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Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)

Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)
From: Wizards of the Coast
Reviewed by: Ron W McClung

dndphb1Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition) is a new RPG Core Rulebook from Wizards of the Coast.

Much has been said about the staggered release of the new D&D rulebooks and as much as I understand the complaints, I don’t really think it is all that big of deal in the grand scheme of things.  Some say that the staggered release will hurt D&D’s chances of gaining any ground lost to Pathfinder but I seriously do not see it.  Come December when the DMG is finally out, people are going to forget all about the staggered release and invest a lot of time in whatever game they choose.

The first of this staggered release is of course, the Player’s Handbook – the much anticipated herald of the three book series that preports to ring in a new era for Dungeons & Dragons and roleplaying in general.  While I am not sure I totally believe that, the new version of D&D does give me a lot of hope for the industry and for D&D in general.  I have already reviewed the Dungeons & Dragons Starter Set and in fact, have run it a couple of times already.  You can also read in that review my limited experience with D&D in the past and how it has evolved to this point.  You can also see a review of the free Basic Rules here in The Gamers Codex, exploring the basics of the system and what changes WotC previewed there.

From the back cover:
“The Player’s Handbook is the essential reference for every Dungeons & Dragons roleplayer.”

The new Core system to D&D has been talked about enough in the other two reviews.  The basics are similar to 3rd edition but with some extra fun mechanics like Advantage and Disadvantage.  What this review will cover is what new things the PHB brings to the table that you did not see in the previous products and perhaps give you some reasons to buy the product.

The book is divided up into 3 major parts – Creating a Character, Playing the Game, and Rules of Magic.  All three are fairly straight forward.  Comparing the three PHBs I have available to me (2nd Edition, 3rd Edition and 5th Edition), it already appears to be more organized and is more robust with equal elements story, role play options and statistical information.


First and foremost, the PHB expands the number of races the player can play.  The Basic Rules provide some basic races – Dwarf, Elf, Halfling, and Human.  Rest assured, that is not a complete list of races available in D&D.  A total of 9 races are presented in detail.  Along with the Basic Rules races, it adds the less common races – Dragonborn, Gnome, Half-Elf, Half-Orc, and Tiefling.  Some races have subraces including a few more for the Basic Rules races.  Humans, for example, include 9 different ethnicities (and typical names) native to the Forgotten Realms setting.

The races I am least familiar with are the Teifling and the Dragonborn, although my diehard and veteran D&D friends are familiar enough with them.  They were introduced in the PHB in 4th Edition, as part of the further embracing of Forgotten Realms as the default setting.  Some diehards are not pleased with that embracing.  My opinion of it really doesn’t matter but it is one of the more intimidating parts of getting into D&D for the first time.  I never ran it until 5th edition but there is so much about Forgotten Realms I know nothing about.

The Classes in the PHB are Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, Rogue, Sorcerer, Warlock, and Wizard.  Classes look a lot their 3rd edition versions.  They have been simplified with new elements like the Proficiency bonus replacing skills and attack bonus, as mentioned in previous reviews.   The customization options of each class are what stands out to me.  The Barbarians, for example, have Primal Paths, Bards have Bardic Colleges,  Druids have Circles and Fighters have Archetypes.  No two Barbarians, Bard or Fighters will be the same and the same holds true for the rest of the classes.  Of course, you can easily see future books with more options for each class.

From the back cover:
“The world needs heroes.  Will you answer the call?”

The D&D (5th edition) Player’s Handbook has many elements in it to help the player not only build his character statistically, but also his character’s story and role playing aspects.  Personality and Background are two aspects that are expounded upon a little further.  Relating Backgrounds to something I am more familiar with, 5th edition Backgrounds are very similar to the aspect of the same name in d20 Modern.  It expands on your class a little further and gives you a little more about where your character came from.

Backgrounds are also helpful in determining Personality Traits, although a player is not restricted to the ones provided in each Background.  Personality Traits are divided up into three primary aspects – Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws.  Barrowing from games like True20 (Virtues & Vices) and the like, these three items round out the character and add a little dimension to the character.

