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HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (2e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/08/2021 12:16:56

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/09/review-hr1-vikings-campaign-sourcebook.html

HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

For today's review, I am only going to consider the PDF version of this book from DriveThruRPG. I lost or sold back my original in one of my moves or collection downsize. I will mention details from the physical book as I remember it, but my focus is on the PDF for the details. In most cases the material is 100% the same, the difference coming from the fold-out map, which is separate pages in the pdf.

HR1: Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (1992), by David "Zeb" Cook. Illustrations by Ned Dameron and cartography by David C. Sutherland III. 96 pages, black & white with full-color maps.

The first book of the Historical Reference series covers the Viking raiders of Scandinavia. It is not a separate game world per se, since it deals with Pagan Europe after the fall of Rome, but it is a fantastical Europe where dragons fill the seas, troll-blooded humans walk among us, and somewhere out there in the wilderness, a one-eyed man wanders the land.

Chapter 1: Introduction

This chapter covers the very basics, starting off with what people usually get wrong about the Vikings. These guys are not Hägar the Horrible or even the interpretations of Wagner. They do point out that "Vikings" are also not really a people, but a lifestyle that some people engaged in.

This section also covers how to use this book, specifically how to use this book about Vikings and the history of their raids with the AD&D 2nd Rules. We get into more specific details in the next chapters.

Chapter 2: A Mini-Course of Viking History

Starting with the raid at Lindisfarne in 793 CE the book covers a very basic history of the Northmen's lands, the lands they raided, and their culture and history. The focus here though is through the lens of an AD&D game, not a historical introduction. The book is clear on this.

Details are given, with maybe extra focus on England and France (though they are not called that yet) but that is fine. There is a very nice timeline running across the top of the pages of this chapter that is rather handy. The time period, roughly 800 to 1100 CE agrees with most of the scholarship on "Viking History" so that works fine for here as well.

There is a nice list of settlements and cities the Vikings targeted. Not a full list, but it gives you an idea of how much of Europe, Northern Africa, and even parts of Asia the Vikings would roam.

There is a page or so of suggested readings. Likely the best at the time. The chapter does set you nicely to explore these ideas further.

Chapter 3: Of Characters and Combat

Here we get into game writing proper. We start with what races you will find in a Viking-themed campaign. Obviously, we are talking mostly humans here. Humans can gain a "Gift" something that makes them special such as "Rune Lore" or "Bad Luck" or even a Seer. There is a new "race" the Troll-born. These are stronger than average humans due to troll-blood in their veins. They get a +1 to Strength, Constitution and Intelligence but a -1 to Wisdom and a -2 to Charisma. They have Infravision and are limited to 15th level in their classes. They are not born with Gifts.

Next, we cover the changes to the Character Classes from the PHB. Fighters on the whole tend to be unchanged as are Rangers and Thieves. Classes not allowed are Clerics, Paladins, Druids, and Wizards, though specialty mages are allowed if they are Conjurers, Diviners, Enchanters, Illusionists, Necromancers. While this could be a negative for some I like the idea of limiting classes for specific campaigns. Two new sub-classes of the Warrior are added, the Berserker and the Runecaster. Both do pretty much what you might suspect they do. The berserker is actually rather cool and while the obvious roots here are the barbarian and berserker monster from AD&D 1, there is enough here to make it work and be interesting too. Runecasters know runes as detailed in the next chapter.

The "forbidden" classes can be played, if they are outsiders.

Lip service is given to the detail that the Vikings were predominantly men. Though new archaeological finds are casting some doubt that they were exclusively so. This book does give some examples of how warrior women were known. They emphasize that player characters are always exceptional.

There is a section on names (including a list of names), homelands, and social class.

In the purist AD&D 2nd ed section, we get some new Proficiencies.

Chapter 4: Rune Magic

This covers Rune Magic. An important feature of Viking Lore. What the runes are and how to use them in AD&D 2nd Ed terms are given. A lot of these are minor magics, say of the 0-level or 1st-level spell use. I personally don't recall them being over abused in games, but they are a really nice feature to be honest.

Chapter 5: ...And Monsters

Monsters are discussed here, starting with which existing monsters can be used from the AD&D 2nd Monstrous Compendium. Following this some altered monsters are given. For example, there is the Gengånger which is a zombie with some more details.

Dwarves and Elves are given special consideration, as are trolls and giants.

There is not however any "new" monsters in the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendium format. We will get those in the Celts book, but that is next time.

The section is split with a "centerfold" map of Europe.

Chapter 6: Equipment and Treasure

Vikings were Vikings because of the treasure they sought. They also had the best ships in Europe at this time. So let's spend some time with these.

We start with a section on money. For the game's simplicity, these are reduced to a couple of systems. Coins are usually categorized by make-up and weight. There is some good material here really and something that most games should look into.

Treasure covers the typical treasures found. Also, treasure was a central piece of Viking lore; it was how chieftains paid their men, it was what they stole from others, and it was also how they were paid off NOT to steal. Some space is given to Magic Items as well. This is an AD&D game after all. Some "typical" magical treasure is discussed and some that are not found at all. A few new items are also detailed.

Chapter 7: The Viking Culture

This chapter gives us are biggest differences from a typical AD&D game. For illustrative purposes, we follow a young Viking, Ivar Olafsson, in a year of his life. Now I rather liked this because it gave me a character situated in his life and culture. While it is not the most "gamble" material it is good background material.

