mailmen and confront a dangerous beast. The adventures are relatively simple stories with some minor challenges but few battles and no real threats to the hobbits. The story ties into the pre-made characters and also allows you to take on the roles of Balin and Bilbo later on.

Since the starter set comes without rules for character creation, eight immediately playable characters consisting of the character sheets and a brief background description are included. In addition to six different hobbits to support Bilbo, the selection also includes Bilbo himself and the dwarf Balin. Through the backstories, the characters are linked partly to each other and partly to the background of the setting. Since most of the characters do not have any combat gear to begin with, there are 23 cards of weapons and armor that show the item on one side and list the game values on the reverse.   The beautifully drawn maps show the larger region of Eriador and Shire in a more detailed version.

The starter set is aimed at beginners in two aspects. On the one hand, the rules are compactly reduced to the essentials and do without character creation in particular. On the other hand, the setting focuses on the hobbits and the Shire. Thus, compared to the rulebook, the Starter Set appears somewhat in the role of The Hobbit compared to The Lord of the Rings - namely, as the simplified, family-friendly version. This trend continues in the setting of the Shire and the adventures: Here, hobbits can experience a few harmless adventures where combat is hardly a factor, and the player characters are never in mortal danger. Unfortunately, the book about the Shire reminded me of the beginning of the Lord of the Rings about the hobbits: While the whole thing is well fleshed out, it's not what you expect for adventures in Middle Earth - and which is just an introduction before the real story starts.

Therefore, for me, The One Ring Starter Set is less of an introduction for roleplayers to the rules and setting of role-playing and more of a family-friendly, easy way to introduce children and possibly a still inexperienced game master to role-playing. In this respect, the Starter Set does an excellent job and provides a nicely crafted introduction. However, if you want to dive into the epic fantasy world of Middle-earth, more in line with The Lord of the Rings than with The Hobbit, you might want to give the Shire, and this set a wide berth and start your adventures directly with the core rulebook.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring™ Starter Set
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The One Ring™ Loremaster's Screen & Rivendell Compendium
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/09/2022 13:13:13
Hiding behind the screen or in the hidden valley - a Mephisto review

The One Ring Loremaster's Screen & Rivendell Compendium

The One Ring Loremaster's Screen & Rivendell Compendium consists of the three-part Loremaster's Screen and the Rivendell Compendium. While the loremaster's screen summarizes the most important tables and rules in a compact three pages, the Rivendell Compendium provides insight into the Hidden Valley and Elrond's House. First, it briefly explains how to reach Rivendell and how this place and Elrond's house are structured (including corresponding maps). Besides this description of the location, there is a short introduction of the most important people like Elrond and his daughter Arwen (but without game statistics). Furthermore, one chapter presents the high elves of Rivendell as a playable race with appropriate character creation rules and additional selectable virtues.

Whether or not you need a game master screen certainly depends on the individual game master (and also requires some tinkering with the PDF version, which is complicated by the oddly different sized pages). The Rivendell Compendium is an interesting and compact addition to one of Eriador's legendary locations and provides inclined players with the opportunity to play the game as a high elf. However, this set seems somewhat expensive compared to the material offered in the rulebook, so it seems primarily aimed at loremasters who either need a game master screen as an essential tool or want Rivendell to appear in their stories.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The One Ring™ Loremaster's Screen & Rivendell Compendium
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Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: The Romanian Imperative (PDF)
Publisher: Modiphius
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/09/2022 13:03:40
Zeppelins in Transylvania - a Mephisto review

The Romanian Imperative

When a zeppelin of the Nachtwölfe appears in Romania on a secret mission, it's time for agents of Section M to investigate. So the player characters first travel to Belgrade and head towards Transylvania, where enemy troops are gathering. Not only should they find out what the Nachtwölfe are looking for in a dilapidated castle, but ideally, they should also destroy or capture the Nachtwölfe's zeppelin...

The Romanian Imperative is another adventure for Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20, telling its story in three acts. It begins with the journey and risky smuggling attempt across the border. After that, it's a matter of getting an overview of the situation, scouting out the activities of the Nachtwölfe, and making undetected contact with the recruited workers who are supposed to dig up something for the Nachtwölfe. In the finale, it is up to the players to decide whether to take the risk and target the zeppelin facing a dangerous enemy.

