Cold Harvest: Roleplaying during the Great Purges

From: Chaosium, Inc.

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Cold Harvest: Roleplaying during the Great Purges is a new RPG Sourcebook/Adventure from Chaosium, Inc..

I have seen a lot of different historical approaches to Call of Cthulhu.  Throughout man’s history, there are some pretty horrific periods.  But few periods are more unique than the horrific period of the Soviet Great Purges.  I was surprised and a little intrigued when the author handed me this booklet.  I would even guess that this part of history is not really taught all that much, at least on the pre-college level.  But if you dig deep into the terrible rise of communism in Russia, you will not only be shocked at the cruelty but perhaps inspired like Chad was when he wrote this.

From the back cover: “All is not well at Krasivyi Oktbyr-3, a collective farm hidden away in the wilds of central Russia.

The book itself is primarily a single adventure during the Great Purges of the 1930s in Soviet Russia.  However, it is a good sampling on how to role play in such a dark time in history.  At the heart of the adventure is a dark and ancient secret hidden underneath an obscure farm village or sovkhoz.  If the Keeper is running this as a one shot and not part of a campaign, the investigators are agents from the Soviet NKVD – the ministry of the Soviet government responsible for security and law enforcement.  This is one of the primary arms of Soviet oppression across the country.

Unlike many typical Call of Cthulhu adventures, this adventure focuses strongly on role play and storytelling.  I am not saying the typical CoC adventure does not have role play but there is also a strong element of pulp action or creature fighting in a typical CoC adventure.  This adventure is very low key and much of the horror in the game is man-made.  There is also mythos element in the adventure but it is not intended by the writer for the players to come face to face with it.  Instead, the players are faced with a dark and difficult decision in the end.

In an effort to help the Keeper focus on role play and portray each NPC uniquely, the writer adds notes on how to portray each important NPC in the story.  With the adventure primarily focused on role play and story, there is only one way to get that story and role play out – through non players characters (NPCs).  And there are quite a few of them.  The Keeper needs to help the players discern between each one.  I like the fact that the writer added this.  It is very difficult at times for a Keeper to portray the NPCs distinct enough that the player can tell who they are dealing with just by the Keeper’s role play.  I recommend, however, that they Keeper come up with short names for each because stumbling over the Russian names is going to make things difficult.

From the back cover: “A fall-off in production has come to the attention of the Soviet authorities and communications are down.

The writer put a lot of work into the historical aspects of the book, to help the Keeper and players immerse themselves into the setting.  He goes to considerable length to describe the world of an NKVD agent without making it a history lesson on the Great Purge.  This is essential to help stimulate the role play and story in an otherwise obscure setting that most players may not be familiar with. My favorite part is a few paragraphs explaining the rivalry between the NKVD and the GRU (foreign intelligence agency).  Nothing produces more role play than internal conflict amongst the group.  Placing a GRU undercover agent would almost be a requirement when I run this.

The adventure itself is well written and free flowing.  The investigators arrive at the scene and then the rest is up to them.  Only a few things have to happen but the rest is up to them.  The Keeper is left in charge of the ancient evil, opening up all kinds of possibilities.  The investigation pulls the players not only into a dark mythos story but also the politics and intrigue of a small farm town trying to be an asset to the State.  This is where a bulk of the NPCs are presented and the importance of good role play for the Keeper comes in.  At many points throughout the adventure, the investigators are faced with NKVD-relevant situations and are forced to make hard decisions.

It should be noted that this adventure is written for Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition, however, there are conversion notes to previous editions in the appendices.  You can see my review of CoC 7e here.

In conclusion,  while very subdued and subtle, the adventure is a great opportunity to step into someone else’s shoes that is completely foreign and unique to most players.  It creates some very uncomfortable and morally challenging situations and makes for a great story.  And in the end, if the players are successful, they can save a town for certain death by sending them off to a labor camp, if they so choose.  I think this adventure works best as a one shot and it even supplies pre-generated characters for the purpose.  I am nto sure if the adventure would fit in a normal 4 hour slot but I am definitely going to find out.

The irony of this adventure is the general mythos plot of the whole thing can be placed anywhere.  What makes it unique and fun is the setting and the type of role play that can come out of it.  It is the simplest of mythos plots, but because of when and where it is, it makes for a great gaming experience.

For more details on Chaosium, Inc. and their new RPG Sourcebook/Adventure Cold Harvest: Roleplaying during the Great Purges check them out at their website http://www.chaosium.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

Cold Harvest: Roleplaying during the Great Purges

From: Chaosium, Inc.