There is a section on Social Ranking and a little more on the role of Viking women. I think after 6 seasons of watching Katheryn Winnick kick-ass as Lagertha in Vikings, this section will be read and cheerfully ignored. That is great, but this bit does talk about, and support, the image that Viking women had it better than their counterparts in the rest of Europe.

We also get into the sundries, quite literally; Food, drink, homes, farms, and trade. There is a section on religion with lots of nods towards the AD&D 2nd Ed Legends and Lore.

Chapter 8: A Brief Gazetteer

AD&D 2nd Ed is celebrated not really for its advances in game design or rules, but rather the campaign worlds. This book, and this section, in particular, is a thumbnail of why these celebrations are merited. Or, as I call it, just give me a map! This section is more than a map and maybe not as much as the famed Mystara Gazetteers, but the relationship is not difficult to pick out.

This covers, rather briefly (as it says in the title), the lands the Vikings would roam to. And there are a lot of those! In addition to the lands of Europe, Africa, Asia, and yes even North America, we get the fantastic worlds of the Vikings. If I had done this book this would have been Chapter 2 or 3 at the very least. This chapter is all too brief in my mind.

We get a longship design at the end and in the PDF what was the fold-out map.

--

So in truth a really fun resource. The AD&D game material is there, but this book could be used with pretty much any version of D&D or even many other games. 3rd Edition/Pathfinder players might lament the lack of Prestige Classes, but the Rune MAgic section can be easily converted to a Feat system. 5th Edition Players would need to work the Berserkers into a Barbarian sub-class/sub-type, but that would be easy enough.

It is not a perfect resource, but it is really close. I am really regretting selling off my physical copy now.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (2e)
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Super Hero Clip Art - Cosmic Avengers
Publisher: White Elephant Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2021 12:15:28

Four pieces of super-hero art. 2 male, 2 female. All featured on the cover.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Super Hero Clip Art - Cosmic Avengers
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Evermore Tactics : Character Art Collection
Publisher: Evermore Evolution
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2021 11:57:40

Large collection of art. Hope to find a good use for them someday.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Evermore Tactics : Character Art Collection
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Premium Fantasy Stock Art - Witch #1 (with variant, hag)
Publisher: Grim Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2021 11:51:45

Looking forward to using this in my next project. No isea what that porject is yet, but I do love this art.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Premium Fantasy Stock Art - Witch #1 (with variant, hag)
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Standard Fantasy Stock Art - Demon Queen
Publisher: Grim Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2021 11:51:41

Looking forward to using this in my next project. No isea what that porject is yet, but I do love this art.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Standard Fantasy Stock Art - Demon Queen
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Premium Fantasy Stock Art - Corsair #4 (sea witch)
Publisher: Grim Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2021 11:51:32

Looking forward to using this in my next project. No isea what that porject is yet, but I do love this art.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Premium Fantasy Stock Art - Corsair #4 (sea witch)
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Standard Fantasy Stock Art - Three Elven Queens
Publisher: Grim Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 09/02/2021 11:51:25

Looking forward to using this in my next project. No isea what that porject is yet, but I do love this art.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Standard Fantasy Stock Art - Three Elven Queens
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Torchlight Issue #1
Publisher: Tenkar's Tavern Gamen
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/13/2021 10:11:31

I really enjoy zines. Give me some oddly put together content, maybe some fluff, some new artists and old industry standbys, slap a cover on it and sell it cheap. Zines today though are different affair. The quality is much higher, the prices are usually much cheaper or on par with what we paid back in the 80s.

Case in point. The new Torchlight zine. Overtly desinged to support Swords & Wizardry Light and Swords & Wizardry Continual Light, it really can be used with any OSR game or the games they were based on.
That's sort of the point of SWL/SWCL though, to provide the most basic of basics to play.

This issue has new theif rules, more monsters for your SWL/SWCL games (though nothing "new" but that is fine, they are new to this game) and familiars for magic-users among other conent.

At $3.00 this is a good price for 36 pages (minus covers, OGL and extra, it comes in at about 10 cents per page which is the rule of thumb I try to use.) If half of it is useful for you then that is a good zine.

If you like SWL/SWCL or are a fan of zines then get this.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Torchlight Issue #1
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Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental
Publisher: Astrolago Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/07/2021 09:35:51

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/07/review-witchcraft-5e-crafting.html

Are you a fan of Studio Ghibli movies? Well, I am and the authors of Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental are as well. And this book proudly and openly displays that love. But I am getting a little ahead of myself.

I backed this project as a Kickstarter a while back and it came with the book, PDFs, and all sorts of great add-ons like wallpapers and spell and magic-item cards (PDFs).

So I am going to be reviewing the hardcover book and the PDFs from the Kickstarter. I am uncertain if the PDFs from DriveThruRPG are 100% the same or not.

You can purchase the hardcover from the publisher's website and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG or also from the publisher.

Witch+Craft, a 5e Crafting Supplemental

Witch+Craft is a full-color hardcover 214-page book. The theme of the book is decidedly high magic, and a style of high magic infuses all aspects of the lives of the people of this particular vision of the 5e fantasy universe. This book is exactly the opposite of "grimdark," wherein magic is everywhere and it is a tool to be used to make things better. I state this upfront because that is the pervasive philosophy of the book. It works, and it is a great one to have. But it will have to fit your style of gaming and campaigns. I knew this on the onset, and lets be honest, the cover gives this away, but if this is not your kind of game there is not a lot (there is some!) that this book can give you.

