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Preview: Reviews from R'lyeh

Reviews from R'lyeh

A blog dedicated to reviews of RPGs and their supplements, with an emphasis on Call of Cthulhu and other Lovecraftian inspired games. All leavened with the occasional board and card game review.

Updated: 2017-12-13T14:11:50.108+00:00


An Original RPG II


Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel is the latest roleplaying game to explore the world of Tékumel, the linguistic and cultural setting developed by Professor M.A.R. Barker, which was originally published as Empire of the Petal Throne by TSR, Inc. in 1975, itself recently republished by The Tékumel Foundation. Published by Uni Games following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel is designed and illustrated by Jeff Dee, best known for his classic Advanced Dungeons & Dragons artwork and as the co-designer of the roleplaying game, Villains and Vigilantes, originally published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1979. Presented as ‘Rules for Science-Fantasy Role-Play on an Exotic Planet’, Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel includes new of rules for play on Tékumel, a different campaign framework, and a new setting, but, it nevertheless takes its cue and its template from the 1975 Empire of the Petal Throne—and that has implications for how accessible it is as a roleplaying game and how accessible it makes Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne.Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel starts with a good introduction to the world of Tékumel, explaining what it is and giving it a solid timeline which runs from our near future into the very far future, explaining how Tékumel was originally discovered in 60,000 AD and subsequently terraformed into a tourist world before it was dragged into a pocket universe. Isolated for millennia, both the human and alien inhabitants regressed technologically and lost much knowledge, but adapted to the hot and resource poor world that is Tékumel, such as learning to harvest, cut, and harden cut the hide of the mighty chlén beast to shape into armour, weapons, ploughs, and more. In time, the peoples of Tékumel made contact with intelligences from the Planes beyond the plane—or ‘béthorm’—of Tékumel, some of whom were adopted by the Priest-Kings of Éngsvan Hlá Gánga as the Tlomitlányal, the Gods of Stability, and the Tlokiriqáluyal, the Gods of Change. Éngsvan Hlá Gánga is only one of many great empires that have arisen and fallen since Tékumel was isolated. Today the area once ruled by Éngsvan Hlá Gánga is occupied by five great empires—Tsolyánu, the Empire of the Throne; the Empire of Mu’ugalavyá; the Land of Sorcery, Livyánu; and Sa’á Allaqí and Salarvyyá. It is the first of these empires, Tsolyánu, that is the primary focus of Tékumel and any roleplaying game devoted to the setting concentrates upon this nation above any other. This is not to say campaigns set on Tékumel cannot be set elsewhere, but that takes a bit more effort and a bit more knowledge than is presented in any roleplaying game devoted to Tékumel, and indeed, is presented in Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel.In terms of timeframe, the default setup for Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel is 2369 AS, after the civil war that has rent Tsolyánu the last five years. Prince Dhich’uné, who usurped the throne from his late father, Emperor Hirkáne, ‘The Stone Upon Which Rests the Universe’, has been dethroned by his brothers and fled, whereabouts unknown. Prince Mirusyía now rules as ‘The Flame Everlasting’ and despite rumblings from Prince Dhich’uné’s allies in the Temple of Sárku, there is relative peace in the empire as the war with Yan Kór has ended on good terms.Now in Empire of the Petal Throne, the default setup was that of ‘Fresh Off the Boat’, foreigners or ‘country bumpkins’, distant cousins who sail ashore at the great Tsolyáni port city of Jakálla and set out to find a place in civilised society. Initially confined to the Foreigners Quarter, they seek employers, then patrons, and finally sponsors who will support their becoming members of a clan and so become citizens of Tsolyánu, the Empire of the Throne. Not so in Béthorm: The Plane of Tékumel. Instead it offers up several campaign ideas, from being members of the same clan, worshippers of the same deity, and members of the same military legion to working as troubleshoo[...]

