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Fallout: The Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook PDF
Publisher: Modiphius
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/05/2021 22:03:18

Mechanically-dense and full of random tables and a massive equipment list, Fallout is a Rules-Heavy take on the 2d20 system. If the Devil is in the details, then Fallout is firmly in hell, but in a good way. Fans of the videogames will instantly recognize analogues of the mechanics they’ve come to know and love reflected in a way that is playable on the tabletop.

The game oozes the unique Fallout vibe, and is generally complete in terms of everything you’ve seen in the games. My concerns lie with the possibility that it might be slow going given all the rules, but with time and familiarity, I expect things to go faster.

Combat is a common feature, but seeing Scavenging and Survival being given a lot more space in this book is a relief. In a setting like this, stuff (even junk) is valuable, and the game takes pains to make everything you can possibly pick up worth something.

That said it isn’t for everyone. People who are looking for a narrative game will have to give this one a pass, as it falls firmly into simulation. People who enjoy shorter story arcs and hex-crawl-ish exploration will love this game, and I’m eager to see what else Modiphius will release for the game, whether it’s new settings, or a means to explore further.

Art and Layout

As a Modiphius product, I’ve come to expect good art and layout in their books, and Fallout is no exception. Font choices and clean layout are accompanied by gorgeous artwork, with the bestiary being a notable section for featuring the various kinds of disturbing things you’ll see in your wanderings in the Wasteland.

Conclusion

Fallout is big, beautiful and might be a little hefty for those who aren’t used to a lot of mechanics, but everything about this book is a love letter to the videogames. Get it if you’re a fan of the games, or if you’re looking for a darkly humorous take on the apocalypse mixed with 1950’s Atomic Age nostalgia.

It’s a game that lends itself well to both irreverent play, or serious storylines. Like a beaten up Chryslus Highwayman, it might take a bit of elbow grease to learn get going, but once you do, you’ll be exploring the vast expanse of the Wasteland like a pro.

This is the review portion of a full Let's Study series looking at the entire Fallout RPG in detail. You can find those here: https://philgamer.wordpress.com/tag/fallout/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fallout: The Roleplaying Game Core Rulebook PDF
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Dune - Adventures in the Imperium – Core Rulebook Standard Edition
Publisher: Modiphius
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/11/2021 22:59:31

Dune Adventures in the Imperium belongs to a category of licensed RPGs who have quite a few hurdles to overcome. Let’s take a look at each of these and see how Dune did:

With licenses, fans of the fiction will pick this up and hopefully migrate to the hobby, is Dune Adventures in the Imperium a good introductory product as far as RPGs go? Yes but with a slightly steeper learning curve, and with the additional benefit of being a great resource for fans looking to get more information on the setting. Dune is written with a strong focus on keeping things accessible for those new to the hobby. While the 2d20 system is a bit on the “rules-medium” side of things, there’s a lot of support and examples to help learn the game.

RPGs of a particular license has to “Feel” like the source material, does Dune manage to convey the feel and tone of Dune through it’s mechanics or does it feel like a generic system bolted to a franchise? Dune does a great job with this. Everything from the Duties and Duty Statements, the subtle and bold Move options, character options and even the uneven power balance due to faction-aligned characters having unique powers all work to enforce the truth of the setting.

For those who aren’t all that interested in the game aspect, but like collecting Dune, does the book look like a collectable? Yes. The artwork, layout and “feel” of the book is such that not only is it a joy to use as a game, it looks like a wonderful coffee table book and something you can brag about once this Pandemic lets you have friends over.

Dune Adventures in the Imperium takes the already capable 2d20 system and modifies it to a point where it conveys the mood and feel of the setting to the point of authenticity. It manages to handle a huge amount of different factors in conflict in an elegant manner.

Character Creation and House Creation is compelling and does well in a Session Zero group activity, where each player gets to contribute and have a stake in the House they belong to. It’s a clever means of getting players to bond, and make sure that their loyalties are true.

Dune Adventures in the Imperium is a splendid RPG, with great ambitions, which it manages to pull off with grace and style. It might not be a perfect “entry level” product, but I’m extremely happy to have bought it.

Definitely a must have for any collection, whether for a lifelone Dune fan or just someone new to the setting but has a love for sprawling, epic Space Opera.