That all being said this book is a fantastic resource for anyone that has ever said "can I use magic to make BLANK?" Where BLANK is anything and everything from clothes that clean themselves, to self-sorting spell components, to fire that heats but won't burn, to well...half a thousand things I have heard from my kids in their 5e games.

While I may have started this review with who this book is not for, who it absolutely IS for is anyone that has ever played an Artificer in 5e or an Alchemist in Pathfinder 2e.

What this book doesn't have, despite the name, is a Witch class. Ah well.

Introduction

We get the basics of this book. In bold letters right in the first line of the first paragraph we get :

> This book is about making things.

You have to appreciate this. Some RPG books are never quite as clear as to what they are about. This book is also about rounding out your character with Trade Classes. Though Trade Professions would likely be a better term. You can take these along with your Fighter, Wizard, or whatever levels. I will get into more details in a bit.

Chapter 1: Domestic Magic

Part 1 of this chapter covers the basics of crafting. The six-step process is listed and then detailed.

  1. Blueprint. You propose a project.
  2. Challenges. The GM imposes a Difficulty Level based on the specifications of the project. They will also list the base materials required to make the crafting attempt at all. (7 levels total)
  3. Preparation. You may prepare for the project in order to improve your chances of success.
  4. Craft Action. You begin the project, rolling to qualify your success.
  5. Fine-tuning. After the rolls are in, you may choose to expend bonuses to alleviate any potential flaws.
  6. Appraising. When all is said and done, the item is created, and its features and flaws known.

The rules here a pretty simple and even elegant in their own ways. It does add to the 5e system as a new sub-system. So while old schoolers will not even blink an eye it does feel "added on." Now this is not a bad thing. It feels like the best system for detailed craftwork, as opposed to say "just roll a d20 and beat this DC."

Part 2 deals with Trade Class basics. This is just a tracking system on how you get better with crafting. Class is kind of a misnomer here since it is not a D&D Class. Trade Profession might have been a better choice. These professions/classes can progress through Tiers (not levels) and have different kinds of media they work in; crystals, drafting, living arts, metals, textiles, and wood.

Part 3 covers Techniques. Or how you can do things. This also covers tools. They are presented like feats but are attached to the Tiers. For example "Green Thumb" does more or less what you think it does. The prereq is "Living Arts or Wood." While presented like a feat, it does not have any "combat" advantages. Certainly lots of role-playing advantages.

Part 4 is Picking Your Trade Class. Here are the actual classes/professions. They are based around the media above. So someone that works with crystals could be Glass Blower or a Mason or a Jeweler. The builds cover what other materials you can work with, what tools you have, and starting techniques. Each media get three example builds.

Chapter 2: Cape Verdigris

Cape Verdigris is a setting where all of this crafting and domestic magic can be seen in use. It lists places of interest, guilds, shops, and many major NPCs. It is designed to be added to pretty much any campaign world.

Chapter 3: A House of Plenty

This is a 40-page complete adventure of a different sort. The goal here is to restore an old manor house to it's former glory using the crafting skills they have learned in this book. So in TV shows, you are trading Sci-Fi or Shudder for HGTV. There is something interesting here and I really admire the authors' choices here.

Chapter 4: Spells

This chapter covers 12 new spells to use in conjunction with the rules.

Chapter 5: Familiars

Also what it says on the cover, this introduces 10 new familiars. Many are fey, others are animals. Greater familiars are also presented here. If you wanted a soot familiar like the ones in "My Neighbor Totoro" or "Spirited Away" then this chapter has you covered.

Chapter 6: Items

Not just magic items but a whole bunch of mundane and domestic magic items as well. The blanket of napping is an easy favorite.

Appendices

Here we get a collection of various stats.

Appendix I. The NPCs from Chapters 2 and 3 get their writeups here. Why not with the chapters? Easy, in the chapters, you are supposed to be focused on who these people are how you interact with them, NOT what their combat stats are.

Appendix II covers unusual trades like healers and wandmakers.

Appendix III has various boons and flaws of the items crafted. These can be minor, major or magical/dangerous for boons and flaws respectively.

Appendix IV is a list of crafting obstacles.

Appendix V cover crafted treasures

Appendix VI is Awakened Objects. So lots of monster stats here.

Appendix VII covers the stats of various objects; HP and AC.

There is a very attractive character sheet in back. The next few pages cover all the designers and artists that helped make this book possible. There is also a list of Kickstarter contributors. Sadly there are a few typos here with some names cut off, some listed more than once. Mine isn't even listed at all.

There is also an index and the OGL statement.

The book really fantastic and joy to look at. The art is great, the layout is wonderful and very easy on the eyes.

The audience for this book is a little slim. There is nothing in this book really that would help in combat, defeating the next big bad (unless he challenges you to a bake-off) or any of the things that people typically associate with D&D. This is much more of a narrative presentation with a lot of role-playing potential.

One of it's strengths though design-wise is that since the crafting system is not inherently tied to D&D5 is can be lifted out and added to other games with only minor tweaking. For example, Chapters 1 to 3 could be lifted out and added to something like Blue Rose AGE edition with a little work.

I would like to recommend this to Old-School gamers. I could something like this working well with a game like Old-school Essentials or The Hero's Journey. But even those games tend to be combat-heavy at times and really don't have much in the way of the need for various crafting. Not to say that some groups or players wouldn't, it's just not universal.