Fear and Loathing in the Fenlands


Fever Swamp is a sandbox adventure published by the Melsonian Arts Council following a successful Kickstarter campaign. Designed for use with Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay—but compatible with other retroclones—Fever Swamp is a hexcrawl which takes the player characters into the thousand square miles of a foetid, forsaken, disease ridden swamp, itself known as the ‘Fever Swamp’. Perhaps to gain the reward for the safe return of the imperially sanctioned occult scholar, Gert von Hemmer; possibly to confirm the fate of the lost imperial river galley, the Wasser Koenig; or even go in search of a great evil rumoured to stalk the waterways and mires of the fever swamp. They will face constant moisture, unrelenting heat, droning insects, the danger of disease and wounds that fester rather than heal, strange tribes, and the dregs of society.The player characters will first come to Clink, the village on the edge of the swamp and the last bastion of civilisation for many, many miles. It is riven by undercurrents of religious tension and potential heresy, rampant alcoholism, and fear of what the swamp hides. Here a party are likely to hire a boat, find a guide, and pick up what few supplies they can before punting and rowing into the mire. Out there, there are ‘The People’ to encounter, the native inhabitants of the swamp with their strange practices—from wearing masks of animal totems or deities dedicated to the plague, sharpening their teeth, and being constantly pregnant (men, women, and children) to hiding their skin, missing all the same limb, and never talking. Each tribe of The People is different. There are the corpse bodies of gods to plumb, mad men and mad women to run afoul of, strange ruins to explore, and something out there in the damp, sweaty, sodden flora that threatens to shamble out of the Fever Swamp…Unlike the first scenario published by the Melsonian Arts Council via Kickstarter, Crypts of Indormancy, there is no hinterland, no world beyond the limits of Fever Swamp. What Crypts of Indormancy hinted at was a world beyond its island archipelago setting, once a colonial possession of an empire of Elves, now occupied by twelve tribes of Island People. The Elves lost their empire long ago, whilst the folk memory of the Island People leaves them with a cultural dislike of the Elves. In comparison, Fever Swamp suggests the existence of the Nilfenberg empire from where settlers and fugitives have come to the village of Clink, either to stay, or make their way into the swamp. Plus of course, the scholar, Gert von Hemmer, and the lost imperial river galley, the Wasser Koenig. No details of the Nilfenberg empire are given, but it could easily be the Empire of the Old World, so that with some effort upon the part of the Game Master, Fever Swamp could be adapted to run with Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay or the ZWEIHÄNDER Grim & Perilous RPG. Whatever setting a Game Master uses, the Fever Swamp needs to be placed suitably far away from the empire itself.Fever Swamp is slim, twenty-six page hardback done in full colour—mostly green. It has no given guide for the character Levels required to play the scenario, though most foes they will face are of low levels. That said, push too far, explore too far, and there are some truly monstrous creatures to be encountered in the Fever Swamp. Besides describing the fifteen or so locations, it details the various NPCs, encounter tables, new monsters, and rules necessary to handle boats and disease in the swamp. Boats are the only viable means of getting around the swamp and the chances of catching a disease in the swamp are unfortunately high. In addition, Fever Swamp includes two new Classes. One is the Transfiguration Host, a Specialist-type character who is host to a Transfiguration Worm, a creature which seeks new experiences and which grants the host a new ability each time he acquires a new Level. This might be for example, learning a random arcane spell, acquiring razor sharp canines, growing a toxin[...]

Fantasy LAW


First published in 1980, Rolemaster was designed to plug into and replace other aspects of fantasy roleplaying games, beginning with the supplements, Arms Law, Claw Law, Spell Law, Character Law, and Campaign Law. Over the course of its four editions, it acquired the reputation of a being a relatively complex system, lots of numbers involved, with lots and lots of professions, and lots of charts and tables. In particular, critical hit tables for every type of weapon, spell damage, and almost every other type of damage! Subsequent editions of the game have streamlined and codified the mechanics, but there is an even simpler and more streamlined version of the rules and mechanics, a spiritual successor, if you will. This is High Adventure Role Playing or HARP, first published in 2003 by Iron Crown Enterprises. There are certain parallels here between the streamlining in terms of mechanics between Advanced Dungeons & Dragons and Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition. So if Rolemaster was written in the mould of the former, then HARP was written in the mould of the latter. All four are designed as a high fantasy set of rules built around a Class and Level system, but where Dungeons & Dragons only got a skills system and unified mechanic with the release of Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition, there has always been a skills system and a unified mechanic in Rolemaster and so there is with HARP. The current version of HARP, first published in 2011, is called HARP Fantasy.As much as parallels can be drawn between HARP Fantasy and Dungeons & Dragons, Third Edition, there are notable differences. The first major difference is that characters in HARP Fantasy are primarily designed, players having the freedom to design their characters how they want. Two other major differences are that all characters can use spells—HARP Fantasy includes a ‘Universal’ sphere of spells that anyone can learn and cast—and all characters can use all of the skills, the system including some sixty skills in total. So there is quite a bit of flexibility built into the mechanics. What makes it likely for one character to have one skill over another is cost. So the Mystical Arts category of skills are cheaper to purchase for a Mage than they are for a Fighter. The other difference of course, being that HARP Fantasy is a percentile system. In most roleplaying games, the results of an action—whether that be singing a song, climbing a wall in a hurry, swinging a sword to hit a goblin, or casting a spell—would be rolled on the percentile dice, the aim being to roll under the percentile chance. Not so in HARP Fantasy where the aim is to roll high rather than roll low. A player rolls his percentile dice and adds his character’s skill in singing, climbing, attacking with a sword, or casting a spell to the value rolled, plus or minus any modifiers derived the character’s statistics, the situation, or the difficulty of the task. The aim is to roll over one hundred. If the result is one-hundred-and-one or more, the character succeeds.Naturally low rolls result in a fumble, whilst an option allows for natural rolls of sixty-six to lead to unusual results, good or bad depending whether or not the action succeeded. A Manoeuvre Table provides various results, including a progress percentage for lengthy tasks, a bonus to be applied to the next manoeuvre in a chain of tasks, and a resistance value. Most importantly though, rolls are open-ended—in modern gaming parlance, they explode. If a player rolls between ninety-six and one hundred on the dice, he not only gets to add his character’s skill and modifiers, he gets to roll again. This enables a character to undertake and succeed at heroic, even desperate actions.A character in HARP Fantasy is defined by his Statistics, a Profession, Race, Culture, Skills, and Talents. A character has eight statistics—Strength, Constitution, Agility, Quickness, Self-Discipline, Reasoning, Insight, and Presence, which each has a value between one and o[...]

