THIS IS A GM CALL FOR MACE 2015!

This is probably the first of many calls, because I realize that DragonCon is still to come, and effects many of you.

Things are changed a little from last year, for the better. It will be more or less like 2013 set up rather than 2014. We don’t have to worry about a football this year. Organized Play will probably be in a different place with a few more tables. I think Jeff and I decided to phase out the live auction and instead have a silent auction. We are just not getting enough stuff to justify the live auction any more. We may leave the 2 hour break for dinner though on Saturday night. Iam still working that out.

Many of our regular events are returning, as far as I know. If that has changed, I hope those responsible for coordinating those get to me as soon as possible.

For Pathfinder Society (PFS) GMs, contact Nathan Littlefield​ as he will be coordinating that end of the con.

If you want to run D&D 5e Adventurers League (D&D AL), contact me or Tim McCrary​ .

For those that wish to propose events for MACE 2015, the best way to do that is through OGRe. Go to ogre.justusproductions.com. Log in (Make an account if you don’t have one). Click Propose Event on the left menu.

If you prefer to email me, please include as much information about your event as possible. It is sort of a hassle to go back and forth with questions with so many GMs. Include game name and any link that will explain the game and/or provide the description, especially if it is a obscure game. Also include schedule preferences keeping in mind our standard 4hr slot schedule (although you are not limited to that schedule).

Three 4-hour sessions gets you in free, with fewer getting you a discount. See our discount policy on justusproductions.com for information on the discounts. If you want to volunteer for something like the gaming registration desk, the shifts are 3 hours. Kids program is 2 hour shifts.

If you are interested in running our Kids program, please contact me as well.

Contact Jeff Smith​ at justusprod@aol.com if you have any business or money questions, or vendor room questions. Anything gaming schedule or room layout related, ask me.

Thanks very much

Battle For Oz

Battle for Oz

From: Pirate Press
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

battleforozthrone-233x300Battle for Oz is a new RPG setting book from Pirate Press.

A couple of years back, while at the Charleston SC convention, StormCon, I had the chance to meet the writers of Battle for Oz. Dan Smith and Dave Hardee are stand-up guys and very passionate about gaming and their product.  They work together at each and every con to run as many slots of their game as possible.  They have run for me at MACE events several times now and their game has been very well received.

The following year at StormCon, I finally got a chance to sit in one of their games.  It was an absolute blast.  I love it so much that I bought into their game.  After a rough year of conventions, family issues and health issues, I finally am grabbing a chance to read through the book, plan a game for it and review it at the same time.

From page # 9: “You’re not in Kansas anymore”

First and foremost I must say that this is not your classis Judi Garland Oz setting that we all grew up watching.  It is one part fantasy, one part steam punk, and one part real world, all meshed together.  It is much more mature and dark, taking elements of the Baum series and reimagining them into a epic fantasy world.  It takes place 100+ years after the events of L. Frank Baum’s books.  It integrates all of what he created in a much more serious, less whimsical world of sword and sorcery, mystery and conspiracy.  The world of Oz, a world of crystalline based magic, wizards and witches, is now ruled by an evil tyrant, Ozmandias the Second.

The major kingdoms and its multitude of their people live under the oppressive rule of this tyrant, but there is hope.  A rebellion has formed from the remnants of the previous ruler’s allies.  The daughter of Dorothy Gale, Amber is one of the leaders of this resistance, along with Solomon Straw a.k.a. the Scarecrow and King Blacktail the Brave, formerly the ‘Cowardly Lion.’ Magic primarily stems from the great emerald (which was later shaped into the Emerald City that we know) found at the center of the continent.  Other gems also have magic powers as well.

The history of Oz says the continent of Nonestica was once part of our world, a grand continent with a mysterious giant emerald at the center.  The magic of the emerald influenced all that settled there.  Through a series of unfortunate events one can read in the background, the continent of Nonestica was eventually transported through dimensional space and enveloped in a shield of time, where it can be found today.  Things like the lost continent of Atlantis and the Bermuda Triangle are linked to Oz now, opening an endless possibility of real world and fantasy mash ups.  The history in the book briefly covers a mixture of original work as well as some of Baum’s work, integrating it all into a cohesive, inspiring and fascinating setting.

There are many options for playing a character in the world of Oz.  Nothing ever dies of old age in Oz, rendering all its denizens immortal.  Anyone teleported there by the various dimensional holes between Earth and Nonestica also inherit this immortality.  This aspect of the game fascinates me and subtly creates amazing opportunity for a GM and players to explore.  You can play Outsiders (people originally from Earth, like Dorothy), one of the native races of Oz like the Evain and the Niave (roughly elven-like creatures, high and dark respectively) or other human Kinfolk (Munchkins, Gillikins, Pastorians, Winkies or Quadlings).  There are also gnomes, beastmen (lions, tigers, bears and more), Clockwork tik-toks (something like the Tinman), or Patchworks (something like a scarecrow).