This is an excerpt from a full Let's Study Series for Dune Adventures in the Imperium, which takes a look at each of the sections of the book in detail, available on my blog on the links below: https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2021/04/09/lets-study-dune-adventures-in-the-imperium-part-1-introduction-and-the-known-universe/

https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2021/04/09/lets-study-dune-adventures-in-the-imperium-part-2a-creating-your-house/

https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2021/04/10/lets-study-dune-adventures-in-the-imperium-part-2b-character-creation/

https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2021/04/11/lets-study-dune-adventures-in-the-imperium-part-3-systems/

https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2021/04/11/lets-study-dune-adventures-in-the-imperium-part-4-conflict/

https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2021/04/12/lets-study-dune-adventures-in-the-imperium-part-5-gming-chapters-and-review/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dune - Adventures in the Imperium – Core Rulebook Standard Edition
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Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Soulbound Starter Set
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/11/2021 06:59:03

Age of Sigmar is a setting full of potential, and the Starter Set manages to communicate it well to new play groups. There’s a boatload of support for a new GM, from reference sheets, to well designed character sheets, and a full guide to the city that can fuel an entire campaign.

The Faltering Light adventure is cinematic and full of interesting things that play up the mysterious nature of Brightspear, but might benefit from being the second thing you play, shortly after you’ve had a low-stakes adventure involving exploring the city, for example. With a better emotional investment in the city, the events in Faltering Light suddenly become much more interesting in play.

For it’s price, you’re getting a ton of value, and enough gameplay to inform you of whether or not you want to commit to the Soulbound RPG line by Cubicle7. My experience in running this adventure twice has convinced me that I’m going to have a lot of fun with it and I hope you’ll also give it a chance.

This is an exerpt from a longer review. To see the whole thing, please visit https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2021/02/11/review-warhammer-age-of-sigmar-soulbound-starter-set/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warhammer Age of Sigmar: Soulbound Starter Set
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Warhammer Age of Sigmar Soulbound Rulebook
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/04/2021 10:55:40

Warhammer Age of Sigmar Roleplay: Soulbound is a stellar product that gives me great hope for the Soulbound RPG line. Cubicle 7 has done a great job in bringing the setting to an RPG format, and in a manner that feels heroic, while keeping the desperate tone of the setting.

The rules are quite a bit for new GMs, but they draw inspiration from sources that are familiar to those who are used to systems like 2d20 and the World of Darkness and should be an easy transition to those who’ve played or run such games. Even the Doom mechanic feels like a similar element from Deadlands.

That said, a game is more than just it’s mechanics, and Soulbound offers a unique fantasy setting to explore that isn’t about just dungeon delving. And with so much more of the setting to explore past those options in the core book, Cubicle 7 has a lot more surprises in store.

If you’re interested in near-mythic heroes fighting against the tide of darkness, but without the tired tropes of D&D and the anime-inpired trappings of Exalted, then Age of Sigmar might just be up your alley.

Personally, it’s a purchase I do not regret at all, and I have a good feeling that Age of Sigmar will be one of the games I’ll be offering up for my home games very soon.

This is an excerpt of my full review, which you can find at: https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2021/01/16/review-warhammer-age-of-sigmar-roleplay-soulbound/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warhammer Age of Sigmar Soulbound Rulebook
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DEGENESIS: Rebirth
Publisher: SIXMOREVODKA
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/04/2021 10:43:14

Degenesis: Rebirth is aptly named. More than a second edition, it was reconstructed from the ground up to be better than it’s previous form.

The Art and Layout is absolutely amazing. I would be happy to leave a copy in the open for visitors to flip through because it’s just that pretty (if a bit disturbing.)

Rules-wise, Degenesis is straightforward, and relatively easy to learn. There’s a bit of going back and forth with regards to the character creation, but the rules themselves tend to be on the medium range of complexity. That said, combat looks to be very lethal and absolutely terrifying in play.

But of all the things in Degenesis: Rebirth, it’s definitely the setting that sold me. Each of the Cultures has a unique struggle against an antagonistic world that feels like it’s doing its best to snuff out humanity entirely, and you’re the only ones that can stop it.