Sadly, this is something a DM would hope his players would come up with on their own, but as many know, not all players are that creative in making a background.  Some players simply don’t get the purpose of the background and make it boring and absent of plot hooks.  They see it as something the DM uses to manipulate the character and that is so wrong.  One of my favorite products of all time is the Central Casting background generator books (Heroes of Legends, Heroes of Tomorrow, and Heroes Now!).  I used to make it a mandatory thing to use them because my players never really gave me multi-dimensional characters.  The difference between a sheet with numbers on them and a living breathing character is usually the background and the various hooks that can come from it.  I am very encouraged that the Player’s Handbook in this edition of D&D has some focus on that.

This is one area I wish the book spent a little more page-count on.  Although there is ample background and related personality trait tables to get started, it did leave me wanting more.  I hope there will be future focus on this.  This is the first time I really felt like a D&D character was more than a sheet of numbers and words.  Of course, this is highly tied to the setting, sometimes, so I hope the setting books that are released (or the subsequent Player’s Guides) include more background and personality trait options.

Tying all this back into the game mechanic is a concept called Inspiration.  This is of course mentioned some in the Basic Rules as well as the Starter Set.  This too has been covered enough, but I do want to say that I like this aspect a lot.  Having played many other games where the players has a means to save himself (Savage Worlds with Bennies, True20 with Conviction Points, and D6 System with Character and Force Points), this was needed badly in the world’s most famous role playing game.

What I find interesting about Inspiration is that you are limited to one at any given time.  You have to spend it to get another.  Unlike other games where players can sandbag points like this and unload them on the DM at the “boss fight”, Inspiration puts the character in the dramatic dilemma of when to use that one favor from the gods.  Although I did not initially like that aspect of Inspiration, in practice, it is very fun to play.

A player can do further customization of one’s character, as explained in the Customization chapter of Part 1.  This is where multi-classing is explained and this gets into the least favorite part of the book.  It seems to me they made multi-classing a little more complicated, especially for magic users.  Spell casting and Spells slots, especially if you multi-class into more than one magic user class, get understandably complex.  There is some simple number crunching and logic to work through.

Feats return in this edition.  At the heart of 3rd edition bloat, Feats are one of those things that D&D fans loved or hated.  How the designers decided to work them into the mechanic really shows they listened to the fans.  First, they mitigate the bloat a little by limiting how often you can get feats.  They also make it an optional rule, keeping those that hate Feats happy.  Of course, over time, as more and more expansion books come out, the Feat list will grow but characters won’t be overloaded with a ton of them to keep up with.  You can choose to gain a Feat in exchange from the ability score bump you get each at certain levels. At most, a character will have 5 or 6 Feats.

Now these are not your typical 3rd Edition feats, however.  These pack a little more of a punch, since they are the alternative to something you only get every four levels or so.  There are a total of 43 Feats and the only thing I wish they had added was a table list of them with summarized notes of their benefits.

Part 2 dives into the mechanics of the game, which was partially revealed in the Basic Rules but expanded upon a little more in the PHB.  Ability Scores, Proficiency Bonuses, Saving Throws, and Passive Checks have all been pretty well covered in other reviews.  They are basically a logical simplification of 3rd edition concepts, with a lot of influence from other editions as well.

The Combat section is noticeably different from previously editions.  The tactical complexities of Full Actions, Standard Actions and Free Actions are far more simplified.  There is less stuff about the tactical options available players and more general information about what can be done in a round.  Combat in past editions felt like a strict table top board game or miniature game and in this, it feels more like a role playing game.  However, don’t get me wrong, I like some of the tactical complexities and as I understand it, they are going to be presented as options in the Dungeon Master’s Guide.

Advantage and Disadvantage is also a new mechanic introduced and although we have talked about it some in previous reviews, I have run D&D 5e now a couple of times and have seen it in practice.  I am not sure of the mathematics of the system – if it truly does give a significant advantage or disadvantage to the player (a much more math-inclined person than me can figure that out) but in game, it has a great effect.  It is dynamic and creates a very tense situation when a person has to roll more than one die.  It is a fun mechanic and that is what a game is all about.

Part 3 ends the book with the much maligned or anticipated (depending on your perspective) new magic system, that is not exactly new but at least better than the last one.  To many 4th edition fans chagrin, it is a return to the Vancian style magic system that seem to take the back stage in 4e.  But with Spells lists and Spells Slots, it is much more simplified and logical than past editions like 3rd editions (and its other incarnations).  I avoided magic users in previous editions (when I played) because it was too complex for me to deal with.  And the session by session maintenance of Spells Known vs.  Spells per Day was frustrating.  I can wrap my head around this system a little better.