At the core of the campaign setting is a single plot point – Ozymandias has conquered most of Oz (still trying to conquer the Gilkins) and the players are part of the resistance who seek to unlock more of the secrets of Oz in an effort to defeat the tyrant.  Ozymandias has his army of dragon men, evil tin men soldiers, undead pumpkin head terror squads, straw men assassins, as well as (of course) flying monkeys to help in his efforts.

From page # 65: “Just follow the Yellow Brick road…”

The rule system is at its core Savage Worlds, primarily from the Savage Worlds Deluxe edition.  But it expands on those rules considerably to make the game system very unique in itself.  Not only does it add a considerable number of skills (mostly Knowledge skills needed for the various magics in the setting) as well as a good number of Hindrances and Edges including special Arcane background for the various arcane aspects of the setting, it also adds new rules to the game that make the setting more epic as well as deadly.  Just as a highlight, the damage system based on a raise is changed.  In standard Savage Worlds, one raise gains you a single extra d6 and additional raises do not add anything.  In Battle for Oz, extra raises beyond the first increase the die type… 2 raises increase it to a d8, etc.  I not only highlight this because I like it but I also think it is smart.  They do not add extra rules that seem out of place or are cumbersome.  They compliment an already good RPG system and make the game a unique experience.

The book layout gives you a lot to get started with.  The first two chapters give you the basics of the setting and then what you need to know to make a character, respectively.  The character generation portion includes 18 different races or subraces, 22 archetypes, and an expanded list of equipment, armor and weapons.  After that is the rules section explaining the various expansions and additions to the base ruleset, as I explained above.  After that is a well written and extensive overview of the Land of Oz, giving a little more detail about the various locations contained within Oz and the denizens within.

The remainder of the book delves deep into the plot point campaign, game mastering the setting and gives the GM tools to help make it easy.  This includes a list of encounter tables to be used when the adventuring party is wandering the lands of Oz, and a campaign adventure.  This plot point adventure is a little more than a one-shot.  It not only introduces the players to the setting but it also delves them deep into the fight against Ozymandias.  If played out completely, it could change Oz forever, which is kind of at the core of a plot point campaign.

“Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!” contains a wide variety of creatures, enemies and allies that a GM can use against his players.  Some are based on original Baum works while others were inspired by Kickstarter contributors.  Some are familiar while others are very unique and interesting.  Just to highlight some of my favorites, creatures like the demonic Claw Biter, the steampunk-like Machacorn, and the hideous Spider-folk.  Also contained in this chapter are a number of NPCs with stats including Dorothy, Jack Pumpkinhead, Glinda the Good and many others.

The book ends with a short adventure called the Garden Thicket of Blood, The trouble with Weeds.  This is more like a classic one-shot or convention game, if a GM is looking to try it out without getting too deep into the mythos of the setting. It still portrays much of what the setting is about in a classic format that most players would be familiar with – a dungeon delve.

In conclusion, Battle for Oz  feels like the perfect merge of the Oz series with elements of Lord of the Rings  as well as any fantasy steampunk settings you would want to add.  It has some very unique aspects to it and it is brilliantly presented.  The art in the book is phenomenal and what I like most about it is the integration of some of the Kickstarter contributors faces into the art.  Many of the Kickstarters paid to have their faces in the book as major characters and they are done brilliantly.  It is a very inspiring setting and I look forward to running it.

For more details on Pirate Press and their new RPG setting bookBattle for Oz” check them out at their website http://pirate-press.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 19

Product Summary

Battle for Oz
From: Pirate Press LLC
Type of Game: RPG setting book
Written by: David Hardee and Dan Smith.
Additional Material: Clint Black, Paul Coulter III and many of our Kickstarter backers.
Editor: Steve Gabrielli
Original Artwork by: Dan Smith (Pencils) & Jennifer S. Lange (Colors), with contributions by Robert Bossinger, John Mohlenhoff, Helen Scorpio, Zackary Smith
Layout and Design: Mike Chaney, Alida Saxon and Gayle Reick
Number of Pages: 200
Game Components Included: 1 PDF or hardback book
Game Components Not Included: Core system book, Savage Worlds Delux Edition
Retail Price: $20 PDF, $50 hardcover (US)
Website: http://pirate-press.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures /Bare Bones Beyond

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG/Bare Bones Beyond System
From: Scaldcrow Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG/Bare Bones Beyond System is a new Role Playing Game Core Book from Scaldcrow Games.

T. Glenn Bane and Davey Beauchamp are two dynamic and energetic individuals I have had the pleasure to get to know in my years of running cons. It was at one of these cons that they gave away an opportunity to have a character named after you at one of our charity auctions. As it turns out, my name was one of those names placed in the book – as the alter ego of a young sidekick hero named Aegis Lad!  So when it went up on Kickstarter, I had to support it.