The adventure tells an exciting story in several well-staged scenes. The freedom of how the players may proceed in the latter part of the adventure - especially since a frontal attack is certainly not a promising idea - is also a great element. The fact that the Mythos elements remain in the background does not detract from the tension at all. The Romanian Imperative thus offers an exciting adventure for a few evenings of gaming.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Achtung! Cthulhu 2d20: The Romanian Imperative (PDF)
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Arecibo • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/09/2022 12:31:21
Kids vs strange forces - a Mephisto review

Arecibo

Something strange is happening in Puerto Rico: there is an island-wide power outage. The US military begins a naval blockade. And some children develop strange powers...

The initial situation of Fate World of Adventure Arecibo sounds exciting. Players take on the role of children who have been altered by strange forces and thus develop special abilities. Three new skills represent these powers, but they are also the central factor in the setting because they are apparently bound to alien entities seeking to achieve their goals through the children. And it's no coincidence that the title of the game refers to the radio telescope in Arecibo.

Arecibo offers an interesting setting – starting from the insights into Puerto Rico and the scenario of playing as children to large conspiracies of cosmic powers that also attract the US military to the island. An introductory adventure delivers the player characters directly into the story. Unfortunately, however, much remains very vague. After the introduction, the further course of the plot arc lies in the hands of the individual gaming group. For me, in this case, this feels less like freedom for the game master and more like being left alone. Arecibo offers exciting ideas and promises some potential, but in my view, the book leaves too many questions for the reader to start playing easily.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Arecibo • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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Knights of Invasion • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/09/2022 12:29:33
Knights vs aliens - a Mephisto review

Knights of Invasion

Two kingdoms share a volcanic island. The kingdom of Regen in the north has wood resources and good maritime trade relations; Stroming in the south has built up a small industry with its ore deposits. But relations between the two kingdoms are strained - partly because a political marriage has not come about. A tournament on the occasion of a birthday is supposed to calm down the tensions again (or secure one party's advantage). If that still sounds too straightforward for a Fate World of Adventure: At this point, the aliens come into play, whose invasion must be repelled...

Knights of Invasion follows the approach of many Fate worlds to combine two unusual components. Here it is knights and aliens. However, the book clearly defines itself as a one-shot (possibly even to be played at a convention). It offers several alternatives for the game master - why the atmosphere between the kingdoms is so bad, who the aliens are, and what they want. After the background and rules section, there are three scenario variants, each with a different premise and progression. Regarding mechanics, there are the usual minor adjustments to character creation, extras in the form of equipment or mounts, medieval siege equipment, and rules for jousting. The aliens can be created with a modular system using limitations, stunts and technology.

As a one-shot entry into Fate, Knights of Invasion is a fitting approach: it starts with the seemingly conventional medieval setting followed by a genre switch. The ideas and three scenarios offer plenty of starting points for fine-tuning. From my view, the setting lacks a clear sense of how the player characters are supposed to succeed in fighting back an advanced enemy realistically - but perhaps that is just not important for such a one-shot, which is better played cinematically. Knights of Invasion thus offers a fast-paced and potentially action-packed genre mix fitting to test Fate but is definitely not meant to support a long campaign.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Knights of Invasion • A World of Adventure for Fate Core
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The Huntsmen Chronicle Anthology
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/09/2022 12:20:07

Dark fairy tales - a Mephisto review

The Huntsmen Chronicle

The world of Changeling is a nightmarish world - that's the central motif of The Huntsmen Chronicle, the anthology for Changeling - The Lost. In one story, a couple of kids get involved with an older bully and then with a dangerous fairy creature. Then families are threatened by strange beings - or the protagonists try to win back their families. Finally, desperation drives some to madness and others toward suicide. The setting is sometimes our modern world, sometimes a detective noir story, and sometimes the world of French nobility before the Revolution. But one threat lurks behind all these stories: the huntsmen.