Type of Game: RPG Sourcebook/Adventure

Written by: Chad J Bowser

Contributing Authors: Mike Mason

Cover Art by: Fifa Finnadottir

Additional Art by:  Fifa Finnadottir

Number of Pages: 64

Game Components Included: Adventure Booklet

Game Components Not Included: Core RPG rulebook

Website: http://www.chaosium.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

MACE West 2016: Savage Saturday Night

savage.worlds.logo1MACE West 2016 is proud once again to host Savage Saturday Night in conjunction with Clint and Jodi Black and Beautiful Brains Books & Games  – a variety of Savage World settings Saturday Night! This event presents Savage Worlds in a variety of different settings, some run by a number of professional game writers the game line, including Clint Black  SAVAGE SATURDAY NIGHT will take over the RPG room at 8 pm! A regular tradition at MACE West.

About Savage Worlds

Savage Worlds is a generic role-playing game and miniatures wargame written by Shane Lacy Hensley and published by Pinnacle Entertainment Group. The game emphasizes speed of play and reduced preparation over realism or detail. The game received the 2003 Origin Gamers’ Choice Award for best role-playing game.

MACE West 2016: Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire (D&D AL)

MACE West 2016 will be host to Dungeons & Dragons Adventurers League Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire Magic Item Trading Post!   Fai Chen and his mule-driven cart will make their way to our favorite gaming convention in Asheville.  Players of D&D Adventurers League will have the opportunity to trade for and purchase magical wares from across Faerun at Fai Chen’s Fantastical Faire.

But what can you expect at the Faire, and how can you entice Fai Chen to offer it at your event?  Click the here to find out.

Thanks to Tim McCrary and Topher Kohan (Southeast Regional Coordinator for D&D Adventures League) for this opportunity.

 

 

MACE West 2016 and Clint Black of PEG

Clint Black will be running Savage Worlds “Arcti-Gator Vs. Croco-Sharkasaurus: A Syfy Original Movie” at MACE West 2016.

This is your chance to be a star in a Syfy Original Movie! Glade City is a quiet town in Florida…with two BIG problems! What deadly secret is Glade City hiding? Is it connected to the grand opening of Beach’n’Snow, the new extreme winter sports & indoor beach amusement park, or is there something more sinister going on? One thing’s for sure…the special effects will be atrocious! Rules taught, beginners welcome, and characters/actors provided!

About Clint Black

Clint Black is Savage Worlds Core Rules Brand Manager for Pinnacle Entertainment Group. Savage Worlds is the Origins award-winning roleplaying game that is one of the most popular systems in the hobby. Clint also won a Silver ENnie at GenCon 2011 for Space 1889: Red Sands. Clint started as a freelance writer with Pinnacle over ten years ago, but his involvement grew significantly with the advent of Savage Worlds. He transitioned from a playtester on the original design team to the creator of one of the first and most popular books for the system (supervillain setting Necessary Evil, now in its third printing) to one of the designers and ultimately brand manager of the core rules. Along the way, he worked on multiple Savage Worlds projects, including the Horror, Fantasy, and Super Powers Companions, Weird War 2, Space 1889, and of course the landmark Pinnacle setting, Deadlands. Additionally, Clint serves as the face of Pinnacle on their forums, acting as the Official Rules Answer Man and administrator for years. He counts this opportunity to hang out and chat with fans online as one of the perks of the job.

He is married to multiple award-winning RPG editor Jodi Black and is the father of two awesome gamer daughters. In 2012, Clint Black won an Gold ENnie Award for Savage Worlds Deluxe.

Clint Black, along with his wife Jodi as well as Beautiful Brains Books and Games will be returning once again to run Savage Saturday Night.

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MACE West 2016 Hull Breach Demos and more

Todd & Lynn Holiman will be returning to MACE West to demo more Hull Breach card game.  This will include a special MACE only scenario.  Possibility joining them is the game designer Daniel Auxier.  He is setting up in Stuyvesant with the NOG guys.

About Hull Breach

Hull Breach is a sci-fi cards-and-dice game featuring epic space combat between ships, firefights between Marine boarding parties, and plenty of clever tactics and galaxy-shaking events. You command of a space station belonging to one of our several in-game factions and fight it out with one or more other Commanders to achieve galactic domination! The object of the game is to protect your Station – your home in space – from other Commanders while trying to capture or destroy theirs.  Be warned – they’re trying to do the same thing to you. It’s a tough galaxy and at the end of the day only one Commander gets to remain standing.