This book is best for the younger D&D 5 player that got into D&D after a steady diet of Minecraft and the ones that loved crafting items in MMORPGs. It is also great for any DM that wants a better handle on making items of any sort.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental
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The Incandescent Grottoes
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2021 10:59:50

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/07/review-old-school-essentials-adventures.html

There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE. I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online. I went back to them and you know what? They are really kind of great.

For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG. The adventure is a 48-page, full-color book. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps. The physical books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

The Incandescent Grottoes by Gavin Norman

This is an introductory adventure designed for characters level 1-2, written by OSE creator Gavin Norman with art by Nate Treme.

The adventure could be considered a dungeon crawl along the lines of Keep on the Borderlands, but like so much of OSE it taps into how the games were played rather than written. The dungeons of IG could be like the Caves of Chaos, but more accurately they are played like Caves of Chaos were played back then. What do I mean? Well, there is a demonic cult here, The Cult of the Faceless Lord. There are factions within the dungeon and how they interact. Plus goals for the various groups of monsters. There are tables of treasures and random occurrences to make exploring this dungeon something players can keep coming back to.

The rooms and areas a very nicely detailed and the whimsical art really adds to the dream-like qualities of the adventure. There is even a dragon waiting for the characters at the end! Ok, it is not a very powerful one, but to 1st and 2nd level characters it is powerful enough. There are some new monsters (the aforementioned dragon) and lots of great encounters.

While there is no overt meta-plot here, one could easily see this as some sort of introduction to a cult of Juiblex vying for control of the Mythic Underworld.

A bit about the name. I can't help but notice that a 1st level adventure into the "Mythic Underground" can be read as "I(n) Can Descen(d)t." I am sure this is intentional.

If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life. While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Incandescent Grottoes
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Halls of the Blood King
Publisher: Necrotic Gnome
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2021 10:59:41

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/07/review-old-school-essentials-adventures.html

There are a lot of great clones out there but right now nothing is scratching my old-school itch quite like OSE. I got my Kickstarter package a bit back and while I was engrossed with the rules of the new books, I utterly failed to give much attention to the two included adventures. That is until I started hearing people talk about them more online. I went back to them and you know what? They are really kind of great.

For this review, I am considering both the hardcover copies I got with the Kickstarter and the PDF copies from DriveThru RPG. The adventure is a 48-page, full-color book. The maps are printed on the inside covers with encounter areas labeled on the maps. The physical books are A5 format (5.8" x 8.3", 148mm x 210mm).

Halls of the Blood King by Diogo Nogueira

Diogo Nogueira has been racking up an impressive list of RPG publications and getting him to pen an adventure for OSE is quite a score. And the adventure is pretty much what I hoped it would be like.

This time the artist is Justine Jones. If the art of Incandescent Grottoes is dream-like then the art here is nightmarish. I mean that in the most positive way.

The adventure is set up in a manner similar to other OSE adventures. We get maps with major encounter areas, descriptions and relationships of the major factions/NPCs/Monsters.

The adventure itself is a castle of a vampire lord for characters of 3rd to 5th level.

Detail-wise this adventure lives somewhere between the sparse-ness Palace of the Vampire Queen and the detail rich Ravenloft. I don't want this to sound like there not a lot of detail here, there is, but there is no over arching epic here. This is great since it allows you to take this adventure and work it into your world much easier. For example with a tweak or two here and there I could make this "Halls of the Blood Queen" and add it rather nicely to my War of the Witch Queens campaign. This would work out well since I am using OSE for that. The only thing stopping me is I have so many Vampire Queens now! But still, it would be fun and very, very easy.

The adventure is also rather good and looks like a lot of fun.

If these are examples of how adventures for OSE are going to be written in the future then OSE is going have a nice long shelf life. While neither adventure is revolutionary in design or concepts they are really good adventures.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Halls of the Blood King
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Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition
Publisher: Frog God Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 07/06/2021 09:19:44

Originally posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/06/review-bunnies-and-burrows-3rd-edition.html

Bunnies & Burrows has always been one of those games that elicits a variety of responses from gamers and non-gamer alike. Most often it is "really? there is a game of that?" I will admit I was and am a fan of the original 1976 Edition. I never really got to play it, save for one time, but that was it. It was fun and I wrote a review for it.

I did, however, spend a lot of time back in 2007 rewriting the Bunnies & Burrows article on Wikipedia. Not only was I and others able to get the article to Good Article status, but I also had a Furry Advocacy group offer to send me money because of it. I just asked them to donate the money to the Humane Society. I didn't want my edits called into question if I Was doing them for pay. I was doing it to further my own RPG knowledge.

So when the Kickstarter for the new edition from Frog God Games came up, well yes, I had to back it. They delivered it and it looked great. And I promptly put it on my shelf never to be seen again. I was cleaning up some shelves to make room for more Traveller books when I found it. I figure I should give it a go again.

If you have never checked out this game then I say do yourself a favor and remedy that. This is a great piece of the RPG past and should not go ignored.

I am going to review Bunnies & Burrows 3rd Edition from Frog God Games. For this review, I am considering both the PDF and the Print version I received from Kickstarter. There is a Print on Demand version, I have not seen it.

Bunnies & Burrows, 3rd Edition

Bunnies & Burrows 3rd Ed comes to us from Frog God Games. Maybe more well known for the Swords & Wizardry line of books than rabbits, this game is still a solid contender for the Old School market. More so I say than some other games that people think of as "Old School."