The Vancian system returns the magic users to the thematically roles they were meant to be – scholars of magic and arcane knowledge and restricted by the nature of magic and the source they are gaining it from.  Thematically, I felt that D&D was not D&D without Vancian magic.  As I understand it, the previous edition all but abandoned Vancian magic and most that adhered to that edition are angry about the return.  To that, all that can be said is that the market has spoken.  Right or wrong, Vancian magic is D&D and D&D is Vancian magic.

Is it balanced?  So far, I see a lot of attempts to not only balance it at low levels but keep it balanced as the characters goes up in levels.  The Spells Slots and Casting at Higher Levels is at the heart of this balancing effort.  Sure you can cast a Magic Missile that causes 12d4 but you have to spend a higher level spell slot for that spell.  Suddenly, Magic Missile becomes that level of a spell.

Ritual Spells is another aspect that is refreshing.  You don’t always have to have a spell prepared to caste it.  If you have time, you can cast it as a Ritual Spell.  Only certain spells can be done that way, but most are logical.

In conclusion, I think it is clear I am a fan of this new edition.  Until this edition, I have either not had a chance or purposely avoided playing D&D and this edition has pulled me in.  My only major complaint is the price tag.  Where their competition is able to put together a huge book that virtually includes both the PHB and DMG in one, for a lower price, the fine folks at WotC put a larger price tag on a smaller book and stagger the release so it won’t hurt the budget as bad.  Is it worth it?  I say it is, but I am not sure everyone is going to agree.

Outside the monetary issues, the book is hardy and the art is phenomenal.  The layout is on par with other editions although I would have liked to see a few more lists then they provided.  The index is really tiny print, and forces this old man to use his reading glasses.

I give this a Codex Rating of 19 because this is a big hit for me.  It not only revived my faith in the guys behind D&D but also in the D&D line in general.  It has pulled me in pretty strongly and for the first time, I am running a fantasy game. It is enjoyable and I look forward to a whole new bookshelf of 5e books as they put them out.

For more details on Wizards of the Coast and their new RPG Core RulebookDungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)” check them out at their website http://dnd.wizards.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Dungeons & Dragons: Player’s Handbook (5th Edition)
From: Wizards of the Coast
Type of Game: RPG Core Rulebook
D&D Lead Designers: Mike Mearls, Jeremy Crawford
Rules Development: Rodney Thompson, Peter Lee
Writing: James Wyatt, Robert J. Schwalb, Bruce R. Cordell
Editing: Michele Carter, Chris Sims, Scott Fitzgerald Gray, Christopher Perkins
Producer: Greg Bilsland
Art Directors: Kate Irwin, Dan Gelon, Jon Schindehette, Mari Kolkowsky, Melissa Rapier, Shauna Narciso
Graphic Designers: Bree Heiss, Emi Tanji, Barry Craig
Cover Illustrator: Tyler Jacobson
Interior Illustrator: (Entirely too many to list, see handbook for list)
Additional Contributors: Kim Mohan, Matt Sernett, Chris Dupuis, Tom LaPille, Richard Baker, Miranda Horner, Jennifer Clarke Wilkes, Steve Winter, Nina Hess, Steve Townshend, Chris Youngs, Ben Petrisor, Tom Olsen
Project Management: Neil Shinkle, Kim Graham, John Hay
Production Services: Cynda Callaway, Brian Dumas, Jefferson Dunlap, David Gershman, Anita Williams
Brand and Marketing: Nathan Stewart, Liz Schuh, Chris Lindsay, Shelly Mazzanoble, Hilary Ross, Laura Tommervik, Kim Lundstrom, Trevor Kidd
Number of Pages: 321
Game Components Included: Core Player’s Handbook
Game Components Not Included: Monster Manual, Dungeon Master Guide (to be released later)
Retail Price: $49.95(US)
Website: http://dnd.wizards.com/

Reviewed by: Ron W McClung


Interview with Steven T. Helt, writer for Cross Of Fire Saga Adventure Path

Steven T. Helt is Paizo’s RPG Superstar for 2013 and the project coordinator and a writer for Cross Of Fire Saga Adventure Path for the Pathfinder RPG.  Steven took a few minutes of his time to answer some questions about his Kickstarter.

 Thank you Steven for taking the time to answer a few questions.

Thanks, Ron. I’m grateful for the chance to talk about this project. It has been a fun experience….if a little creepy.