If you like bleak post-apocalyptic settings with more than a pinch of body-horror and science gone wrong, then Degenesis is an absolute must-buy. Take note though that it’s not a game for kids and some themes and imagery in the game is Grade-A nightmare fuel.

This is part of a longer "Let's Study" series of articles on Degenesis: Rebirth on my blog, if you'd like to read more, you can find the beginning over at https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2015/12/19/lets-study-degenesis-rebirth-introduction/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
DEGENESIS: Rebirth
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Unknown Armies Third Edition Book One: Play [digital]
Publisher: Atlas Games
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 01/22/2020 23:59:57

Unknown Armies is one of those books that would survive a bookshelf purge after a post-New Year’s viewing of “Tidying up with Marie Kondo”. It sparks the same kind of perverse joy on reading that puts me in the same bewildered headspace as I felt after I’d finished Grant Morrison’s “The Invisibles”.

I feel that it has something to do with how the Unknown Armies team of writers were able to tap into the “just maybe…” school of thought, those weird plays of imagination when you entertained, even for just a fleeting moment that if you wanted something enough, reality would play by your rules for once.

The outcome is a mechanically clever, easy-to-run game whose rules tie in strongly with the themes. There’s no fat in the mechanics, it does exactly what it needs to do, then it gets out of the way, letting players experience (second hand) the depths of madness and sacrifice necessary to manifest their wants on the world.

I’ve mentioned before on twitter that Unknown Armies deserves to be required reading in a “How to write an RPG” seminar, and I stand by those words. I highly recommend Unknown Armies for any GM, even if you think it might not be your thing, you’ll find something to amaze you in these pages.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Unknown Armies Third Edition Book One: Play [digital]
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John Carter of Mars Core Rulebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/24/2019 10:19:23

The John Carter of Mars RPG comes out at a time when there is a great demand for games with laser-focused mechanics that know exactly what kind of experience they aim to deliver. While built upon the existing 2d20 framework, the team was able to craft a quick, punchy, and perhaps most important: authentic John Carter experience with this game.

Layout and Artwork

John Carter of Mars is published in a non-standard landscape format that works well for such a cinematic game. I imagine that the physical format of these books is impressive as heck, and I eagerly await the copies I ordered a few weeks back.

The artwork is beautiful, and portrayal of the Red Martians is tasteful as opposed to other portrayals of their clothing in other materials. I’m honestly relieved as I’ve had the hardest time getting my wife interested when all she gets in Google Image search are pinup artwork of Dejah Thoris in exceptionally revealing attire.

Also cheers for Francesca Baerald’s gorgeous character sheets! There is no excuse to not use the colored versions.

The Rules

Not only do the game mechanics read well, they deliver the power-levels expected of these larger-than-life heroes, for which death defying adventures are the norm. Paired with design choices that highlight these, (like the lack of cover rules) the players are guided both mechanically and thematically towards the genre it was meant to run.

The Setting

The game also handles the potentially problematic elements of the game with surprising grace, framing John Carter’s adventures and characters in a way that makes sense in a day and age where we’re more aware of issues such as sexism and racism, without detracting in any way from the source material.

For fans of the setting, the RPG also delivers on the depth of analysis that discusses the social norms and cultures of the various societies in Barsoom in a way that rings true. There’s never this sense that the designers just built the rules and left you the hard work of world building or baking in the feel of the game.

Conclusion

Fast, fun, but backed with a solid framework of the 2d20 mechanics, John Carter of Mars the Roleplaying Game is one of those games that reaches out and seizes the GM’s imagination, demanding to be played.

Much like it’s titular hero, the game cuts down any and all opposition that gets in the way of the primary goal of being able to play a fun, swashbuckling adventure game. Streamlined mechanics, and a focus on Renown as a means of denoting advancement leaves player characters less worried about survival and has them looking forward to the next dire peril that the GM will throw at them next.

GMs, on the other hand, are given the keys to the kingdom, with an entire toolkit for making Sword and Planet adventures, and the means to run them right with confidence.

Overall, John Carter of Mars the Roleplaying Game is a must have for fans of the setting, and for those who are looking for something new, but with solid depth to its setting.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
John Carter of Mars Core Rulebook
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition Rulebook
Publisher: Cubicle 7 Entertainment Ltd.
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/20/2019 02:05:35

The return of Warhammer Fantasy Roleplaying Game to the hobby is something that I welcomed with a cheer, and I’m glad that Cubicle 7 did a fantastic job at bringing back the game. Not only did they restore the black comedy gold of the setting, but also introduced some mechanical streamlining that made it work better overall.