T.Glenn Bane has been running various versions of his Bare Bones system at my conventions over the past several years. I had not had the pleasure of playing in one, and this book is my first real exposure to it. Every year, he seems to have a full table for all seven slots he runs, so people obviously enjoy it.  Finally, I get to dive into it myself and get a feel for what these folks seem to enjoy so much.

From the back cover:
“GENUINE ROLE PLAYING GAME EXPERIENCE”

System

The Bare Bones Beyond or Bare Bones Multiverse system was born from Mr. Bane’s passion for gaming and lack of satisfaction from other systems he had played.  Growing up playing the usual games we all play, he designed this system to be different from all those.  He wanted to focus on the character’s story, and allow the players to develop their character they way they see fit, not based on cookie-cutter rules. He wanted to maximize fun while taking the focus off maximization of the character’s stats.  So many games have tried this.   I can understand the desire to do so, but the systems that I have seen attempt it fell short in so many ways.

The system seems simple on its face, but it actually has some very interesting nuances.  The mechanic is fairly unique although it can put some people off because there is a little more math involved than your standard RPG mechanic.  It simply starts with two six-sided dice.  The standard rule is rolling doubles explode (explained below) unless they are snake eyes.  Character’s abilities are measured in Ranks.  Subtract the rank from 12 to get a target number.  Roll the dice to get a total (rerolling doubles).  Divide the total by the target number, dropping remainders, to get the number of successes.

I think key to that is the re-rolling doubles and that makes it a much more excitng mechanic.  It takes some getting used to but with a little practice, I would imagine it would become second nature.  Another interesting aspect of the system is Stacking.  If the character making the check has related skills or abilities, they can be rolled separately to stack the successes. This kind of flexibility creates a very dynamic and flexible playing environment for the game.

Character generation is based on points and archetype templates.  The archetypes are designed specifically for the genre and even though there are a lot of them, players have the option to customize their own.  There are two main aspects of a character – Conditions and Abilities. You have a set of each in the archetype and a set of points to spend on each for customization.  It is very flexible and customizable – no cookie cutter classes and no restrictions on abilities.  The most important aspect of this kind of character generation is the character concept and staying true to that.  Otherwise, all characters end up looking the same after a long period of gaming.

One of the differentiators in this character generation system is Abilities.  You can have any ability you want, just make it up.  It is assumed that any sentient being has an ability score of rank 4 in everything, so you can do just about anything in the game. It encourages you to make up your abilities, although it does have a list of suggested ones.

The entire game is centered around that core system.  There are some other side mechanics added for flavor or fun, but the basics are what I covered above. The combat system seems a bit deadly, which seems to be true because they had to create a special rule for the Amazing Pulp Adventure setting to encourage pulp-style stunts and risk taking within a player party.

I found the game system innovative and flexible but challenging to get used to.  It adds a little more math than your average RPG game, breaking that cardinal rule of no division in your core mechanic. Once you get passed that, the system flows pretty nicely as evidenced by the numbers of people that have enjoyed it at the cons I have seen it being played.  It is a little “hippy” or “indie” with its ability flexibility, and it takes a special kind of gamer to really enjoy that kind of system without exploiting it.

From page 77:
“The world you are about to enter was inspired by the 1939 New York Wold’s Fair, forever immortalized by the symbol of the Trylon and the Perisphere.”

Setting

If there is one thing you can say about Davey Beauchamp, it’s that he is passionate about his writing.  One particular setting he is passionate about is his Mister Adventure and Amazing Pulp Adventures setting.  He and T. Glenn Bane got together to create the RPG, but the setting itself was much more before the RPG.  It was a podcast radio show first, with a considerable cast of who’s-who in podcasting, including the great Rich Sigfrit.  My wife was even on a couple of them.  They can still be found on ITunes.

The setting is one part super heroes, one part World War II intrigue, and it brings to life the classic 1940s super heroes worlds like that of the Phantom, the Shadow, or the Rocketeer.  The RPG setting world centers around the fictional city of Sapphire City, stemming from ideals born in the New York World’s Fair.  Under this ideal technological utopia sprouted the weeds and parasites of crime and depravity.  However, in the larger-than-life style of the city itself, crime as well as its counterpart, justice, was not just satisfied with the simple representations.  Costumed criminals and avengers spouted fairly quickly.  The most well-known of the heroes is Mister Adventure.  The first of many costumed criminals are known as the Gentlemen Thieves.  There are many others as well, illustrated and stat’ed out in the book.

The book provides a brief overview of the various historical events that might influence the setting, but in general the book is not intended to be a history lesson.  If you want to find out what went on during the 1930s, 1940s, or the 1950s, there is plenty of material out there that covers that.  In fact, it is encouraged that one delve into historical inspiration because that is a great start for adventure in this setting.