Tell us a little about yourself and your gaming experience, Steven.

I played my first session of AD&D back in 5th grade. A friend’s brother ran us through Queen of the Demonweb Pits. We were massacred but I was hooked. I started designing adventures and running my own scenarios in middle school, but never thought of it as more than a hobby until my mid 30s. I won the Iron GM world championship twice and really got a taste for writing and design as I improved my game behind the screen. I’ve been playing and running RPGs for 32 years.

Since I won RPG Superstar in 2013, I have put together a writing group of fantastic design minds. We’re working to build a reputation as the guys who design things players and GMs salivate over. Fortunately, the publishers we’ve worked with have said very pleasant things and we are already scheduled for a lot of releases with different companies over the next couple of years.

I pitched an offer to develop the Cross of Fire Saga Adventure Path for Louis, crafted the plot from his framework, and now we have a really excellent cast finishing their drafts so our backers know they have already-finished adventures waiting for them when the KS campaign concludes.

How did the Cross Of Fire Saga come about and could you give us a brief description of the Adventure Path?

Louis asked us to write each of the adventures just after we committed to a few other large projects. To make sure he still got what he needed on time, I offered to join the project as author/developer and find him authors with known names who could pick up the writing task that the Four Horsemen couldn’t commit to. Of course, Pestilence is superhuman, so he signed on for a full adventure by himself. But we also got Victoria Jaczko (RPG Superstar 2014), Scott Fernandez (Paizo contributor and Superstar finalist), Jeff Lee, who has designed for several companies, and our third Horseman Dan Dillon. Dan is a crucail addition for the CoF backers becuase when it comes to traps and adventure inspired by dangerous old-school games, Dan is…well….vicious.

Cross of Fire is the first adventure path for the larger Obsidian Apocalypse setting templates. In Jeff Lee’s intro adventure, the players are transported to Abaddon—a harsh realm of post-apocalyptic horror. Their best chance to get home is to follow the lead of a vagabond mystic—someone the PCs can’t fully trust, but at the same time is obviously motivated to help them. Travel in Abaddon is hard, even for high level characters, so across the hard terrain and harder people of the land, the PCs work to locate the missing elements they need to unite in the saga’s conclusion in order to return home. Unfortunately, they have enemies that seek to manipulate them and at any given time their allies aren’t much better. Cross of Fire is gritty and violent and tells a unique horror story the whole way through.

The plot for the saga is something I am really proud of. We’re big fans of turning tropes on their heads, so you can’t take anything for granted. We also have a knack for breathing life into the Maguffin so everything has a detailed story and purpose. The things you need to achieve victory in the Cross of Fire finale have a life of their own and are as dangerous to the PCs as they are to the PCs’ nemesis.

What is it about the Ravenloft and Dark Sun settings that inspired the setting? And what about Abaddon do you think will pull players in?  What makes it unique?

For me, those two settings had defining art and a very specific feel. I think what’s great about working with Louis is you know you’re going to get quality art. The setting material for Obsidian Apocalypse is built around templates, so you can actually sort of choose the post-poc campaign your group wants. Maybe you want a setting where undeath spreads across the world. Obsidian Apocalypse gives you material to focus the horror in that direction. In the Cross of Fire adventures, we’ve blended elements of Lovecraftian horror from beyond, wickedly powerful undead, and the unparalleled cruelty of mortal races pushed to the brink for survival. Some of the most amazing moments in this saga come from less supernatural threats. Just communities very low on hope and trust, and already pushed well past the point of showing charity to strangers.

Great settings have a certain voice but also have some flexibility in that voice, and I think Raveloft was like that and carries into Abaddon for Pathfinder players.

What do you see for the future of Cross Of Fire Saga

Obviously that’s in the hands of Louis and the backers. I will say this: Cross of Fire deserves to be backed at a very high level. It’s not very often that you see a group of designers include two RPG Superstars, a Superstar finalist, and three Iron GMs. The authors of these adventures haven’t been afraid to tackle some difficult material and have honestly knocked it out of the park. If you want to see more adventures designed by teams of well-known freelancers, this is the Kickstarter campaign that will make that happen.

One other thing: the Four Horsemen have always pledged a little extra free content for everything we write. Backers of Cross of Fire will get more options, maybe even another adventure, if they fund us at a higher level, and we won’t charge Louis or the backers at all for that extra content. Give us your trust, and we will give you an adventure path you will never forget.