Sure there are some old mainstays, such as the incredible number of tables, but that’s part of the experience. Warhammer Fantasy always played well with people who enjoyed all sorts of risk-taking, and both good and bad things happen to player characters all the time.

Art and Layout

The art of the book is nothing less than stunning, and the layout is clean and readable without losing the feel of the game. Cubicle 7 has always excelled in this aspect, and they continue their winning streak here.

Language and Mechanics

The rules are on the middle to high range of mechanical difficulty, and will require a test game or two to really get into, but every rule here has a place. There are no odd mechanics that don’t reinforce the feel of the setting, and that’s something that I find very admirable.

Extra credit for having a book that knows how to best use language to push for the feel of a setting, then shifting to provide clarity in mechanics.

Conclusion

If you’re a fan of fantasy RPGs, you owe it to yourself to have this in your collection. The world and mechanics of Warhammer Fantasy RPG has a unique fingerprint in terms of both rules, setting and even feel that makes it stand out in the most crowded of fantasy worlds.

There’s a reason it’s lasted this long, and in the hands of Cubicle 7, this might be the best edition yet.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Fourth Edition Rulebook
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Legend of the Five Rings Core Rulebook
Publisher: EDGE Studio
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/01/2018 23:46:01

*“You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.”

– Bruce Lee*

This game does not take on the same form as the old Legend of the Five Rings. Instead, it has changed for the better. Gone are old mechanical hangups, needless complexity, and even cultural missteps in the setting.

Guided by an appreciation for what came before, the designers exerted genuine effort to recreate what made it great by improving on what it was. In many ways, it was the change that we needed to bring the setting forward in a way that would remain relevant, accessible and fun for the next 20 years.

The rules are more narrative, and sometimes I can’t correctly map out the right Skill to use with an action, but that’s okay. What the new game loses in precision, it makes up for in spirit. It knows the themes and culture and tone it wants to be, and engages appropriately.

The Strife system is the trickiest to understand from a old gamer who never had to deal with stuff that was originally perceived as being part of pure “roleplaying.” But once it clicked, it brought a host of benefits to the game. Add the fact that it is also key to several other mechanics (most notably in Dueling) then you have a mechanic that says something about the setting.

Each of the subsystems has the seeds for great stories. Intrigues finally has a mechanical backbone to support itself, while Skirmishes, Duels and Mass Battles all make a return. While I have some small concerns about Intrigues and Mass Battles, they all do their intended jobs, and in the hands of a competent GM, can be used to spin off into some very interesting scenarios.

The new approach to schools is a welcome change in my eyes, and allows for players to build their characters to their personal vision. There has been some niggling about “sub-optimal” choices, but to be perfectly frank, if optimization is your thing, then this version of L5R is probably not for you. 3e and 4e are still widely available if you’re here to optimize builds.

Conclusion

This edition is all about the stories you can tell. About characters with strengths and weaknesses that will go through moments where you will want to tear your hair out as they make bad decisions, and cheer when they are able to rise above the challenges that face them.

Few games give me the impression that it can be used to run games with high emotional stakes, like a romance, or a tragedy, but 5e seems to be tailored to it. Strife, Anxieties and Adversities all act as signposts that can guide a samurai through a gauntlet of emotions that they can’t publicly acknowledge, leading to some particularly spectacular moments of catharsis when they finally unmask and let loose upon the unfairness of the world.

If there’s one tiny downside that I can think of, it’s that as a GM, it can be taxing. Each player can use a multitude of Approaches in a given situation, paired with any of the skills. Framing those, and working it into the story is a shared load between you and the players, but since it’s likely that you have more experience with it, you’ll be doing the heavy lifting.

If you’ve ever had any love for samurai imagery, eastern cinema, wuxia stories or even anime, then buy this book. If you were a fan of L5R prior, then buy this book. If you’ve never heard of this game, then congratulations and buy this book.

It’s not without the occasional mechanical hiccup, but with the host of innovations to both rules and concepts, Fantasy Flight Games’ Legend of the Five Rings Roleplaying Game is a triumphant return of one of the best intellectual properties in gaming to the form that suits it best.