Best of all, while we encourage customization and deck-building, this isn’t one of those “collectible”  card games that will have you tearing through randomized foil packs of cards to find the ones you want. Hull Breach plays right out of the box and you’ll know where you can find every card in the game without having to drop a ton of space-cash on boosters or turn to the secondary market to field a competitive deck.

 

 

MACE West 2016: The Cult of NOG schedule posted

James Doster and his team of NOG (No Ordinary Gamers) cultists will be attending MACE West with their huge array of board games and card games.  Expect a wide variety of Steve Jackson Games, Atlas Games, Looney Labs Games and AEG.

Here is a list of their games

Agent Hunter
Car Wars the Card Game
Card of the Dead
Cards Against Humanity
Castellan
Cheaty Mages
Chez Geek
Corruption
Cthulhu 500
Dark Seas
Deadwood Studios USA
Fluxx
Give Me the Brain
Gloom
GrudgeMatch: Munchkin
Hull Breach
King of New York
Let’s Kill
Lord of the Fries
Love Letter
Lunch Money
Mad Scientist University
Mad Zeppelin
Mai Star
Mars Attacks 10 minute takedown
Munchkin
Munchkin Panic
Munchkin Quest
Once Upon A time
Pieces of Eight
Recess
Ren Faire
Revolution!
Seven Dragons
Siesmic
SJG Dice Games
Smash UP!
Spendor
Stuff and Nonsense
The Stars are Right
Three Cheers for Master
Tokaido
UnExploded Cow

MACE West 2016 D&D Adventurers League Schedule Posted

The MACE West 2016 D&D Adventurers League schedule is posted.  Here is the list of scenarios.  See OGRe for complete schedule

DnD5AL Scenarios

DDEX02-03 The Drowned Tower
DDEX02-04 Mayhem in the Earthspur Mines
DDEX02-08 Foulness Beneath Mulmaster
DDEX02-09 Eye of the Tempest
DDEX02-10 Cloaks and Shadows
DDEX02-11 Oublitte of Fort Iron
DDEX02-12 Dark rites of Fort Dalton
DDEX02-13 The Howling Void
DDEX02-14 The Sword of Selfaril
DDEX02-15 Black Heart of Vengeance
DDEX02-16 Boltsmelter’s Book
DDEX03-03 The Occupation of Szith Morcane
DDEX03-04 It’s all in the Blood
DDEX03-05 Bane of the Tradeways
DDEX03-06 No Foolish Matter
DDEX03-07 Herald of the Moon
DDEX03-08 The Malady of Elventree
DDEX03-09 The Waydown
DDEX03-10 Quelling the Horde
DDEX03-11 The Quest for Sporedome
DDEX03-12 Hillsfar Reclaimed
DDEX03-13 Writhing in the Dark
DDEX03-14 Death on the Wall
DDEX03-15 Szith Morcane Unbound
DDEX03-16 Assault on Maerimydra
DDEX04-01 Suits of the Mists

About D&D Adventurers League

The D&D Adventurers League is an ongoing official organized play campaign for Dungeons & Dragons. It uses the fifth edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules, and features the Forgotten Realms setting. You can play D&D Adventurers League games at any place that features adventures bearing the D&D Adventurers League logo. You can create a character and bring that character to games anywhere D&D Adventurers League is supported.

Most D&D Adventurers League games are public, in-person play events. Typical venues for these events are game and hobby stores, conventions, and public-accessible game day events.

See more about the D&D Adventurers League

B-Movie Inspirations: The Colony (2013)

Browsing NetFlix again, I found a new sleeper sci-fi/post-apocalypse movie called The Colony.  Starring some of my favorites like Bill Paxton and Laurence Fishburne, this movie had a great look, a great background but a fairly predictable and straightforward plot.  It has some good concepts and execution wasn’t bad but for such an epic setting, it was a tad disappointing in story.  But there is some inspiration in it.

The Colony takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where a second ice age has enveloped the world.  According to wikipedia – “By 2045, humans have built weather machines to control the warming climate due to climate change and global warming. The machines break down when one day it begins to snow and doesn’t stop. ”  That is not quite the vibe I got though and this is where my first inspiration came from.  What if these weather machines were more the cause than the solution?  Humanity’s own hubris thinking they could solve “global climate change” made it worse.  This is the perspective I approached it while watching it and is a common theme in many of my RPG campaigns.

The surviving humans live in colonies of underground compounds, where ever they can find them.  Each are referenced simply as colonies, Colony 5 and 7 being the primary bunkers we see in the movie.  Each deal with the issues you would expect in a frozen post apocalypse – food, water and disease.  The colonies stay in contact via radio and Colony 7 in particular has the luxury of satellite connections which is commonly used to search for survivors as well as thaw.