Steampunk Soldiery Spotter's Guide II


Steampunk Soldiers: The American Frontier is a sequel to Steampunk Soldiers: Uniforms & Weapons from the Age of Steam, which described a nineteenth century wherein the Great Meteor Shower of 1862 scattered deposits of an incredible energy source—Hephaestium—which set off a great age of technological development and innovation as the great powers sought to advantage of the new power source. Over the course of the next three decades, Great Britain radically extended her railway network across her empire and beyond; Prussia fielded new armour and armoured infantry to defeat Denmark and unite all of Germany; whilst France used her Peugeot-built steam-powered exoskeleton-equipped Foreign Legion units to conquer Indochina and invade China. Meanwhile, Russia developed Hephaestium-fuelled chemicals and submarines, the Ottoman Empire developed automata, and Nicolai Tesla developed Hephaestium-powered electro-weapons for the Austro-Hungarian Empire, whilst Italy stole blueprints and prototypes, sabotaged others, and kidnapped scientists and became Europe’s rogue state.Now the Americas were not ignored in all of this. Steampunk Soldiers: Uniforms & Weapons from the Age of Steam described how General Lee’s land ironclads forced back the Union forces and held them to a stalemate until a ceasefire was agreed between the Union and the Confederacy in 1869, ending the Civil War. It is also how the volume left the situation, with the former United States divided between the Union and the Confederacy. Steampunk Soldiers: The American Frontier picks up where it left off to describe and depict the situations, forces, troops, and equipment of not only the Union and Confederacy, but also the Republic of Mexico, Canada, Alaska, the Disputed Territories, and the frontier.The Union is technologically advanced, but her attention is divided between the Cold War with the Confederacy, surreptitiously running the blockade to Republic of Mexico, poor relations with both Canada and England, and with pushing back the frontier before the Confederacy does. Consequently, agencies like the postal service have been militarised, the Mailman of the United States Army Postal Service being shown armed and his faithful hound, being armoured and trained to attack mail thieves! The Union also employs numerous spies and agents, including Pinkerton agents to protect both the President and corporate interest; Special Service Agents with advanced monitoring equipment, such as Edison’s Kinetographic camera concealed in a carpet bag, and of course, US Marshals who wander far and wide. In the Confederacy, the Texas Rangers perform the same role as the US Marshals, but are not always welcome beyond the Texas state line. They are an effective force though, being equipped with modular, adaptable devices, such as the New Haven Arms modular Volcanic Pistols and Alamo Fortified Suit. The dominance of Texas in the Confederacy is show in the depiction of a Field Research Team from the Galveston Consortium testing out a new and advanced weapon—a Sonic Discombobulator! The Confederacy’s reliance on less conventional means of warfare is shown in its depiction of a Confederate Privateer, armed with a Winchester Boarding Carbine—which is fitted with an axe; a black-cloaked Night Ranger sharpshooter complete with starlight goggles; and a Bombardier of the Confederate Aeronautics Corps, whose mini-dirigibles are used for reconnaissance and raids, the latter including the famous bombing of the White House in 1864.When not facing off against each other, the Union and the Confederacy have pushed West in search of new territories and fresh resources, but these lands have not become known as the Disputed Territories for nothing. The Chiricahua Apache are caught between the Mexico and the Confederacy, maintaining a guerrilla campaign against both with surprisingly modern weaponry—perhaps supplied by the Union; similarly caught between the Union and the Confederacy, the Five Tribes Confed[...]