Thanks, Steven T. Helt, for you time.  Cross Of Fire Saga Kickstarter is opens this Wednesday, 10/1/14.  Please check it out and back it.

The Red Dragon Inn

The Red Dragon Inn

From: Slugfest Games

Reviewed by:W. E. Mitchell

The Red Dragon Inn is a new fantasy title from Slugfest Games.

The Red Dragon Inn answers the question of what is the party to do once the Dark Lord has been defeated and his many eyed hench-things are weeping floods of salty tears in forgotten dungeons. This game allows two to four players to gamble away their blood money and consume copious amounts of fantasy themed cocktails. Last one able to stagger out the door with some gold still in their scripts is the winner.

From the box:
“The adventure’s over, but the party’s just getting started!”

The Red Dragon Inn is built around the idea of what a party does after their adventure is complete. Players pick one of four characters of standard D&D flavor classes and tries to be the last character to not pass out and not go broke. Each character has its own deck that the player’s hands are built from.

Players can choose from four different characters. Additional character decks can be purchased from SlugFest Games to expand the number of people who can play. The characters included are:

Diedre the Priestess, her goddess keeps her protected from physical harm, but she tends to be a cheap date.

Fiona the Volatile, a hot headed fighter so she can down the drinks and take the licks with the best of them, but isn’t so good at keeping her money.

Zot the Wizard, a wizard of the first order, great at cards and hurting others, but his familiar has a taste for flesh.

Gerki the Sneak, a lovable rogue who has an impressive winning streak at gambling. His deck has seven aces.

Each character has pros and cons and lots of flavor. The different abilities translate as to what action cards are available in the deck. Fiona hates bikini jokes, Gerki has a ton of cheat cards that let him win at gambling, and Zot uses his magic to mess with people. Any action that a player chooses has the possibility to be canceled, altered or redirected by a specific card that their opponent may have in their hand.

From the back of the box:
“Drink, gamble, and roughhouse with your friends. But don’t forget to keep an eye on your gold.”

Play consists of using one of the character specific cards to mess with the other players or initiate a round of gambling, giving another player a drink from the Drink Deck, and then consuming a drink themselves. Drinking involves flipping over a drink card and following the instructions there on, which usually means advancing the alcohol counter. If the alcohol counter meets the fortitude counter, the colors swirl and a dirt nap calls. Once passed out, the player is out of the game and any remaining gold gets split between the hefty bar tab and the rest of the players. This is one of the few things that I dislike about this game. When somebody passes out, or loses all of their money, they are out of the game. If this happens early enough, the player can spend quite a while with nothing to do but watch the other players. The majority of money lost comes when one of the players initiates a round of gambling.

Gambling in The Red Dragon Inn is a special round that each player must pay a gold piece once a player has initiated a round of gambling. The mechanic is straightforward. Each character deck has various amounts of gambling cards that allow you to take control of a hand, raise, cheat, punch cheaters in the face, etcetera. This tends to be where friendships will be strained by the yellow sheen of pretend gold, inflaming the imaginary nostrils of theoretical greed. Whoever played the last card, taking control of the hand, wins the pot, unless somebody plays the card that makes the serving wench take the pot instead. If a player loses all of their gold, then they’re out.

In conclusion,
This game can be a fun diversion for a regular group of RPG players when something different is called for or a critical player fails to show. Despite the flaw of it being an elimination game, it is still a blast to toss back Dwarven Ales and pass out headlocks. But this game transcends any possible flaws when made into a drinking game (21 years of age and up)! When a drink is called for, a shot is downed. Try not to die!

For more details on SlugFest Games and their Fantasy title, “The Red Dragon Inn” check them out at their website http://slugfestgames.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 16

Product Summary

The Red Dragon Inn

From: SlugFest Games

Type of Game: Fantasy

Game Design by:
Cliff Bohm
Geoff Bottone
Cold FuZion Studios
Colleen Skadl

Additional Development by:
Jeff Morrow

Art by:
Kennon James
Doug Kovacs
Rhonda Libbey
Beth Trott
Cold FuZion Studios

Game Components Included:

  • 4 unique 40 card player decks
  • 1 30 card Drink deck
  • 4 Player Templates
  • 4 Fortitude markers
  • 4 Alcohol Content markers
  • 50 Gold Coin tokens
  • Rules book for The Red Dragon Inn

Retail Price: $37.99(US)

Retail Price: $42.99 (Can)

Number of Players: 2 – 4

Player Ages: 10-115

Play Time: 45 minutes

Item Number: 9780976914419

ISBN: 0-9769144-1-7

Email: SlugFestGames@gmail.com

Website: http://slugfestgames.com/games/rdi/rdi-1/

Reviewed by: W. E. Mitchell

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game
From: Days of Wonder
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game is a new Card Game from Days of Wonder.