The movie spends a good amount of time introducing the characters and establishing the social environment that the survivors are in.  As you can imagine, it is pretty harsh.  Anyone that is sick is quarantined until they get better. If they don’t get better, they are banished into the cold.  Colony 7 is “ruled” by two former soldiers – one somewhat more nurturing and cerebral than the other.  Paxton plays the harsh and hard-nosed leader (Mason) while Fishburne plays the opposite type of leader (Briggs).   Briggs is officially in charge and the only thing that keeps Mason at bay.  Of course, you get the feeling that things are going to change soon and the beast that Mason is will be released.

That moment comes when they lose contact with Colony 5.  For some odd reason, Briggs volunteers himself and two others to go check it out.  Apparently it is within reasonable walking distance.  Personally, I would have said “Oh well” and stayed home.  But I hate snow.  The trek takes two days.  Passing over an old bridge, they use a grounded helicopter as shelter at the halfway point.  The tension in the movie begins to build from this point because my mind was going all over the place imagining what could be waiting for them?  Aliens?  Mutants?  Alien Mutants?  The possibilities were endless.

SPOILERS AHEAD

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Going into the movie not knowing the nature of it, as I said above, I imagined all kinds of possibilities.  Unfortunately, they never fulfilled by wildest hopes.  They kept it more conventional and grounded, as well as gritty and somewhat gorey.  Simply put, Colony 5 was attacked by cannibals – savage, teeth sharpening, cold-adapted humans that have gone insane from eating human flesh.  Colony 5 is their new slaughter house as they feast on raw flesh.

Briggs and his team barely escape, losing the youngest in their group as they try.  The savage cannibals give chase until the two survivors make a stand at the bridge, where Briggs sacrifices himself by using dynamite to collapse the bridge just as the group of savages are trying to cross.  Sam makes his way back to his own colony feeling like the cannibals were defeated.  He of course arrives to find Mason ruling over the colony like a tyrant and things don’t look good.  However, all hell breaks lose when they realize that somehow, some cannibals survived, including the vicious leader who was at the center of the blast on the bridge (It could happen!).  The assault on Colony 7 begins and chaos ensues.

From an RPG game master perspective, this movie is more about atmosphere than story.  The story is not original, but not bad.  This would be a great movie to watch, however, if you are creating an ice age apocalypse setting.  It gives you ideas on the various things that could happen, things a survivor would have to deal with and the general feel of the movie was inspiring in itself.

The plot is nothing special, as I said, but the savage cannibals could be something else.  I was rather uninspired by them because I find the old trope of “no monster is any worse than the ones inside ourselves.”  But a GM could relate the bad guy back to the mysterious ice age.  Maybe it was alien terraforming and they finally get to meet the aliens.  Maybe the aliens did not expect survivors.    All kinds of possibilities there.

Overall I like the movie more because of production value than story.  They successfully created a ice age apocalypse on a fairly small budget.  I recommend it if you like that kind of movie.

Ships of Clement Sector 2: Vulkan-class Attack Boat Tender

From: Gypsy Knights Games
Reviewed by: Ron McClung

Ships of Clement Sector 2: Vulkan-class Attack Boat Tender is a new RPG Supplement from Gypsy Knights Games.

I have reviewed a lot of the Clement Sector line.  I think it is clear I find the setting subtly inspiring and creative.  If you like gritty realistic campaign settings, this is the setting you are looking for.  It is versatile but also grounded.

Ships of Clement Sector is a series of small supplements that not only gives you details of a very useful ship, but it also gives you an inspiring background behind the development of that ship.  Most people would breeze over that, but in a setting like Clement, the development of a new line of ships is a big deal.  The politics behind the development of a ship like this can inspire an adventure easily.

From page #4: “Since becoming stranded here in the Clement Sector her life had taken a new turn with the introduction of these new attack boats, officially called Schnell Angriffsboot and Torpedieren Sie Angriffsboot. For the English speaking officers and crew in the Hub Federation Navy, they were more commonly known as Fast Attack Boats and Torpedo Attack Boats respectively, … ”

Of course the bulk of the PDF is made up of layouts of the ship.  The Vulkan-class Attack Boat Tender was built based on an old school concept of British World War II Motored Gun Boats/Motored Torpedo Boats and a modern concept of a tender that carries a number of these boats.  The end result is a very practical carrier or tender ship with 12 gun boat ships attached to it.