Coils Around the World


The Two-Headed Serpent: An Epic Action-Packed and Globe-Spanning Campaign for Pulp Cthulhu is pretty much up front about what it is. With a swagger and a quick swig from the hip flask, it swings into action, punches a Serpent Man firmly on the snout, and smashes its way through the Cthulhu Mythos—and out the other side in a campaign which will take the investigators around the world and back again. Written for use with Pulp Cthulhu: Two-Fisted Action and Adventure Against the Mythos, the supplement for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition which combines Lovecraftian investigative horror with two-fisted adventure, weird science, dark deeds, and brave heroes, The Two-Headed Serpent takes its cue from classic campaigns of the past—Shadows of Yog-Sothoth and Masks of Nyarlathotep, in particular—in that its globe-spanning trek will see the heroes uncover and confront the forces of the Mythos, culminating on a tiny island. In doing so, they will travel from Bolivia, New York, Borneo, and Oklahoma to the Belgian Congo, Iceland, and Brazil—and beyond!Published by Chaosium, Inc., The Two-Headed Serpent is upfront about what it is in three ways. The first way is Pinturero’s great front cover which shows you what campaign is about. Yes, it does involve entwined snakes—in more than the one sense; yes, it does involve a volcano—in more than the one sense; and it does involve all of the characters shown on the cover—in more than the one sense. The second way is the title, involving as both it and the campaign does, a lot of snakes. The third way is the set-up. The set-up is that the investigators—or heroes—are employees of Caduceus Foundation, a medical aid organisation with global reach and remit. The organisation employs all sorts of people, not just nurses, doctors, and scientists, but also those with social skills to talk to the people who can help Caduceus, those with the underworld or criminal skills and contacts to get people and supplies where they are needed, and of course, guides, drivers, mechanics, and so on. This allows a wide range of possible heroes (the pre-generated heroes include a Chinese medical doctor who is a quick study and who does not believe in the Mythos; a quick-witted, fast on the draw private investigator; a strong-minded archaeologist with fast reactions; a resourceful Sikh scientist with a knowledge of weird scientist; a strong-willed gun moll with a knack for disguise; and an expert big game hunter and explorer). This all sounds like a not unreasonable set-up for a campaign, but the authors of The Two-Headed Serpent actually state upfront in the player introduction that the Caduceus Foundation is a front for an organisation dedicated to fighting elements of the Cthulhu Mythos.Such a set-up is not only brave, but also radical in comparison to every other campaign for Call of Cthulhu, wherein the set-up is that the investigators are unaware of the Mythos or the mystery at the start of these campaigns. Nor is this set-up really a spoiler, because the heroes will pretty quickly learn the same facts in-game as the players have just learned them out of game. The set-up to The Two-Headed Serpent also both prepares the players and their player heroes for what is come and establishes the tone for the campaign before throwing the heroes into the action. Fundamentally, The Two-Headed Serpent is not a dour, methodical, investigative procedural, but a fast-paced, action-orientated jaunt to some Mythos hotspots old and new, and this frankly jaw-dropping set-up gets player and hero alike ready for it. The campaign opens in 1933 in the midst of the Chaco War between Bolivia and Paraguay with the heroes ostensibly delivering fresh supplies to an aid camp. Then they are ambushed, and so The Two-Headed Serpent is off to the races. Over the course of the campaign, the heroes will find themselves undertaking a wide variety tasks, whether it is uncovering an ancient temple from Earth[...]