Art and Layout

It would be unfair to end this without a quick note to the absolute quality of the artwork of the book.

The layout of the book is easy to read with a subtle textured background that doesn’t tire the eyes or make it hard to read the text. The text is in a standard two-column format, with callout boxes and little sidebars that add context or options as needed.

The artwork is top-notch, and I’m happy to say that there isn’t a single piece of art in the book that I wasn’t happy with. Overall, stunning work by the art team to make the book into something that I’d be happy to display publicly.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Legend of the Five Rings Core Rulebook
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Genesys Core Rulebook
Publisher: EDGE Studio
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/27/2018 04:21:37

I’ve always had a thing for generic RPGs. I dabbled in GURPS, fell in love with HERO, and checked out OVA for anime shenanigans.

And now Genesys shows up, the new hotness, with promises of Narrative gaming and excitement. With fancy colorful dice and symbols, and a resume that boasts of being the engine behind the popular new Star Wars RPG, it certainly makes a powerful first impression.

So how does it hold up?

Mechanics

The base mechanics behind Genesys might appear gimmicky, but looking past the fancy dice lies a solid rules system. Gameplay is fluid and the thrill of rolling dice pools is given new depth with the varied outcomes for each die.

There’s something visceral about rolling your own difficulty, a sense of ownership as your GM hands you the extra difficulty dice with a grin, knowing that your character’s chances are all in your hands.

Campaigns. Your Way.

As a Generic RPG, Genesys is judged not just by it’s rules, but by how well it can facilitate a GM’s vision. A third of the game is dedicated to being able to craft a setting of your own. Alternate rules are pre-built options that you can weld into the original framework to twist gameplay towards your desired odds, and the discussion on Tones and Settings help in giving it the feel you need.

Building a campaign in Genesys should be a game in itself, honestly. It feels like putting together a project car, with a standard build, that you then personalize with Customized Rules, tweak with Alternate Rules, then spray on a fresh paint job with the Tones.

And it does it all without the burden of points juggling and math.

Conclusion

Genesys is quick. There’s obviously a lot of design thought that went into it, and a lingering sense that all the designers wanted to do was to add just one more little bit into it. Sometimes that leaves us pining for what could have been, like a more extensive section on Superhero gaming, but that’s just us being greedy.

For those with a preference for rules-medium gaming, Genesys fits in perfectly well as a contender against Savage Worlds for fast, furious, fun. While it doesn’t have the intense library of GURPS or the near insane modularity of HERO, Genesys knows how to present a lean generic ruleset that can power almost any genre.

Overall, Genesys is a must have, not only because of its versatility, but also because it forms the bedrock of a lot of products in the future. Alternate rules are a sneak peek into the future, and I expect that with products like Realms of Terrinoth, we’ll be seeing even more ways to make the system sing.

Thanks for checking out my review. This is a fraction of a longer series of Let's Study articles for Genesys that can be found over at: https://philgamer.wordpress.com/category/roleplaying-games/genesys/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Genesys Core Rulebook
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RuneQuest - Roleplaying in Glorantha
Publisher: Chaosium
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/24/2018 03:40:15

The new RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha by Chaosium is an incredible product. Blessed with fantastic artwork, lovely layout and writing that could only come from the heart of someone who truly, absolutely loved the setting, reading RuneQuest was a heck of an experience.

Myths and Stories

RuneQuest’s setting of Glorantha has seen many incarnations and rightfully so. It’s a land that feels like a real myth, and the practices of the people in the land and their magics and beliefs are so grounded in what could have been that simply exploring that could fuel me for entire campaigns.

It’s rare that I find a setting so well adapted to sandbox campaigns, where the point is to help your community see the next year with healthy children, a larger herd of cows and the blessings of your Gods. Gone are the traditional “Chosen One” and “Murderhobo” formats, replaced instead with the simple (but difficult) task of living.

As I Live And Breathe

Few settings are so well explored in terms of the daily lives of its denizens as Glorantha. I remember early on that I came to RuneQuest hoping that it could deliver the same sense of culture as Legend of the Five Rings.

Now I find myself praying that the new edition of Legend of the Five Rings can relay their setting with the same care and attention to detail as Glorantha was presented in RuneQuest.