In 11 stories, the The Huntsmen Chronicle for Changeling - The Lost introduces various aspects of the game world. A central theme is the typical conflict when the changelings find their way back from the fairy world and discover how a so-called fetch has taken their place as a replacement. The resulting problems, in particular, are told very captivating from the different perspectives - and thus are anything but one-sided. The stories are dark, eerie to nightmarish, and sometimes cruel - but above all, very well-written. From my point of view, The Huntsmen Chronicle not only shows very impressively that the changelings of The Lost provide a much darker - and very fascinating - atmosphere compared to The Dreaming.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Huntsmen Chronicle Anthology
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Cthulhu Malbuch
Publisher: Pegasus Press
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/09/2022 11:42:08
Das Grauen in Farbe - eine Mephisto Rezension

Cthulhu – Das Malbuch

Eigentlich war ich immer der Meinung, dass Malbücher etwas für Kinder sind – doch dank Cthulhu bin ich mir nun nicht mehr sicher. Das Malbuch zu Cthulhu ist genau das, was der Titel verspricht: Ein Buch mit Linienzeichnungen, die dazu einladen, mit dem Schreibgerät der Wahl koloriert zu werden. Die Motive sind von Geschichten von H. P. Lovecraft oder aus Cthulhu-Quellenbüchern inspiriert, und kurze Textzitate ordnen die Szene in den jeweiligen Kontext ein. Dabei gilt, dass viele Motive nicht nur aufgrund des Inhalts begrenzt für Kinder geeignet sind, sondern die Zeichnungen gegenüber dem klassischen Kindermalbuch auch teilweise recht filigran und komplex gestaltet sind.

Aus meiner Sicht sind schon die nicht kolorierten Zeichnungen hervorragend gelungen, und die 28 Szenen decken eine große Bandbreite ab – inklusiver echter Klassiker, wie die Yacht, die Cthulhu rammt oder Tiefe Wesen, die durch Innsmouth laufen.

Eigentlich ist Cthulhu – Das Malbuch ein Produkt, bei dem man sich fragt, wie man auf eine solche Idee kommen kann – doch wenn man die Zeichnungen von Andrey Fetisov sieht, dann muss man nicht der Aufforderung „Koloriere das kosmische Grauen“ folgen, um an diesem PWYW-Produkt Freude zu haben. Für Kinder ist dieses Buch allerdings sicherlich nicht zu empfehlen…

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cthulhu Malbuch
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The Longest Night (A Jumpstart for World of Darkness: Ghost Hunters)
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/21/2022 13:26:01

Surviving the night in a haunted house - a Mephisto review

The Longest Night

An old house connected by sinister stories, a group of amateur ghost hunters who want to explore this place at night, and some dangerous hauntings that oppose them – these are the ingredients for The Longest Night.

Complementing the World of Darkness sourcebook and setting Ghost Hunters, The Longest Night is a fitting quick-start. The book assumes that players have no previous experience with the World of Darkness, and just three pages cover the necessary rules and some basics about wraiths. Further game mechanisms are explained in the appropriate scenes of the adventure. However, the central part of the book is the adventure itself, which should take one or two evenings to play through its three acts. The pre-generated characters are confronted with a haunted house, which provides the dangerous background for some complications when the players have to choose different sides and approaches in the final scenes. Along with the six ready-to-play characters, there are a few additional rules explanations for the specifics of the characters regarding merits and flaws as well as necromancy and other special abilities.

The Longest Night does an excellent job mixing the necessary rules' summary with a challenging setting, thus whetting the appetite for more. New players will have an easy introduction to the setting. Those already planning a Ghost Hunter chronicle can use the adventure as an intro. Thus, the quick-start provides an ideal starting point into the world of the ghost hunters of the World of Darkness.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Longest Night (A Jumpstart for World of Darkness: Ghost Hunters)
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Twilight: 2000 4th Edition Core Set
Publisher: Free League Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/15/2022 13:44:13

Surviving after World War 3 - a Mephisto review

Twilight: 2000

An alternate history: While in the early 1990s the end of the Cold War and a new era of peace seem within reach, history suddenly takes an unexpected course, and on the threshold of the 21st century the world is in ruins. In 1992, a coup in the disintegrating Soviet Union changes the familiar course of history. When hardliners in Moscow come to power and decide to reabsorb the Baltic states, things escalate under U.S. President West. NATO and the Warsaw Pact clash in Europe, and the conflict escalates to the use of nuclear weapons - even though neither side launches its entire arsenal to completely destroy Earth. With the start of the new millennium, a NATO offensive is supposed to turn the tide finally. But the advance stalls, and the troops are stranded on their own in Poland....

While the first edition of Twilight: 2000 from 1984 projected a futuristic scenario, in the current fourth edition this dark future lies already long in the past from the player's perspective.

The basic setting assumes that the player characters are a squad of NATO soldiers and affiliated persons stranded on their own in ruined Poland. Alternatively, there is a setting taking place in Sweden but similar in terms of the initial situation. The central goal of the game depends on the players: Whether the player characters want to somehow get back home, for example, or simply build a safe haven in the chaos is up to the group.