Every once in a while, when I am running events at a convention, a dealer who knows me will drop off a game for me to check out.  At ConGregate in Winston-Salem, NC, Dan of Walt’s Cards (out of Maryland) dropped off Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game, a game based on a very good board game.  I love the board game, so I was very intrigued about the card game.

From the back cover:
“Dark clouds gather over Brittany again…”

The card game is a cooperative effort between players taking on the roles of sons and daughters of Knights of the Round Table.  The players unite together to defeat various challenges presented in the game through Rumor cards.  In a sense, they are working together to defeat the game itself.  Right off the bat, this has broad appeal.  Cooperative games are a lot easier to win over  players in mixed crowds.  And they are just plain fun.

The group works together to acquire 7 white swords.  Meanwhile, based on Loyalty Cards distributed at the start, a Traitor may be working against the group to find 7 Black Swords.  Through the sequence of play, each player listens for rumors by flipping Rumor cards and waiting for the right moment to go on quests, while at the same time trying to fish out the traitor.

The bulk of the Rumor cards is related to individual quest like Picts, Saxons, Dragon, Excalibur, and Holy Grail.  These cards each have values that add up.  The “sweet spot” for a successful quest is 11 to 13 points.  As the Rumor cards are flipped, they form the Threat stack. People have to keep the values in the Threat stack straight in their head or the run the risk of being too high or too low.  Too high or low, means you gain a black sword if you attempt the particular quest.  Within the range of 11 to 13, you gain a white sword.

Players can do one of three things each round.  Listen For Rumors is the most common action, where the players flip cards from the Rumor stack to the Threat stack.  The player also can choose to Go On a Quest based on the card on the top of the Threat stack.  When that happens, the Threat stack is laid out into different quests, totaling up their numbers.  For the primary quest, the one that matched the top card, the numbers have to land in that specific range to earn a white sword, otherwise a black sword is awarded. So this is where remembering your totals are important.

From the back cover:
“…and the rumor has it that a Traitor might conspire against the Round Table.”

Communication between players is key to remembering the totals.  However, there are special cards that might impose silence during the game.  When a Morgan card is drawn, all communication between players must stop until another special card – the Merlin card – is then drawn. Like in life, people do not realize how important certain things are until they lose it.  Communication in this is so essential.

The special cards – Morgan, Merlin and Mordred – all have other effects that either occur during play or while totaling a Quest.  As indicated above, Morgan cards are usually bad and Merlin effects are usually good or helpful.  The Mordred card is also bad thing, but not as bad as Morgan.

The Traitor and Loyalty cards are integral in the game.  In the first game I played, I was the Traitor.  However, it was a learning game, so I was not as effective as I probably should have been.  I think I can personally claim responsibility for 1 black sword.  Through the normal course of play, the Traitor can simply feed misinformation to other players about what he remembers in the stack, feigning poor memory, for example.  However, through certain cards, primarily the Morgan cards, more lucrative opportunities arise for the Traitor to thwart the efforts of the other players.  The key is to not let these opportunities go to waste.  The game is short (60 to 90 minutes) and getting 7 white swords easier than you think, especially if you are playing with very intelligent players like I did.

There is also on other card in the deck that could create another Traitor.  The game plays up to 7 players and it contains 9 Loyalty cards (7 Loyal and 2 Traitor).  Game set up creates a Loyalty deck based on the number of players and always arranges it so that there are two extra Loyalty cards left over after dealing them to players. Those two cards remain in play in case the special card called Vivian comes up.  When that card comes up, the player picks one of the extra Loyalty cards and hands the other to someone else.  Both then pick between the new and the old one.  This creates a sense of shifting loyalties and in a large game, increases the chances of two Traitors in the mix.

The third and final thing a player can do on his turn is accuse another player of being a Traitor.  There are benefits and consequences to this.  If the Traitor is revealed, for the rest of game, the Traitor can only flip two cards from the Rumor deck to the Threat stack.  This of course increases the speed that the cards accumulate and forces to players to do more quests and take more risks.  If the person accused is not the Traitor, the group gains a Black Sword.  So the players have to be very careful when they accuse and the Traitor has to be very subtle about his actions.