Everything and everyone has a place and a role, and Adventurers are motivated and constrained by their role in their communities. It’s a beautiful social ecosystem that never feels contrived or made-up. And even in the absence of some world-shattering horror or Big Bad Evil Guy, there’s plenty to do.

The Rules

RuneQuest is a product of an older era of game design, and it shows. It’s not quick, easy or narrative. The rules don’t fade into the background as you play, and combat determines the smallest thing from where you hit to how much damage it does, and if it harm’s the target’s armor. I see a lot of slow combat and plenty of rules look ups early on and feel a great need to own a GM’s screen.

And that suits me fine.

RuneQuest is a stellar example of a game that knows what it wants to do. Combat is detailed because we’re playing out a simulation that is ugly, dirty, and likely to leave everyone injured. Magic is detailed, and full of requirements and considerations and options for ritual add-ons because you’re entreating spirits or gods to show you favor.

The rules aren’t there to obscure the moment: they’re there to highlight it.

So while I won’t reach for RuneQuest for Fast! Furious! Fun! I will use it when I want to tell a tale of heroes that reads like the Literary Epics rather than a Marvel Cinematic Universe movie.

Downsides

Not everything is perfect though. RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha is a fantastic product, but it does feel incomplete. Without a bestiary (a concern now addressed with the release of the book just a few days ago) the book itself is less of a complete experience.

Also missing are chapters devoted to teaching people to run RuneQuest. While there is no shortage of inspiration, I had hoped that it would include more advice on how to start and what kind of adventures one could run for it. I’m approaching this review as a GM who has run all sorts of games so what might be obvious to me may be a concern to new GMs who picked up RuneQuest only to find that there wasn’t enough support for them right out of the gate.

I know there’s a GM book in the works somewhere, but I wish that and the Bestiary came out at the same time if only to give the full experience.

Conclusion

RuneQuest Roleplaying in Glorantha is a glorious game, and much like reading the epics, is extremely rewarding if you sit down and put some effort into reading it. The rules are complex but fit together in the manner of a Swiss watch, and the setting only makes it even more impressive.

It’s not fast, nor narrative, nor does it want to be. It knows it’s place, and doesn’t try to reach out to other spaces when it completely dominates at what it is. I would highly recommend it to GMs looking for a setting that can sandbox extremely well, has a wonderful sense of mythic realism, and isn’t intimidated by the reputation it has.

Chaosium has wowed me consistently from day 1 with my experiences with Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, but RuneQuest is the one game that has knocked me off my feet and made me a believer.

Get it, study it, and fall in love with it.

I know I have.

Thanks for reading my review. This is a fraction of a huge 10-article "Let's Study" review series on my blog that you can find over at https://philgamer.wordpress.com/tag/runequest/ There you'll find a breakdown of the contents and impressions of the major chapters of the book.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
RuneQuest - Roleplaying in Glorantha
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Star Trek Adventures: Core Rulebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2017 02:44:30

Where do I even start? I knew of Star Trek before from some of the movies and a few of the original series and TNG episodes I’ve watched before, but I wasn’t really a fan. So when I got the preview pdf offer from Modiphius, I wasn’t certain I would understand the appeal of the game. But since I was sold on the 2d20 system from my experiences with Conan, I figured it can’t be that bad, right?

Fast forward to now and I’m practically gushing about the game mechanics to my long-suffering wife, who even now nods patiently in understanding while I type this out and she reads it over my shoulder.

Art and Layout

Fans of the aesthetic of Star Trek will find plenty to love here, with the layout mimicking the user interfaces of the ships. However, I have to admit that adjusting to reading white text on dark background on screen was a little difficult at times, and I found myself wishing for a black and white version for readability.

There are a few typos in my preview copy, but hopefully those will be dealt with by the time the final product rolls out in stores.

The artwork is pretty evocative, and I didn’t really cringe at any of them. The Starships are probably the highlight of it all, and I did find myself wondering why there weren’t any more images of Starfleet in more relaxed situations. There’s a lot of Starfleet guys running / shooting / dodging explosions, but you’d be surprised at how hard it was to find an image to go with the Social Conflict article.