Unlike other games of the genre, Twilight: 2000 presents a more realistic end-time scenario: there are no mutants and robots like in computer games like Fallout and Wasteland, and no other special powers. The player characters are confronted with much simpler, but thus no less haunting threats: the search for food and fuel, the confrontation with animals and scavengers, and also threats like cold, fire or radiation. Civilization has largely collapsed. Major cities have been razed to the ground, starvation and disease have killed large portions of the population that survived the fighting. Even though vehicles can run on alcohol instead of gasoline, food and fuel are scarce. This situation does not necessarily bring out the best in the survivors, especially when it comes to fighting over remaining resources. In areas such as Sweden and Poland, where the two sides of the conflict have clashed, the situation is particularly dire, and the remnants of troops are in some cases still carrying on the lost war. It is a depressingly dark and dangerous world that will challenge the player characters.

Character creation in Twilight: 2000 offers two options. The faster way offers nine archetypes ranging from Child and Civilian to Officer and Spook. Alternatively, there is the possibility to give the characters a background story by rolling dice with the Life Path System and thus develop the characters step by step. Characters are defined by attributes and skills, which are measured on a scale of A to D. There are specializations to the skills. Still, for the characters, the Big Dream and the moral code are also essential aspects - even if they are more relevant for background and motivation than for game statistics.

The dice system is based on rolling one attribute and one skill together for each test. The values from A to D indicate the dice type: A is a d12, while D is a d6. The dice are checked individually, and a result of 6+ is a success. Results of 10+ even count as two successes. Rolled 1s have no effect at first, but a roll can be forced, and then each 1 means damage or stress.

A large part of the rules revolves around combat, which should ideally be fought on tactical battle maps, which are included in the set. Therefore, the combat rules include effects of terrain, cover, barriers, blast radii, chemical weapons, etc. Characters cannot take much damage before they are incapacitated, however. In addition, if injuries are severe enough, critical wounds are the result, which can mean nasty side effects up to instant death.

As expected for a game with a military background, Twilight: 2000 offers a comprehensive arsenal of weapons from knives to battle tanks for all of the primary armies relevant in the setting (USA, Sweden, Poland and Soviet Union), and it is not at all unlikely that a group of player characters will have an armored vehicle or even tank. While this may make survival easier, obtaining fuel and ammunition and maintenance pose unique problems. And, of course, such a vehicle can become a target for other groups.

Another aspect highlighted by the rules is traveling and exploring the environment, as well as building a base. Here, you can find elements from other Fria Ligan games. Exploring the hex map at the initiative of the players is based on Forbidden Lands and deals with practical aspects such as terrain, weather, loot, and procuring food. If players prefer to built a base rather than being constantly on the move, this base can be upgraded - similar to Vaesen - with various features that provide advantages in the game (but may also attract opponents).

While rules and character creation make up the Player's Manual, the Referee's Manual provides the history and background for World War 3. The focus is on the main scenarios of Poland and Sweden and only roughly touches on the rest of the world. The setting focuses on military operations, troops and unit strengths, and the strategic situation. After a chapter on game-playing, the book presents an arsenal of encounters that can also be randomly drawn with appropriate playing cards. This approach also allows solo play, which is already explained as an option in the manual. These random encounters offer small hooks and are easy to use.

Finally, after introducing the various power groups and their goals, several elaborate scenario locations present a location and its inhabitants more comprehensively with relevant conflicts and events to draw the player characters into the plot. There is a former prison where a new religious community has come together; there is an occupied city where a colonel has built the illusion of the American homeland; and there is a cadet school from which children continue to fight the war. These scenarios perfectly set the stage for the game's moral conflicts and gray areas - and will likely soon confront players with tough decisions.

In addition to the rulebooks, the Core Set includes handouts of military documents, overview maps, battle maps, markers, cards for initiative and encounters. In the digital version, however, this means that you have to print them out yourself, so for fans of such game material, the printed edition is undoubtedly the better option.