In this game, you play rabbits. Not anthropomorphic rabbits. Not mutant rabbits. But normal, everyday, common in your backyard rabbits. If this feels a bit "Watership Down" then you are right on track.

Part I: Traits and Characteristics

Characters have 8 base traits, Strength, Speed, Intelligence, Agility, Constitution, Mysticism (was Wisdom in 1st and 2nd Ed), Smell, and Charisma. Different Professions (Runners, Spies, Shamans...) all have a primary trait. Traits are rolled like D&D, 3d6, and the bonuses are similar.

Every profession gets some special abilities. So for example the Fighter gets a double attack and a killing blow. It is assumed that your starting character is a rabbit or bunny.

There are other choices too, Raccoon, Jackrabbit, chipmunk, skunk, porcupine, opossum, armadillo, and gray squirrel. With the examples given, other small furry wild animals could be chosen.

Part II: Playing the Game

This covers the rules of the game and more importantly, the sorts of things you can do in the game. Covered are important topics like Habitats, Grooming, Sleep, Foraging, Diseases, and dealing with other animals and at worse, Man-Things.

There is a huge section on encounters and how basically everything out there is harmful to you. There are predators, humans, dangerous terrain, rival animals, and the ever-present search for food and water.

There are many sample scenarios and even a few mini-games to play.

Part III: For the Gamemaster

The last part covers the last half of the book. It has a lot of information on setting up a game, how to roleplay, and stats of all sorts. A lot of rival and predatory creatures are also listed in what would the "monster" section of other games.

There are a bunch of maps, scenarios, and encounters all throughout the book. There is no unified theme, nothing that ties them all together, other than "survive as a little thing in a world full of bigger, scarier things."

There is certainly a lot of Role-playing potential in that.

B&B makes you feel like it could all be happening in your backyard. That while we Man-Things sit on our decks and grill our burgers and drink out ices tea, there is a world not that far from us distance-wise, but one that is as different and far away as we can get. A world of survival just under our noses. The game is quite attractive in terms of color and art. It looks fantastic.

There is a feel from this, I am going to call it the S&W effect, that I didn't feel when reading the original game. This is a polished game that is trying to feel old. As opposed to an old that was trying to feel polished. The original B&B looks cheap by today's standards but it was such an "out there" idea for the time that it felt more important than say the representation it got in RPG circles. This new B&B has a similar feel, but maybe lacks a little of the gravitas of the original.

In any case, it is a fun game, and one every gamer would at least try. I don't think you can call yourself an old-school gamer unless you have played it at least once.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bunnies and Burrows 3rd Edition
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The Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide
Publisher: Green Ronin Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/23/2021 09:10:46

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/06/review-blue-rose-adventurers-guide.html

I have been on record as being a big fan of Green Ronin's Blue Rose setting, both in its True20 and AGE versions. There is just something about it that I find very, very compelling and think it makes for a fantastic game and game world.

I am also on record as being a huge fan of D&D 5th Edition. While it wont replace my beloved Basic D&D it will sit on my shelves and game table very happily right next to it.

So what happens when Green Ronin decides to take their Blue Rose world and used the D&D 5th edition rule system? Well, you get the best of both worlds! Let's look into this RPG chocolate and peanut butter creation and see what we have. My only fear is that some of the things that made Blue Rose so special might get lost here. Let's find out.

You do not need the Blue Rose core rules to play this, but you do need the D&D 5th Edition rules.

The Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide (5e)

For this review I am considering the PDF and POD versions I purchased from DriveThruRPG. Note: As of the date of this writing the POD is no longer available. I suspect this has to do with the change in printing costs for "Premium Color" prints. There was a successful Kickstarter (that I missed) to fund a traditional print run. It looks like there will offset printing ready for your FLGS by the end of 2021. I guess I better hold on to my now collector's item!

The book is 176 pages with full-color art throughout. Once again the cover art is by the incredible Stephanie Pui-Mun Law who has given us the look and feel I associate with Blue Rose. All of the art, as far as I can tell, has been used before in the AGE version of Blue Rose. I do not see this as a problem. The art is so tied to Blue Rose for me that I would have a difficult time seeing anything else. So this is a positive in my mind.

It is hard to believe that it was four years ago that I reviewed the "new" Blue Rose AGE edition. So a lot of what I said there will apply here.

Introduction

This section from developer Steve Kenson introduces us to Green Ronin and Blue Rose. It is a nice reminder that Green Ronin's DNA is deeply sequenced with D&D. Many of the founders and developers at GR can trace their careers back AD&D 2nd Ed, D&D 3.x, and D&D 5. These are not "johnny come latelys" these are people with a strong and credible background in game design and D&D in particular. This also covers some naming conventions. "Sorcery" from the True20 and AGE versions has been renamed "The Occult" here, so as not to confuse with the sorcerer class. Similar distinctions are made later on with Priests and Clerics when dealing with the various theocracies.

Chapters 1 through 7

These chapters all deal with the history, people, and geography of the World of Aldea. They are,in order, The World of Aldea, The Kingdom of Aldis, The Theocracy of Jarzon, The Khanate of Rezea, The Thaumocracy of Kern, The Matriarch of Lar'tya, and On the Borders.

While these sections are nearly identical to similar sections in the Blue Rose core rules AGE edition, they are not a copy and paste. I covered those in my Blue Rose review. The differences here are now largely one of rules setting. Details have been edited to better fit the D&D 5e rules.