There are also other cards in the set that the rules say are used in the advanced game.  These are called Knights to the Rescue cards.  You only add this into the game once you are familiar with it.  In a normal game, you usually have 3 extra Morgan cards that do not come into play.  However, in the Knights of the Rescue variant, the 3 extras are in play, set beside the 9 Knights cards.  Every time a Quest is successful, a new Morgan card is shuffled into the Rumor deck.  When a Quest fails, however, the balancing factor is the Knights cards.  The player that failed draws a Knight card and keeps it secret.  These cards can be used to change another player’s course of action, gain intelligence out of the Rumor deck and a number of other things that is advantageous to the players.  However, these cards are dangerous in the hands of the Traitor and give the Traitor more options to sow the seeds of deceit.

In conclusion, this game is about communication, memory and subtle group manipulation (in the Traitor’s case).  It’s a brilliant social game as well as a fun memory game.  I thoroughly enjoyed playing it.  It definitely has some interestingly subtle nuances that players have to master (especially in the Traitor’s case).  It’s fun in general to play the cards, with the switching back and forth between imposed silence and group communication, but with a Traitor in the mix, it is even more fun.  I almost would be inclined to make sure at least on Traitor gets played in the game to keep things interesting.

I want to thank John and Lisa Grigni, Alan Hyde, Jesse Riggs and Mike Welham for sitting down and play-testing this game with me.  It was a blast!

For more details on Days of Wonder and their new Card GameShadows Over Camelot, The Card Game” check them out at their website http://www.daysofwonder.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Shadows Over Camelot, The Card Game
From: Days of Wonder
Type of Game: Card Game
Game Design by: Serge Laget, Bruno Cathala
Artist: Julien Delval
Number of Pages: 15 page rulebook
Game Components Included: 62 Rumor cards, 9 Knight cards, 9 Loyalty cards, 16 Swords, 10 Tokens, 1 Rules booklet
Retail Price: $24.99(US)
Number of Players: 1-7
Player Ages: 10+
Play Time: 60-80 min
Website: www.daysofwonder.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Ug See Big Thing That Fly

Ug See Big Thing That Fly

From: Sneak Attack Press

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Stone age RPG settings can be something of a hard sell for most gaming groups. Due to what passes for society being at the tribal level, there really isn’t much of an infrastructure to support traditional adventuring parties. One way around this is to introduce deliberate anachronisms. As part of the upcoming Kronocalpyse setting, Ug See Big Thing That Fly takes this approach.

From page 3:
Now you must save your people from the Big Thing That Fly. But first you’ll need to get there.”

The plot of Ug See Big Thing That Fly is fairly straightforward. A human tribe and a saurian (humanoid dinosaurs) tribe intend to put aside their differences and make peace, for which a meeting is arranged. Player characters are late arrivals who find a scene of carnage. After the expected misunderstandings are cleared up, the survivors reveal that the meeting had been attacked by men with magical spears that threw fire and thunder (rifles with bayonets mounted on them). Most of those who weren’t killed got taken up into a Big Thing That Fly, i.e. a zeppelin. The villain of this piece is one Baron Vanderwile, who comes from a steampunk time period. His motive is to obtain stock for what amounts to a caveman zoo. The goal for the player characters is to get up to the Big Thing That Fly and release the captives. Included with the adventure are six character profiles (four human, two saurian) set at Novice level so that you can dive in right away. Should players desire to create their own characters, doing so is just a matter of restricting your selections to traits appropriate for a stone age person (no firearms-related Edges, etc.).

From page 5:
If your players are anything like most people who play this adventure, at least one of them will want to leap from a pterodactyl onto a biplane.”

A major stumbling block for running this scenario with some gaming groups is the fact that it is heavily railroaded. The bulk of the adventure consists of going from one set piece to the next, with a bit of flexibility once the characters are aboard the Big Thing That Fly. If your gaming group is uncompromising in their desire for sandbox-style gameplay, this will probably not be the best way to introduce them to Kronocalypse.

However, if your gaming group is amenable to being led about to some degree, this is an excellent choice for allowing them to experience the multi-genre delights that await in Kronocalypse. The direct nature of the scenario makes it so that it can easily be completed in a single session. This also makes it highly suited for running at a con, where a certain amount of railroading is expected.