The City itself is briefly covered, noting various points of interest in the city.  Locations like the Museum of the Unknown, and the Headquarters of the League of Adventurous Heroes are described briefly – just enough to give you ideas but not painstaking detail that leaves you no room for your imagination.

The bulk of this section is what is at the heart of the City – its people and especially the heroes and villains within.  Heroes like Mister Adventure, Mighty Mace and Aegis Lad are described and fully fleshed out.  What is attractive about this game is the simplicity in which NPCs are displayed and stat’ed out.  A GM can come up with a challenging bad guy on the fly without a second’s thought.  Not that he would need to because there is more than enough listed in this book to play with.

The book ends with a short and entertaining adventure that captures the feel of the setting and the RPG overall.  What sets this setting apart is the feel of the classic super hero serial movies.  It is the core inspiration and I think the setting itself captures that.  The vision behind the setting is inspiring.

In conclusion, while I love the RPG setting, the system concerns me a little.  This being a reading review and not a true play test, I would have to say that I think this is one of those systems I would have to see in practice to get a feel for, because on paper it seems a little clunky.  By my judgment based on what I have seen at the cons, the game runs smoother than it seems on paper.  I have found that there are quite a few passionate fans of this game system.  It is very flexible and pretty wide open, useable in any setting.  One just has to get past the slight wonkiness of the core system and I think it can be enjoyable.

For more details on Scaldcrow Games and their new Role Playing Game Core BookDavey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG/Bare Bones Beyond System” check them out at their website http://www.scaldcrow.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 14

Product Summary

Davey Beauchamp’s Amazing Pulp Adventures RPG/Bare Bones Beyond System
From: Scaldcrow Games
Type of Game: Role Playing Game Core Book
Written by: Davey Beauchamp, T. Glenn Bane, Theresa Bane
Game Design by: T. Glenn Bane
Cover Art by: T. Glenn Bane
Additional Art by: T. Glenn Bane
Number of Pages: 268
Game Components Included: One single core rulebook
Game Components Not Included: 2 six sided dice, pencils, paper
Retail Price: $11.99 (US) for PDF
Website: http://www.scaldcrow.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

 

Kontamination, Achtung! Cthulhu Adventure

From: Modiphius Entertainment Ltd
Reviewed by: Ron W McClung

Kontamination is a new RPG Adventure/One Shot from Modiphius Entertainment Ltd.

When I try to run a published adventure, I sometimes find myself asking if the adventure was written with the GM in mind.  For me, it’s important to convey the story of the adventure to the players in the most succinct and clear fashion with minimal page turning and book diving as possible.  However, not everyone retains the same information at the same rate and every GM is different.  So what is the way to best write an adventure?  Keep it as simple as possible in terms of wording and stat blocking, and make key aspects of the adventure easy to reference if at all possible.

Kontamination is an adventure with the intention of being a one shot.  It was written by a guy who admits he has never played a table top RPG.  Sam Richards is the writer and also the creator of Tweet RPG, a web site that has since changed to StoryMechs.com.  From the web site: “Tweet RPG is a free online role-playing experience, which utilizes Twitter to provide users with an innovative new way of enjoying text-based adventures.”  Kontamination was written using the Tweet RPG means of crowd-creation.  I only found this out after running it and found that very surprising and innovative.

This is also one of the few times I actually ran an adventure I am going to review.  I had 8 players (which was more than I really wanted) on a Saturday afternoon, and with that many, the game ran a little long. But I found it very adaptable.  The game itself was a great success.  I had also run the first adventure released for Achtung! Cthulhu called Three Kings, and Kontamination could not be more different in a lot of ways.

From page #3:
“What’s good need not be secret, and what’s secret is not good.” – Unknown

The adventure is a very contained and focused story that has a lot of flexibility in each encounter but is restricted in the confines of a specific mission.  In fact, the characters are taking on a secret mission within an actual historical mission.  The adventure boldly puts the players in the roles of German soldiers, and if you are using the pre-generated characters, the writer provides hooks into the adventure that act as manipulation points, giving the characters more motivation to accomplish the mission other than simply they are loyal Nazis.  The pre-generated characters are in fact not necessarily loyal Nazis but rather people trying to survive the horrible war.  The GM is encouraged to create characters in the same vein if he does not use the pre-generated characters.

It takes place during the Battle of the Bulge or from the German’s perspective, the Ardennes Offensive.  During this time, the Germans conducted a covert action called Operation Greif, where German soldiers dressed in Allied uniforms and using Allied equipment caused disruption and confusion behind enemy lines.  The Reich Main Security Office has gotten intelligence of a super secret operation within the Operation Greif was being conducted by a super secret group called Nachtwulf and not even the Security Office knew of them.  This concerns the lead of the Reich Main Security Office and the players are brought in to act as operatives to investigate.