This also works well as an overview for anyone wanting to play in Aldea regardless of which rules (True20, AGE, D&D5) they want to use.

Chapter 8: Aldean Ancestries

We are moving away from the old concept of race in D&D and I could not be happier. This chapter gives us a good example of how this can be done moving forward. There is a natural familiarity here for anyone coming to this version of BR from the True20 one. The ancestries of the world of Aldea are here and how they can be played in D&D 5. If you are thinking ahead then YES, you can now use Rhydan and Sea-folk in your regular D&D game.

What was "race" is not split off into Ancestries (your "genetics" as it were) and Culture (where you were raised). This is particularly useful in the cosmopolitan world that is Aldea and in particular Aldis. Sure you might a Night Person, but you were raised in a villa on the Northside of Garnet. Your best friend is a Sea-folk and you spent more time on the waterways than whatever stereotypical things people think Night Folk do. Sure you might be naturally strong and fierce-looking, but the only battles you have ever been in are the Poetry competitions in Garnet. Which by the way are pretty damn fierce in their own right. In my Blue Rose games, Garnet has annual poetry competitions that have all vibe and energy of an epic Rap-battle. The top prize is a lot of money, but more importantly, bragging rights.

I would like to say this should be back-ported into D&D, but I am pretty sure we will see this in future versions anyway. This is an improvement. Character customization at a new level.

Chapter 9: Aldean Classes

Ah. Here is what I waiting on. Blue Rose AGE and True20 versions only has three classes. An while this works remarkably well, D&D has a bit more. So in the proud tradition of so many D&D 5 books, this book offers new takes on all the standard classes. I want to focus here on just a couple I really like.

The Monk gains the Blue Rose Spirit Dancers in the Way of the Spirit Dance and makes it better than the sum of it's parts. I have never been a big fan of monks, I have only played one in my 40+ years of gaming. The Blue Rose spirit dancers were a great concept, but again, not something I would play. This new Way of the Spirit Dancer Monk is better than either and yes I would play one. Imagine an acrobat with ballet training and grace and mix that in with aikido and karate. Yes, that is basically Gymkata (Gods of Light help me) but so much better really.

Paladins get the Oath of the Rose and really just become the Knights I was always playing in BR anyway, but nice to see them on paper.

Warlocks. You knew I was coming here. We get two Patrons here (from the Primordial Gods), the Autumn King and the Winter Queen. A Winter Queen warlock is indistinguishable from how I like to play witches as to be the exact same thing. But honestly, I expected nothing less from Steve Kenson and line developer Joseph Carriker.

Wizards get a little psychic in School of the Psyche. I would run wizards with a pretty tight hand in Blue Rose 5e. Not because of the lack of magic, just the opposite, there is a ton of magic in this world.

These all are designed well for the World of Aldea, but I'd be crazy not to play a Queen of Winter Warlock.

We also get some Feats to help round out some of the powers that characters can get in Blue Rose-AGE. Not a lot, but 5e is not as feat-heavy as 3 was.

Chapter 10: Aldean Backgrounds

Aldea is a new world so there are some modified and new backgrounds for it. The best is the Reawakened. Or the reincarnation background. You know I am going to use that!

Chapter 11: Aldean Arcana

This covers the magic in Aldea including the Occult (what was called Sorcery). Some spells from the Player's Handbook/SRD are marked as "Occult" spells.

I would have loved to see some new spells here, but I would need to go through both the Blue Rose book and the PHB to see if there is anything missing.

We get some new magic items including Ancestral and Rhydan ones as well as Occult Artifacts (great for any game).

Chapter 12: Aldean Creatures

This covers the monsters and creatures we find in Aldea not in the Monster Manual/SRD. There are some important alterations to some creatures such as Griffons, Centaurs, the Fey, and undead, to correspond to the world better. We also get Clockwork creatures, "upgraded" Fey Lords, and slightly different Fiends. Rhydan also get updated 5e style stats.

Shadow of Tanglewood

This is an included adventure for four to six 1st level Blue Rose heroes.

There is an Index and the OGL statement.

While I was worried that some of the charms of Blue Rose AGE would be lost here there is more than enough to make up for it. I mean there are no stunts or any of the other nice features of the AGE rules. There is no conversion matrix for bringing over characters from one game to the other. But this book plays to the strengths of D&D 5e and still manages to give us an Aldea that feels special.

What might have been lost from the AGE (or even True20) version is more than made up for with D&D5. It's not exactly the same, but it is every bit as fun.

Who Should Buy This Book?

If you are a Blue Rose fan and a D&D fan then get this book. If you are a Blue Rose player/GM/fan and your group is playing D&D 5 then you should get this book. If you are a D&D 5 player, and you are curious about Blue Rose, Aldea, and the City of Aldis then most certainly get this book.

One of the great strengths of this book is it ability to introduce the concepts of Blue Rose and its world to a bunch of new players. Honestly D&D 5 players should be grabbing this book.

If I were Green Ronin, I'd put a Quick Start adventure using Blue Rose 5e with some very simple concepts from the game. Don't include character creation, but instead have a set of pre-made characters including a Night Person, a Rhy-Cat (or Rhy-Bear), a Sea Folk, and a Vata. Show off their strengths and then get a group of YouTubers to play it. I know my youngest's group would eat this up in a heartbeat. Slap a giant ad in the back for both versions of the game.