In the end, it feels difficult to rate Twilight: 2000. The prejudice that I was dealing with an outdated and militaristic setting was invalidated by the way the game world is presented. Of course, the player characters are skilled in combat and ideally have access to an arsenal of cutting-edge weapons - but this hardware and skills can only solve the game's problems and conflicts to a limited extent. And the military terminologies and lists of troop units are sometimes exhausting to read. The war is lost for all sides, and even when it comes to fighting battles against marauders and other enemies, the human aspects of the war are in the foreground, especially in the scenario locations: the struggle for survival, the search for meaning and perspective, and the spark of hope. Also, the freedom for player characters to choose to explore the environment and pursue the leads that interest them, or alternatively trying to build and hold a base, gives players, in particular, an extreme amount of freedom in an open world. This approach, where the players drive the game, is quite successful. Here, the player characters can build something - but how much that will ultimately bring in the destroyed world remains questionable. And that's the downside: the post-WW3 world is a depressing place, and the chance that things will get better later or somewhere else is missing. This point can also definitely demotivate players.

In terms of mechanics, the system of four levels of values linked to different dice is personally not my cup of tea, even if the need to force rolls more often adds a coherent and challenging element to the game. After all, even if a failure only damages equipment, that may be a hard blow in the world of Twilight: 2000.

For those who aren't scared off by the depressing post doomsday setting and are looking for a challenge in a truly open world in form of the dangers of the post-World War 3 world, Twilight: 2000 offers an immersive setting whose strength is shown in the scenario locations that confront the player characters with moral questions. In this respect, the game provides excellent potential for impressive stories.

It is further noteworthy that Fria Ligan has opened Twilight: 2000 to the Free League Workshop, which allows fans to publish their own products on DriveThruRPG, leading to a growing number of various unofficial expansions.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Twilight: 2000 4th Edition Core Set
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Demon: Interface
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/15/2022 13:01:30

Fighting the God-machine - a Mephisto review

Demon: Interface

The setting of Demon: The Descent plays a unique role in the 2nd edition of the Chronicles of Darkness, focusing on demons and the mysterious God-Machine. Interface offers an introduction to this game world through eight short stories that present the strange world of demons. The title of the system, Demons, probably conjures up a wrong image, as the setting is characterized less by religious mysticism than by a high-tech agent setting. The fallen angels of the God-Machine are futuristic robotic creatures waging a secret battle against the hidden powers controling the world in the background.

Even though this secret struggle characterizes the stories, they cover different facets. In one story, it's a matter of a demon continuing to protect a person who should have died according to the God-Machine's will. Another story revolves around camouflaging the identity of a demon. The central theme, however, is always how the demons interact with humans.

The special feature of this anthology volume, in contrast to the other game world anthologies, is that in addition to the stories themselves, each one is followed by a short chapter describing characters, phenomena, and the like from the game's point of view, so that elements from the stories are actually described in game terms and mechanics.

Interface provides intriguing insights into the unusual world of darkness inhabited by demons. The interpretation of demons as technical servant beings of the so-called God-Machine is a unique approach. This anthology offers a suitable introduction to get the first glimpse into this unusual game world, its genre and its atmosphere - even if, of course, these short stories do not explain the secrets surrounding the God-Machine.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon: Interface
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Fate of Cthulhu Timeline • The Rise of the Basilisk
Publisher: Evil Hat Productions, LLC
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/15/2022 11:42:42

Dangerous ideas - a Mephisto review

The Rise of the Basilisk

Once again, the player characters in Fate of Cthulhu have to travel back in time and save the world. This time the Basilisk threatens humankind, but it is not the well-known mythical creature: The Basilisk is an infectious idea or a way of thinking that endangers humanity. Anyone who comes into contact with this idea is in danger of becoming infected with it and spreading it further. At first, the new way of looking at things seems to be quite positive. It allows surprising insights because "Godthink", as the approach is called, pushes humanity forward in many aspects before it triggers the inevitable catastrophe.

The Rise of the Basilisk does not confront the player characters with a classic Great Old One but uses an opponent that fits very well to the dark powers in the Cthulhu universe. Here, the author takes the approach of combining the idea of a mysterious threat with modern technology and does not shy away from linking it to real-world activities around Google and more. Players are thus confronted with an out-of-control technological development that must be stopped. And this enemy knows how to use every trick in the book.

Even though this campaign for once does not revolve around a Great Old One or other classic Cthulhu aspects, the idea of the threat and the combination with current technical trends, which are then projected into the future, is excitingly envisioned. If you are looking for a technological apocalypse in which a networked world and the merging of man and machine are the main threat, you will find the right campaign here. From my point of view, the unusual approach that deviates from the "usual suspects" is the strength of this book.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Fate of Cthulhu Timeline • The Rise of the Basilisk
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