This is where the adventure first gets a little challenging for the GM and the players.  Although it does not seem like a big thing, it can be confusing to those not prepared for it.  The players have a real name, an operative name within Operation Greif and then later they get their Allied soldier name.  The pre-generated characters smartly placed the name they were going to use the most as their primary name – the Operation Greif name.  The Allied name was rarely used when we played and their real name was never used.  I made up flash cards with the Allied names and ranks and randomly handed them out during the mission and took them back when it was not needed.

It is also gets a little challenging in the equipment department.  The group should start out with just the bare necessities but they switch between Allied equipment and German equipment throughout the adventure.  If keeping up with who has what gun when is important, I recommend making flash cards with game stats of all the available weapons and handing them out at the right times.  This also makes the quartermaster scene in the beginning a lot more fun.

From page # 3:
“The Second World War is drawing to a close, but combat still rages on.”

I won’t get into the detail of the overall plot beyond the intro, but it is well defined in three key episodes and those are broken down into a number of scenes.  The strict structure of the military mission does have the tendency to feel like the GM is railroading the players, but in playing it never really did feel like that.  I think the players felt like at any time they could take control of their characters and do what they wanted but the backgrounds and hooks provided in the pre-gens helped keep them on track.  They all stayed within character and stayed true to their motivations.

My only major complaint was the way the adventure was written.  Although well written with a lot of painstaking detail (which I enjoyed), it was not quite written with the GM in mind.  I found myself struggling at points to find the right stats for the bad guys, or the right text I needed to read to the characters.  I do not like to do a lot of reading to the characters, but in a one shot the key moments that might require reading is the intro.  Although they did provide that “Read to the characters” text for the Reich Main Security Office mission introduction, they needed to also do the same thing when given the mission instructions for the Nachtwulf mission (the mission within which they were to accomplish their own secret mission).  There are key aspects that needed to be clearly stated to the characters and I would have preferred to have succinct and precise text to read to them.

The creatures they end up facing are soldiers manipulated by a Mythos-based apparatus.  Instead of providing stats for the creatures, the creature was provided in the form of a template to apply to whomever ends up having the procedure applied.  Although creative and interesting, to run this as a one shot, especially if you want to run this as a one shot in a convention, time is of the essence.  In combat, I do not want to be referencing back and forth between the template and the character that was converted.  That slows combat down and in most RPGs, combat is slow enough.  What I recommend a GM doing is prepping a few typical “converted” bad guys ahead of time so they are ready for combat.

The characters also are part of an overall plot that basically treats them as expendables.  There is enough plot development before the final episode that the players may conclude as much before they get to the epic climactic battle that happens at the end.  In my case, the players smartly figured it out and took matters in their own hands, short circuiting the overall story.  The GM should be prepared for that if they have good players.  The intended battle at the end of the adventure that I never got to is absolutely epic.  I hate that we never got to it (although my game ended well) because it is set up very well.

When diving into an adventure based in a setting like Achtung! Cthulhu – non-fictional historical meets fiction horror – I wonder what the author is going to focus on.  Basing something in something historical, you run the risk of turning your session into a history lesson.  And, although I am World War 2 history buff, I never assume all my players are too.  An ideal Achtung! Cthulhu would focus on both in a good balance, always remembering that the players are really here because of the horror, fantasy and fictional aspects and less about the history.  I honestly believe that Kontamination accomplishes an amazing balance between the two aspects of the setting.

In conclusion, Kontamination is well written from a content point of view but from a RPG structure point of view, I think it needs a little work.  The story is amazingly well put together and fluid and it was very fun to play.  The players all had fun.  I highly recommend this as a one shot at home or at a convention.  The GM needs to do a little more preparation beyond just reading it, but if he does that, the session will go very well.

For more details on Modiphius Entertainment Ltd and their new RPG Adventure/One ShotKontamination” check them out at their website http://www.modiphius.com/.

Codex Rating: 16

Product Summary

Kontamination
From: Modiphius Entertainment Ltd
Type of Game: RPG Adventure/One Shot
Written by Sam Richards & Matthew Pook
Created using the Tweet RPG system (www.tweetrpg.co.uk)
Additional Material by Dave Blewer, Bill Bodden & Lynne Hardy
Edited by Lynne Hardy, Matthew Pook & Michal E. Cross
Artwork by Dim Martin
Graphic Design, Layout & Cartography by Michal E. Cross
Produced & Art Directed by Chris Birch & Lynne Hardy
Number of Pages: 54
Game Components Included: One PDF adventure
Game Components Not Included: Core RPG rulebooks
Retail Price: $11.99 (US)
Website: http://www.modiphius.com/

Reviewed by: Ron W McClung

 

 

D&D Adventurers League Premier

JustUs Productions, organizers of MACE, and Tim McCrary, MACE’s D&D AL Coordinator, are proud to announce a D&D Adventurers League Premier event.  MACE will host the following two D&D AL regional previews:

DDEX03-08 The Malady of Elventree (1-4)

An escaped duergar slave stumbles into the village of Elventree. With her she brings a malady that grips the small settlement in a bout of madness that seems unshakable. Can the characters find the source of the madness and save themselves and the village’s inhabitants?