From page #4: “… and as far from the designs of the assault landers as you could get while still being called a small craft. It was as similar a difference as the distance of the Loire or Seine rivers at home on the other side of the conduit from here.”

The supplement details the various types of attack boats – a fast attack boat bristling with energy weapons and missiles; a torpedo attack boat with large anti-ship torpedoes, and Advanced Space Reconnaissance and Control (ASRAC) boat.  These ships are sleek and cool looking.  The renderings for each ship is top-notch, as I have come to expect from Gypsy Knights.  The ship deck plans are also easily used for combat maps if needed.

Also included are details on the tender ship that carries 12 of the gun boats.  It has a very practical and believable design.  It includes a launch which is also detailed and mapped out.  Collectively, this ship can act as a central ship for a player party and an attack boat their ship.

Scattered throughout the PDF is a well-written short story that also helps inspire you with game ideas.  Along with that is fuselage art from various squadrons of attack boats, which add a very cool feel to the whole supplement.

In conclusion, this is an inspiring supplement with a very cool idea for a ship.  I would use this in most any sci-fi setting.

For more details on Gypsy Knights Games and their new RPG SupplementShips of Clement Sector 2: Vulkan-class Attack Boat Tender” check them out at their website http://www.gypsyknightsgames.com.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

Ships of Clement Sector 2: Vulkan-class Attack Boat Tender
From: Gypsy Knights Games
Type of Game: RPG Supplement
Author: Michael Johnson
Cover Artists:
Ian Stead
Artists:
Ian Stead, Michael Johnson, Bradley Warnes
Editor:
Curtis Rickman
Number of Pages: 49
Game Components Included: One PDF
Game Components Not Included: Core Traveller rulebooks
Retail Price: $5.99(US)
Website: www.gypsyknightsgames.com

Reviewed by: Ron McClung

D6 x D6 RPG

D6 x D6 RPG
From: Popcorn Press
Reviewed by: Joseph Martin

D6 x D6 RPG is a new RPG from Popcorn Press.

Writing a successful generic/genre independent RPG rules set is a difficult task. Lester Smith and crew have done a good job on this one. Twenty-nine pages encompass all the crunch and rules for the system. That small amount of typed space contains enough gaming potential to appease even the most jaded gamer.

From page 6: “It’s our opinion that dice ought to clack together in your hand.

One thing that makes this game different from others is its dice mechanic. Like the name says, you roll two standard six-siders. You then multiply them. The result is then compared against the Focus Number, which is the character’s total number of abilities. If it is an ability you are trained in, you are hoping for a high number. If it is an untrained ability, a low one. Once you play around with it you will find it to be a straight forward and effective system.

Character creation is quick and easy. You could easily take longer with a concept than the actual number crunching. There are only four attributes to worry about but they do a nice job of covering all the basics. After choosing an occupation and skills you are practically done.

Sample occupations, skills and sample characters are given. While the given skills and occupations might easily cover what you want your character to do, the game suggests adding your own to fit your campaign.

The combat rules are relatively straight forward. Damage is also pretty close to realistic. If you are playing in a setting where you do not have access to magic or super-science for instant healing, beware of getting hurt!

From page 20: “With this set of guidelines, players can adventure in any of their favorite worlds…

While it’s a good set of rules the real wonder here are the sample settings. Taken from books, games and the mind of the author, they complete the rules with examples that will allow for an easy transition to a home game based on practically anything.

With the versatility this set of rules offers I can see a game master running anything from a standard swords and sorcery fantasy campaign, a gritty noir detective campaign, a steampunk 1800’s campaign or even something out of a licensed product about gates allowing travel between worlds based on ancient Egyptian mythos or a campaign based on a time traveler and his companions riding in an odd blue box…

In conclusion, this one is a rare gem. While described by the author as being ‘rules light’ it accomplishes a lot with just a little for sure. I see this as more of a set of guidelines and examples for making your own campaign – a toolbox you might say. If you are willing to spend a little time detailing a few skills, occupations and gadgets for your campaign, this could be the generic set of rules you have been hoping for.

For more details on Popcorn Press and their new RPG “D6 x D6 RPG” check them out at their website http://www.PopcornPress.com, and at all of your local game stores.

Codex Rating: 18

Product Summary

D6 x D6 RPG From: Popcorn Press
Type of Game: RPG
Written by: Lester Smith
Game Design by: Lester Smith
Cover Art by: Katheryn Smith
Number of Pages: 68
Retail Price: $19.99 (Print)
Item Number: 66001
Email: contact@popcornpress.com
Website: http://www.PopcornPress.com

Reviewed by: Joey Martin