Mechanics

This is a mechanics-heavy game that will take repeated exposure, careful reading and more than a few goofs to internalize. While the basic mechanics are easy enough to grasp, there’s a ton of subsystems to cater for different styles of play. GMs will have to spend a bit of time really studying the system to get the most of it. Hopefully this series of Let’s Study articles can help future GMs learn faster!

I found the ship combat to be pretty heavy, and I’ve yet to try it out to see how things turn out. It promises a lot of explosions and show-appropriate destruction, so I’m looking forward to it.

Review & Conclusions

Buy it.

If you can afford the collector’s edition, get that.

If you can afford the Borg Box, then by all means, get THAT.

Star Trek Adventures has made a fan out of me out of the sheer amount of love and care put into creating a game that delivers on the promise of playing through and experience that is true to the series. This isn’t D&D in space in Starfleet uniforms. Modiphius knows what it’s doing whenever it works with a licensed setting.

Every rule exists to enforce the physics and ethics of the setting. There’s not a sign of lazy game design anywhere here, with each rule and subsystem carefully considered before it was added to the final product.

My only concern, if any, would be the fact that it’s a big read with a fair amount of complexity. But if you’re willing to put in the time to go through it and understand the systems, you’ll see the elegance behind it.

I also have a full review series covering all the chapters of the Star Trek Adventures RPG on my blog. If you're interested, you can read through them here: https://philgamer.wordpress.com/2017/06/22/lets-study-star-trek-adventures-introduction/

There's a handy list of links at the bottom of the introductory post to help you get to the rest of the chapter reviews.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Trek Adventures: Core Rulebook
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Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
Publisher: Modiphius
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 02/16/2017 02:07:02

Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of set off to become the definitive Conan RPG. While many have tried before them, Modiphius has managed to pull off this claim, coming up with a game that contains what could be best described as the very essence of Conan’s adventures.

Art & Layout

The artwork in the book is phenomenal, and well used, each one conveying the manic vibrance and urgency of Conan’s pulp adventures. While there was still a few instances of a naked lady being sacrificed in an altar, most of the other artwork showed sensibly-dressed women in situations of empowerment and adventure.

The layout is crisp and clean, and made reading the book a lot more pleasant. Callout boxes with and tables were used with consistency and an eye towards clarity, and even with the textured printer-unfriendly version, the background didn’t interfere with the ability to clearly read the text.

As a PDF product, the entire thing was bookmarked and searchable and quite snappy on my laptop (though perhaps a little less so on my mobile phone.)

System

Modiphius’ 2d20 House System feels like a perfect fit for Conan’s adventures, and the genius of the Momentum and Doom mechanics lie in their ability to affect the mood of the game and amplify tension.

Combat is crunchy, but every rule exists to support the fiction. Conan isn’t a place where combat is heroic. It’s visceral, practical and fraught with danger. Even if the player characters are meant to be exceptional individuals, there’s never a sense of an encounter being a cakewalk since the GM is always waiting in the wings with Doom in hand.

Conclusion

Would I recommend Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of to others? By all means, yes. If you’ve never played a different kind of Fantasy RPG, then you owe yourself to try this game.

If you’ve ever enjoyed Conan in any iteration, from the movies, the cartoon, the videogames or the stories then you owe yourself to try this game.

I’ve always had a strong preference for games whose rules are structured to promote a given feel and mood while simulating the “physics” of the fiction. The Conan RPG does this in a stellar fashion, with a crunchy set of mechanics that emulate the world of savage adventure inhabited by Conan in a way that I imagine will be very, very difficult to outdo.

--

This is the conclusion of a 7-part breakdown of the contents of the book. If you'd like to see the rest of it, please visit: https://philgamer.wordpress.com/tag/conan/



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of core book
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A Single Moment
Publisher: Tobie Abad
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 08/13/2016 05:51:23

A Single Moment is a Roleplaying game for two players that tells the story of how two Samurai have come to odds and what bitter end awaits them.

Weighing in at a slim 43 pages, and with layout by Eloy Lasanta of Third Eye Games fame, A Single Moment would be best described in one word as “Focused.” While there is a greater narrative that unfolds, the assumption of the game is that it begins with the two principal characters already about to face off in a duel, and that the rest of the story is told in flashback.