Now I just need a set of Blue Rose 5e dice to go with my set of Blue Rose AGE d6s.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Blue Rose Adventurer's Guide
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The Runewild Campaign Setting
Publisher: Sneak Attack Press
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/17/2021 12:50:47

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/06/review-runewild-campaign-setting.html

Putting the Hex into hex crawls. A while back I mentioned the Runewild Campaign Setting Kickstarter. I was quite excited about it and happily backed it. I got my books and my PDFs, but it was in the middle of my Covid-19 fueled busy summer last year. The book has been sitting on my desk, mostly ignored since then.

That is a damn shame.

With all the fun I have been having with Van Richten Guide to Ravenloft lately I wanted to revisit this book and see what I can add to it from this book. The short answer? A lot. So much in fact that while there are some great ideas in this book for Ravenloft, there is a TON more for my War of the Witch Queens campaign for Basic-era (B/X, BECMI, OSE) D&D.

So for this review, I am going to refer to both the Softcover print and the PDF.

The Runewild Campaign Setting

Published by Sneak Attack Press, written by William Fischer, art by Joyce Maureira, and Cartography by Toy Fayen. 306 pages. Full-color covers and interior art. Available in PDF, Hardcover, and Softcover versions. For 5th Edition, recommended levels are 1 to 10. Available on DriveThruRPG and at your FLGS.

The PDF is fully bookmarked with hyperlinked Table of Contents.

The Runewild Campaign Setting (Runewild) is overtly a "Dark Fantasy fairy tale" campaign sandbox guide and a hex crawl in one volume. That is it in a nutshell but does not really do it justice. Best to break it up a little more.

From the introduction,

This book includes:

  • A history of the Runewild and its surrounding settlements
  • 150 detailed encounter areas for player characters to explore
  • 8 new Backgrounds and a new Feat: Fey-Touched
  • 21 unique magic items (like witch embers and the staff of clarity and confusion)
  • 32 new monsters (including clockwork dwarves, fey lions, giant forest sloths, and the terrifyingly beautiful Golden Bodach)
  • Detailed descriptions of the histories, motivations, and weaknesses of the witches of the Runewild, including the Whitebone Sisters; Missus Switch, the swine hag; Korthsuva, the Witch of Hours; and the Hag Queen Griselda, Mother of Ogres
  • New optional rules for exploration and resting
  • Advice for running a sandbox campaign
  • Dozens of random tables designed to help GMs make a Runewild campaign their own

That is quite a lot. Frankly, I was just happy getting the material on the Witches of the Runewild, the rest is gravy for me. I turn the page and suddenly my "gravy" turns into another dessert course when I am introduced to the "Witch Wars." Oh. This will be fun.

The book is split into four sections, Running the Runewild, Magic of the Runewild, A Runewild Gazeteer, A Runewild Bestiary.

Running the Runewild: This section covers what the Runewild is and a bit of its history. It also introduces the idea of a Sandbox Campaign. While many gamers of a certain age will already be familiar with the idea of a sandbox (and even where the term comes from) this might be new to the majority of younger D&D players. No inditement of their experience; everyone learns something new at different times. This is a good overview of this style of play for the newer generation of players.

The advice given about Sandboxes vs. Adventure Path is solid and there is even something here that warms the cockles of my old-school heart. To quote page 10, "e of the greatest difficulties in running a sandbox-style campaign is balancing encounters. In short, there are no balanced encounters in the Runewild." Players and Characters need to get used to the idea of running away.

While this might be a shift for some 5e players, it is not a hard or difficult one. In fact, it is presented in the light of the characters have the ultimate freedom to do what they want. It is wonderful really and to quote Darkseid from the Synder Cut of Justice League, "we will use the old ways."

The Old Ways describes Runewild to a tee.

Among the "old ways" are plenty of Random Encounter tables with brief descriptions of what is encountered. Adventure Hook tables, Scenery tables, Fey prank tables, general Runewild strangeness, random animals, random NPCs, and more. For new schoolers, this will make the area feel vibrant and alive. For new schoolers, this will feel strangely homelike. Note at this point, 30 pages in, there has been very, very little in the way of stats. An encounter with a Skeleton is listed for example, but where you look up your skeleton is up to you.

We do get into Runewild Backgrounds which are 5e backgrounds. For 5e they are great really, lots of great information here, and none of them feel overpowering (they grant a skill and a tool proficiency and usually a language) for other games, you can use the native skill system (Trained would be the equivalent in 3e, free Proficiency in AD&D 1.5) or wing it. One of my favorites is a Polymorphed Animal. You used to be a normal animal and now thanks to strange magic you are human-ish. Really fun stuff.

Magic of Runewild: This section covers some more game-specific information such as some new feats, curses, and new magic items (lots of these). But the star attraction of this section has to be the Goblin Market. There is so much here and frankly, they could have published this on its own and it would have been a great seller. There are random tables of trinkets, goblin charms, treasures, and of course a list of vendors and encounters.

One thing that I felt was missing from this section? Spells. There are no new spells here.

A Runewild Gazetteer. This starts out with the hex maps of the Runewild. Numbered just like all old-school hex maps too! The hex encounters are then detailed throughout the chapter with a corresponding Challenge Rating. An improvement from older Hex crawls to be sure. So yeah the party of first-level characters can enter a CR 0 hex with no problem and come out ok. They can also enter into a CR 10 hex with the same level of difficulty (that is, none at all) but they are not going to leave it as easily! That's a hex crawl. There are no signs saying "You Must Be Level 5 or higher to Enter" if the player goes there, then their characters will pay the price.