Rating: 16

Product Summary

Ug See Big Thing That Fly

From: Sneak Attack Press

Type of Game: RPG Adventure

Written by: Matthew J. Hanson

Edited by: Craig Hargraves

Illustrated by: Kirsten Moody

Number of Pages: 14

Game Components Not Included: Savage Worlds Core Rules

Retail Price: $2.99

Website: http://www.sneakattackpress.com

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

Interview with Matthew J. Hanson of Sneak Attack Press

Matthew J. Hanson is the founder of Savage Worlds licensee Sneak Attack Press. Their latest offering is Kronocalypse.

To start off, tell us about yourself and your history in gaming.

Sure thing. I began gaming in the Eighties with the Mentzer red-box edition of Dungeon & Dragons. I always enjoyed creating my own adventures and settings, so at some point I figured why not get paid for it? I started freelancing in the early 2000s during the d20 boom. In 2010 I decided to start my own company, Sneak Attack Press, and we’ve been growing ever since.

Describe Kronocalypse for us in the form of an elevator pitch.

It’s a time-travel mash-up setting where cavemen, wizards, sky pirates, and cyborgs unite to save time itself.

What works of fiction helped inspire Kronocalypse?

The biggest inspiration is the old SNES game Chrono Trigger, which has a similar premise of characters hopping around time. I think it’s currently available on the DS for anybody who hasn’t played it. Beyond that I’m mostly influenced by fiction of the individual eras, so things like Blade Runner for the cyberpunk era, and everything from Lord of the Rings to A Song of Ice and Fire for the fantasy era.

The four genres represented in Kronocalypse are stone age, fantasy, steampunk, and cyberpunk. Were there any reasons for using those specifically?

A few things. First I wanted eras that I thought would be fun to game in and would be fun to write about, which I think all of these are. I also wanted eras that are iconic. You can just say “stone age” and gamers get an idea in their head right away. I also wanted the eras to feel distinct from each other, to help the players keep things straight as the heroes adventure through time.

What aspects of Kronocalypse do you believe cause it to stand out from other multi-genre settings on the RPG market?

I think time travel is really the key, as a lot of multi-genre settings I’ve seen focus more on dimension hopping.

To focus on the time travel theme, one of the major goals is that while it incorporates different genres, I want the setting to still feel like a unified whole. While each age is distinct, there are many threads running between them.

For instance, the dominant religion, called The Faith, exists throughout all eras. It starts as a form of tribal animism in the stone age and evolves to a more structured religion akin to Shintoism by the medieval era. It is still around in the steampunk era, though fewer people believe in the “miracles” the old books talk about. By the cyberpunk age most people consider it an old superstition, but a few true believers still persist.

Families and places also tie the settings together. They’ll see ancestors and descendants of various NPCs through the ages, and watch how locations change and grow.

The characters start near a city called Aberwyvern, which is loosely based on Cardiff, Wales. There’s no city there in the stone age, but by the medieval era, a Duke has built a castle there, and a large town has grown up around it. In the steampunk era, it’s a major industrial city, thanks in large part to the coal deposits nearby. By the cyberpunk age, most of Aberwyvern has been abandoned, as global sea levels have risen, flooding the streets.

One thing many Savage Worlds settings feature is known as a Plot Point Campaign. Will Kronocalypse have one, either in the main setting book or a future supplement? If so, are there any details about it you’re willing to reveal at this time?

Yes, the plot point campaign is a major part of the main book. As the players bounce around in time, they start to notice there are other time travelers out there, many of whom are wreaking havoc on the timeline. As they learn more, they’ll discover that somebody is manipulating things behind the scenes, and the heroes eventually learn that whoever it is seeks to destroy time itself.

I’m being a little vague here for spoiler purposes, but I’ve got an introduction to the big bad guy in the GM’s part of the playtest documents that are currently available to backers of the projects. Backers can access it through the backer-only first update.

If Kronocalypse proves to be successful, are there any additional supplements you would like to publish for the setting?

I want to focus on the main book before solidifying plans for supplements, but I’ve got a few ideas I’ve been brainstorming. I might have books that introduce new eras or that expand upon the current eras. I also have thought about other possible plot point campaigns that use the multiple eras in different ways, such as a flashback campaign, or one where heroes are reincarnated through the ages.