Tobie shows a strong preference for the cinematic in this game, and the entire “experience” of the game must be envisioned through the context of a movie.

STRUCTURE

Rather than go over the full details of the game’s structure, I’ll go over it in broad strokes.

The game breaks down into several phases: The Opening Scene, which establishes who the two principal characters are, when and where the fight is taking place, how long this grudge has been left to fester, and what the tale is about. Each of these details are established in an alternating fashion by both players.

At this point, the players then go through the chapters, which detail the events that lead to the final single moment. Players use the chapters to build the tale. In playing through the tale the players attempt to resolve each scene and gain Choice Tokens.

At the end of the chapter, these tokens are converted to dice that are then rolled. Depending on how favorable the outcome, the players can either gain Edges, Hatred and Scars.

Hatred opens up a secondary scene wherein the Samurai in question has to deal with it by either Channeling their Anger or Letting Go of it. These can channel the story towards the final confrontation.

When all chapters are done, the finale is resolved, using the Edges and Hatred gained in the previous chapters. These form the dice pools used in battle, and the fight ends once a player runs out of Edges. Once the fight is over, the triumphant and defeated players get a chance to narrate the immediate and long term outcome of the confrontation.

OTHER PLAYSETS

Given the nature of the game, it becomes nearly trivial to strip out the base “setting” and replace it with anything from cowboys to space opera. As long as two things want each other dead, you’ve got a game of A Single Moment. Tobie acknowledges this by adding other genres to use from space opera to pulp and even romcom.

His additional notes also include a means to extend the game beyond a single confrontation to a longer format.

THOUGHTS

A Single Moment knows exactly what kind of game it wants to be. A two-player story game where the mechanics exist only to lend just that extra touch of uncertainty to leave both players guessing which samurai will walk out of the duel alive.

It’s emotional, gripping, and single-minded in what it wants to do and in that sense the game is as damn near perfect as I can think of as long as you buy into its singular premise.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
A Single Moment
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7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
Publisher: Chaosium
by Jay S. A. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/30/2016 05:26:03

To call this a 2nd Edition feels like a bit of a misnomer. John Wick has taken the old 7th Sea, tossed the old Roll and Keep mechanics overboard, and rewrote much of the setting and history to create this new version of 7th Sea. As such, it feels more fitting to use a term more commonly applied to movies: a reboot.

A More Cinematic Experience

7th Sea's new mechanics lend itself to a style of play where the player characters are Heroes with a capital "H". Men and women with amazing skill and luck to live out larger-than-life adventures.

The new system is fairly straightforward. Upon declaring the character's action for the turn, they roll a pool of d10's determined by the sum of their Trait and Skill. Players then assemble sets of 10 from the results of the roll, with each set counting as a Raise. These are then used to "buy" narrative achievements such as successfully meeting a goal, taking advantage of an opportunity, or just avoiding harm.

On the GM's part, their job is to present the players with Opportunities and Threats within the scene, each one building towards a cinematic encounter between the Heroes and the opposition, be it a horde of goons, a devious trap, or the villain of the story.

You're not the World, but a Stage

GMs who cleave towards a more simulation-based philosophy of running a game will find themselves somewhat challenged by the chief conceit of 7th Sea second edition. The game is engineered so that your role is not that of a director rather than that of a referee.

Threats and Villains exist so that you can highlight the Heroes. And even the character creation ensures that the Heroes know exactly what they're getting into, and how they'd like each tale to end.

This eliminates a lot of the creative input from the side of the GM, and those who are used to a more open, sandbox method might find themselves lost as to how to properly run the game.

Pretty as it gets

I will say that the artwork and layout for the book is gorgeous, with full colour illustrations and easily readable text. The lack of over-sexualised images is a major plus, and I found a few pieces that took into account the LGBT fans as well, something that I feel will be very much appreciated.

Conclusions

7th Sea Second Edition isn't an old car with a new coat of paint. It's a familiar shade of paint on a brand new car. If you're looking for more of the old, then you might want to be prepared to be surprised.

However, if you're looking for a game that delivers rope-swinging swashbuckler-y fun with the ability to take your own story by the reins, then this is the game for you. John Wick clearly knew what he wanted to do with the game, and didn't waste time killing sacred cows to make it happen.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
7th Sea Core Rulebook (Second Edition)
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