DDEX03-09 The Waydown (5-10)

The recent discovery of an entrance to the Underdark has set local leaders on edge. In a display of initiative, the First Lord of Hillsfar has ordered the construction of defensive structures surrounding what locals have begun to call “The Waydown”. You have been charged with escorting an emissary back to his home in the Underdark without alerting the Red Plumes. This mission requires a delicate touch!

Game masters who run 3 or more events on our schedule will get preference in the OGRe system, allowing them to register before online gaming registration opens.

In addition to these events, we will also have the NC Gun Bunnies Warmachine/Hordes Invitational, Pathfinder Society, Savage Saturday Night, Board Game Library, UnPub board/card games, Empire Games, No Ordinary Gamers demos of SJ Games, Atlas Games and Looney Labs games, Hull Breach, a new Duncan Davis/Sherwood Games MACE exclusive game premier and much more.

Stay tuned!

21 Plots: Samaritan

From: Gypsy Knights Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

21 Plots: Samaritan is a new RPG Supplement from Gypsy Knights Games.

I have used Plot seeds from Traveller before, either as inspiration for a one-shot or for a launching of a campaign.  I have not only used them in Traveller, but also Star Frontiers, Shatterzone and Star Wars.  These books are always handy for inspiration and idea farming.  As an obvious follow up to their 21 Plots: Misbehave, this PDF takes you down a more positive path.

I have said before, the best kind of RPG plot is born of some kind of conflict.  But doing good is not always fun but being a Samaritan is a little more than just doing good.  It is doing good after someone or something has done bad, and in that way, the plot can flourish.

From page 4: “ Using a familiar format for Traveller players, this book presents 21 possible plots for the Referee to use with a gaming group.”

21 Plots: Samaritan presents to the game master a wide variety of seeds for an RPG plot.  From helping a young child running from something, to helping the single passenger of a stranded ship with his cargo; from helping a man with his dying son’s last wish to helping find a group of misguided fanatics.  All are well written and inspiring in some way or another, as I have come to expect from Gypsy Knight products.  Each also have six ways to end as presented in a table.  So in truth, you can have well over 120 plotlines.

From page 4:  “ These can be useful not only when planning a short diversion from the main campaign, but also on those occasions where the players go off the anticipated path.”

When I am trying hard to think up a plotline for an adventure or a way to kick off a campaign, if all else fails, I turn to a Plots book.  Gypsy Knights seem to never run out of ideas, despite putting out quality product after quality product.  There are really good plots like True Identity where the players help a guy find the dirt on a corrupt business man and his relations with the local pirates (or do they?).  Or The Messiah of Megara where they players help with a pregnant woman who believes she carries the child of some “prophecy” and it must be born on Megara.  Just with those two, I can see long sessions of adventuring potential.

In conclusion, I always have liked the Gypsy Knights 21 Plot series and this is no different.  There is some greats ideas in this PDF.

For more details on Gypsy Knights Games and their new RPG Supplement21 Plots: Samaritan” check them out at their website http://Www.gypsyknightsgames.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 16

Product Summary

21 Plots: Samaritan
From: Gypsy Knights Games
Type of Game: RPG Supplement
Authors: Randy Sutton, John Watts, Curtis Rickman, Vaughn Wright, “Big” Dan Callahan
Artists: Bradley Warnes
Editor: Curtis Rickman
Number of Pages: 46
Website: Www.gypsyknightsgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Clement Sector Player’s Guide

From: Gypsy Knights Games

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Clement Sector Player’s Guide is a RPG Supplement from Gypsy Knights Games.

The Clement sector setting continues to be supported by the fine group of people at Gypsy Knights and I have been really impressed with this settings resilience as well as the writers’ dedication to the setting.  This supplement is a great example as it expands the Clement Sector for the players, linking the setting book, the core Traveller rulebook and the Career book (also reviewed here).

From page # 9: Jacob McMasters sat in his cargo hauler and waited. It was the nature of his job really. “Hurry up and wait” his grandfather always said harkening back to his time in the Southern Alliance military. It was true, thought Jacob, not only of the military but for those who made deliveries.

This supplement is primarily made up of 4 sections: Character Background Tables, Careers, Character Packages, and New Skill Specialties.  I will cover each section generally.

Character Background Tables is an expansion and consolidation of existing tables from other books to one comprehensive background generator. It includes various tables a player can roll on to generate Origins, Background Skills, and Primary Languages.  It also has tables for events that occur in the character’s Youth, Teen and College Years.