Each hex of course has different levels of detail, but they are all given some quick bullet points to help the DM out. For example:

2. The Last Tower (CR 4)

A ghost haunts the tower Ten giant rats feast on bandit corpses in the tower’s basement The bandits carried stolen treasure

Then more details follow. NPCs are noted ad are monsters. There are maps where needed (even a player's map in a few cases!) and yes more random tables. There are 150 such encounter areas and it covers a little over 200 pages. Some encounters are a paragraph or so, others are multiple pages.

A Runewild Bestiary: Now you know I love this section. There are over 30 new monsters, monster variants, and (and this is my favorite) listings of The Witches of Runewild. This includes a bunch of various witches (mostly hags), new types of hags, and the two major and one minor covens. Again, if they had sold this separately I would have scooped it up the moment it hit DriveThru.

There is no Witch Class. Part of me is disappointed, but another part is happy since I can now do what I want with them.

The chapter and book ends with Monster Variants.

The art in this book is quite great and helps give the proper mood for this dark fairy tale land.

This is a wonderful book and resource and I am very pleased with it. My only regret with it is I wish I had picked up the Hardbound version instead!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Runewild Campaign Setting
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X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/02/2021 13:27:44

UPDATED

What can I possibly say about Castle Amber? This adventure had always been something of a Holy Grail quest for me. I was a huge fan of Tom Moldvay, I had heard this adventure took place in Glantri and it was full of horror elements. As time went on and I still never found a copy I began to hear more; that it was a crazy dungeon full of crazier NPCs. That it is was more of a thinking module and not a hack and slash one and finally, it was heavily influenced by Clark Ashton Smith, whom I always felt was superior to Lovecraft in many respects.

I did finally get a copy from my FLGS, paid a lot for it, and I also got a copy from DriveThruRPG. The module lives up to the hype. It is not a particularly easy module to run and you better spend a lot of time with it. But for me at that time (the mid-90s when I finally got a copy) it became a great addition to my growing Ravenloft collection. It was not officially part of Ravenloft mind you, but so much of it feels the same that it would have been a crime not to bring them together.

Later I ran it for my family under D&D 5e rules and it quickly became one of their most favorite adventures ever. I started a trend in my family's games; they love anything done by Tom Moldvay.

Castle Amber is an adventure for characters level 3 to 6 for the D&D Expert Set. It was written by Tom Moldvay, who gave us D&D Basic set half of the B/X D&D line. This adventure shows that. While the Expert set was more focused on wilderness adventures, this is a romp through a "haunted house." For many gamers of a certain age this became the template for all sorts of Haunted House dungeons that are still being published today.

Physically the original adventure was a 28 page book with color covers by Erol Otus with the maps of the titular castle in old-school blue on the inside covers. The art inside is black and white and done primarily by Jim Holloway. The art has a duel effect here. Otus was the prime B/X cover artist, so the feel here is 100% his weird fantasy vibe of B/X. Jim Holloway was also at this time the primary artist for the Horror game Chill. Come for the weirdness, stay for the horror.

The adventure is overtly an homage to the tales of Clark Ashton Smith. The area where it all takes place, Averoigne, is used right out of the works of CAS. The Amber family would fit right-in in one of his tales and that is the Colossus of Ylourgne, or rather his D&D counterpart, on the cover. The adventure even includes a reading guide for those that want to read up on the tales of CAS, and I highly recommend doing so.

CAS, and his contemporary H.P. Lovecraft, were no strangers to the D&D world by 1981. Indeed Molday's pulp sensibilities shine throughout in this adventure as much as they did with X1 The Isle of Dread and B4 The Lost City. All three adventures have also been updated by Goodman Games for 5e in their hardcover Original Adventures Reincarnated series, making Moldvay their most reprinted designer. Even more than Gygax himself who as of this writing only has 1, soon to be 2.

There is a lot to love about this adventure too. There are monsters to kill yes, but this is not a kick in the doors and kill the monster sort of deal. There is a mood and atmosphere here. In fact this is the prototype for the horror adventures of later date, in particular Ravenloft (which I will discuss).

On one hand, we have a haunted house filled with the not-quite-dead members of the Amber family. This can be a pulpy nightmare or even a Gothic tale. The room with the Tarot cards and their abilities gives us a sneak peak of some the things we will see in Ravenloft. On the other we have creatures from beyond that are quite Lovecraftian. The Neh-Thalggu, or the Brain Collector, is a creepy ass aberration that can give the Mi-Go a run for their money.

There is travel to other worlds via some strange mists and 16 new monsters. Some of these monsters also appeared in The Isle of Dread, but here they feel a bit different. Plus what other B/X D&D book can you name that has "Demons" and "Pagans" in it.

The background of this is rich enough that you want more of it. More on Averoigne and its connection to Glantri, more on the Amber family, and more on the world that this adventure implies. It is no surprise really that much of this adventure and what it all implies found welcome homes in the BECMI version of Glantri.

For me though the best connection is the one to Ravenloft. I have to admit the last time I ran this adventure I made the tie-ins to Ravenloft more specific, but I did not have to do much. I have to admit I was rather gleeful inside at the scene where they have to run from the "Grey Mists" to get into the castle.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
X2 Castle Amber (Basic)
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