I am big fan of random background generators.  I prefer them primarily because the players I have known tend to be not as invested in the setting as you are, and only become more invested when they feel like their character is a part of it.  Leave it to the players and a lot of times, they come up with something that doesn’t not necessarily mesh with the setting.  Or the background is too short and not enough detail for the GM to explore in a campaign.  However, if you are not a big fan of random generators, there is another option presented in this book (see Character Packages later).

In the Careers sections are a short list of additional careers expanding on those in the Career Companion.  If the Companion wasn’t enough, here is a few more.  These include Celebrity, Free Trader, Sports, and Vagabond.  It also includes an expansion on the System Defense Forces careers – Ground and Wet Navy.  Of course these careers come with all the needed tables and information to use in your Traveller game.

From page # 9: Jacob worked for the Torgent Shipping Company. His job was to take his cargo hauler from Terminal to any ship that was too large to actually dock with Terminal. The ship would come through The Conduit, he would hail them and then, once everything was properly arranged, Jacob would approach the ship. He would attach the cargo onto the back of his boat and haul it back to Terminal. Sure, it wasn’t the most exciting job in Clement Sector but it paid his bills.

Perhaps the largest section in this book is the Character Packages.  This is an alternative to the random background generator.  Instead of rolling up a background, the player may choose from one of the packages. Each package contains a set of specific rules concerning that particular package and the player may choose to enter one career package or a succession of packages.

Contained in these packages are a variety of things that help build a characters background.  It starts with Prerequisites, which the character must fulfill before entering the package.  These Prerequisites may include Age and the character must choose an age at which he enters this package. Following this are the skills obtained from this Package – Base, Primary and Secondary.  And then each Package has money earned.  Done in a similar fashion as the Careers, there are a ton of Packages to choose from.  I am less of a fan of this method because it is less story and more min-maxing.  Given the choice between the two, I would pick story.

The final chapter contains new skill specialties that help customize existing skills to be more fitting to the Clement Sector setting.  Where they thought some skills were too broad, the writers chose to specialize some of them.  For example, Survival has been expanded out to nine different specialties.  Deception has three new specialties – Disguise, Forgery and Intrusion.  Of course, these follow the standard core rules of specialization.

In conclusion, what I like about this is that it helps add story to the character and gives the GM options for more story in his campaign.  It also helps the players get a stronger grasp on the Clement Sector and feel like a part of it.  It does gives more opportunity for min-maxing for those players that tend to do that but with proper oversight by the GM, it can be used properly.

For more details on Gypsy Knights Games and their RPG Supplement “Clement Sector Player’s Guide” check them out at their website http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com/, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 17

Product Summary

Clement Sector Player’s Guide
From: Gypsy Knights Games
Type of Game: RPG Supplement
Written by: John Watts
Artists: Bradley Warnes, Ian Stead, Stephanie McAlea
Editor: Curtis Rickman
Number of Pages: 115
Game Components Included: Single PDF book
Game Components Not Included: Core Traveller book, Clement Sector setting book PDF
Website: http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com/

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Space Movers 2201

Space Movers 2201

From: KnA Games

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck

The free trader sub-genre of space travel science fiction is one largely unfamiliar to mainstream audiences. Much of this has to do with how, aside from Firefly, it has not really been employed in the film and television media (where there’s a preference for more epic storylines). However, this more blue collar approach to science fiction has been a mainstay of Traveller campaigns for decades. Space Movers 2201 continues the sub-genre’s association with tabletop gaming.

From the rulebook:
Movers specialize in getting cargo to its destination as efficiently as possible. As you deliver cargo, you are rewarded with resources that are needed to keep the Liberty flying. But you must do this without drawing too much attention from the Universal Oversight.”

Unlike many pick-up and deliver games, Space Movers 2201 employs co-operative gameplay. The premise is that you are the crew of the Liberty, a free trader vessel (referred to in-universe as Movers), trying to keep their ship in operation as they attempt to complete a series of objectives. Meanwhile, they’ll try to avoid attracting the attention of Universal Oversight (UO), a corrupt government agency that regulates space travel.

A player’s turn starts by drawing a card from the deck. Depending on what type it is, the card either goes to the player’s hand or is immediately put into play. Movement may then be conducted by moving the Liberty one space and/or placing your crewmember in a different section of the Liberty. The player may then perform an action. The sort of actions that will be available depend on factors like what section of the Liberty the active player’s crewmember is in, which cards are in play, and where the Liberty is currently located. The turn ends with the player discarding down to five cards (if necessary), adjusting the Resource bar down one notch, and moving the UO Scout one space towards the Liberty (if it’s in play).

Skill checks are handled in a very different fashion from other games. The common wisdom in gaming is that rolling more dice is better. The exact opposite is the case for Space Movers 2201, where all the dice rolled must be five or higher for the skill check to succeed. But while it may sound punishingly brutal, this is not really the case thanks to a dexterity element. A skill check will show which ten-sided dice (each a different color to indicate which crewmember they’re attached to) are to be used. Assuming they’re all available, each die is rolled one at a time. If a die comes up with an undesirable result, you can try to hit it with your next die roll and hopefully alter it to something better. Players may wish to get in some practice rolls (a marble shooting technique is the most effective one I tried) before the game starts to get the hang of it. To prevent the dice from flying off the kitchen table and getting wedged under the refrigerator, skill checks are conducted in the game box top. Once all the ten-siders have been rolled, a blank six-sider is employed to make any needed final adjustments. An important feature of the dice is that a caduceus takes the place of the ten. Should a die display a caduceus when a skill roll is completed, the crewmember associated with the die becomes injured. Until a successful Medical Bay action is performed, that crewmember’s die will remain unusable except for Medical Bay actions by that player.

From the box front:
Remember what it was like to go on an adventure.”

The game deck consists of four different types of cards. Cargo cards are the bread and butter of the Liberty’s livelihood. On his turn, a player can play a Cargo card from his hand as an action to load the cargo, so long as the Liberty is at the indicated planet. When the cargo’s destination is reached, the active player can deliver it as an action and increase the Resource bar by the indicated amount. Reaction cards can be used to give the Liberty’s crew a boost. As the name implies, Reaction cards get played based on the action during another player’s turn. However, only one can be played per turn. Event cards introduce complications when drawn. While in play, the listed effect is applied and the card can only be removed by successfully performing the indicated skill check as an action. A UO Pursuit card brings the UO Scout into play. This also increases the UO Presence bar by one and places an Eye marker on the Liberty’s current location. The Scout can be removed from play in the same fashion as an Event card. It’s not necessary to immediately complete the skill checks on the Event and UO Pursuit cards. However, neither is it advisable to let them go unattended. Should an Event or UO Pursuit card be drawn when another is still in play, it replaces the old one. Replacing an unresolved UO Pursuit card immediately moves the Scout one space, while replacing an unresolved Event card reduces the Resource bar by an amount equal to the number of unresolved Event cards (one the first time, two the second time, etc.). To prevent a rapid succession of these two types from occurring, the deck is subjected to a stacked shuffle during set-up. This involves distributing each of the different types of cards evenly between five piles. These are then shuffled separately and placed one on top of another.

Universal Oversight is a constant hindrance for the crew of the Liberty. Once the UO Presence bar reaches a certain point, skill checks are penalized while at a location with a UO Eye marker. The bar can be reduced using a Communications Room action, but this requires the expenditure of resources the Liberty may not be able to spare. Then there’s that persistent UO Scout. While it may at first appear to be easy to evade, an incautious crew can find themselves boxed in if they don’t pay attention. Should the Scout catch up to the Liberty, a die is rolled to determine which crewmember is taken in for questioning (with an eight, nine, or caduceus meaning they get off with a warning). As long as a crewmember is detained, the associated die cannot be used in skill checks. Plus, if the crewmember in question is being used by a player, he cannot perform movement or actions on his turn, nor play Reaction cards. To get the crewmember back, the Liberty must go to UO Headquarters and perform the listed skill check to bust him out.

There are multiple ways to lose, but only one way to win. The most common way to lose is when either the UO Presence bar tops off or the Resource bar bottoms out. Certain cards will also indicate automatic loss conditions for when they’re in play. To win, the crew of the Liberty must successfully resolve a series of five Objective cards. This can either involve randomly drawing five cards during set-up or using a pre-selected set (more of which will be available in future expansions). The former method has the advantage of greater replay value. However, the latter guarantees a balanced series of Objectives, as well as possessing an overarching theme. The first objective is revealed once the crew has successfully delivered a cargo, while the other four are revealed after the preceding Objective has been completed.

In conclusion, what had the potential to be an exercise in frustration is avoided thanks to the stacked shuffle and the dexterity gameplay. The Resource bar is also an effective abstraction with considerable appeal for anyone who doesn’t like keeping track of multiple assets.

Rating: 17

Product Summary

Space Movers 2201

From: KnA Games

Type of Game: Board Game

Game Design by: Kevin & April Cox

Cover Art by: Jon Hrubesch

Additional Art by: Jon Hrubesch

Game Components Included: Rulebook, Finding Liberty comic book, Game board, 1 Roll mat, 2 Ship tokens, 7 Character tokens, 1 Drone token, 1 UO Coin token, 7 Character cards, 20 Cargo cards, 20 Reaction cards, 10 Event cards, 10 UO Pursuit cards, 5 Adventure A Objective cards, 20 Random Objective cards, 7 ten-sided dice, 1 six-sided die, 1 Liberty Resource marker, 1 UO Presence marker, 9 UO Eye markers, 20 Cargo markers

Retail Price: $60.00

Number of Players: 2-7

Player Ages: 13+

Play Time: 60 minutes

Website: http://www.spacemoversgame.com/

Reviewed by: Sitting Duck