Proper Paw & Pack Play


When mankind is long gone, popular wisdom has it that the cockroaches will survive and inherit the Earth. Not so according to the Pugmire Fantasy Tabletop Roleplaying Game. In the far future, long after an apocalypse that led to the disappearance of Man, it is his best friend that inherits the Earth. That is, dogs! Long uplifted to use tools, read, and improve the world around them, dogs have founded the Kingdom of Pugmire and now strive to live up to the ideals of their long-gone masters—the Code of Man. These are Be a Good Dog, Obey the Master, Bite only those who endanger you, Defend your home, Stay loyal to those that are true, Protect all from the Unseen, and Fetch what has been left behind. Currently, the Kingdom of Pugmire is roughly equal to a medieval world, but Mankind also left behind caches and troves of ‘magical’ artefacts which the dogs constantly search for. After all, the fact that dogs can use them is surely a sign of Man’s faith in them. Of course, Dogs are not the only species to have been uplifted by Man or the Old Ones. Only decades ago, the Kingdom of Pugmire fought a war against the Monarchies of Mau—a confederation of Cats, whilst tribes of Badgers, Rats, and Lizards can be found inside and outside of the kingdom’s borders. Indeed, the Monarchies of Mau is the subject of its own roleplaying game. Besides sharing a setting, Monarchies of Mau and Pugmire both have the facts in common that they were funded via Kickstarter and both are published by Onyx Path Publishing.Now anthropomorphic, post-apocalypse roleplaying games are nothing new. See Mutant: Genlab Alpha and After the Bomb, the supplement for Palladium Books’ Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles & Other Strangeness, as well as Metamorphosis Alpha, originally published by TSR, Inc., but most recently reprinted by Goodman Games. In comparison to the earnestness of the first and the wackiness of the latter two, Pugmire is different in that it is essentially Dungeons & Dragons, but ‘Dungeons & Dragons with Dogs’ because it employs the Open Game Licence for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. This makes Pugmire easy to pick up and play, which should be no surprise given the delightful accessibility of Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. There is more to Pugmire than ‘Dungeons & Dragons with Dogs’ though…Dogs in Pugmire have a Calling, a Breed, and a Background. A Calling is what a Dog does and is the equivalent of a Class. Six are given—Artisans (Wizards), Guardians (Fighters), Hunters (Rangers), Ratters (Rogues), Shepherds (Clerics), and Strays (Barbarians). Notable of these are the Artisan and Shepherd Callings. The Artisan specialises in the use of artefacts for magical effects, whilst the Shepherd belongs to the Church of Man, both spreads and uses the word of the Code of Man to guide others, and generally espouses being a good dog. A Breed is essentially a Dog’s Race. These are grouped into six types—Companion, Fettle, Herders, Pointers, Runners, and Workers, plus Mutts. The Breeds are more generalised than specific breeds of dog, but within each Breed there are several notable families, such as the Pug for Companions, Corgis for Herders, Greyhounds for Runners, and so on, which more correspond to the specific breeds of today. This neatly avoids Pugmire having to detail each and every contemporary breed and also establishes the various noble families within the kingdom. A Background is what a Dog did before becoming a hero and answering his Calling. Just eight are given, ranging from Acolyte and Common Folk to Sage and Soldier.A Dog’s Calling will provide him with a view on other Callings, on the Code of Man—each Calling favours a different part of the Code, his Stamina Points, skills and rucksack (equipment), plus his first Tricks. The latter are of course, a Dog’s special abilities and powers and are akin to the proficiencies or feats of Dun[...]

An Original RPG


First published in 1975, Empire of the Petal Throne was the second roleplaying game published by TSR, Inc. and the third fantasy roleplaying game to be published, yet it was the first in so many ways. Mechanically, it might have introduced the concept of critical hits, but it was the first roleplaying game to come with a setting, the first roleplaying game to come with its own languages, the first roleplaying game not to be based upon West Europe mythologies but rather Asia, Central America, and Egypt, and the first to come with a campaign concept. That setting is in the very far future on Tékumel, a metal poor planet which has been isolated in a pocket dimension for at least fifty thousand years. Societies on Tékumel are culturally sophisticated if very tradition-bound, but technology has regressed to medieval levels, although relics of the past, notably the metallic, gem-shaped ‘Eyes’, can be found and used, some emitting healing rays, others destructive or freezing beams. Knowledge of their manufacture has long been lost, but Magic is known, its Sorcerer practitioners drawing upon dimensions beyond for its energies or Priestly practitioners petitioning the gods directly, for on Tékumel, the gods are very real and any disbelief in them is viewed as an aberration. In the five human empires—Livyánu, Mu′ugalavyá, Salarvyá, Tsolyánu, and Yán Kór—there are ten gods and ten cohorts, divided equally between the Tlomitlányal, the Gods of Stability, and the Tlokiriqáluyal, the Gods of Change, their followers constantly jockeying for power and influence.Tékumel is the creation of M.A.R. Barker, a professor of Urdu and South Asian Studies and as much as it is a fantasy world, Tékumel is an exercise in linguistics. The designer created numerous languages for the world, Tsolyáni, for example, being inspired by Urdu, Pushtu, and Mayan. It should be noted that although knowing how to speak Tsolyáni has never been required to roleplay in the Empire of the Petal Throne, knowledge of some of the terms is useful. That said, the linguistic adjustment necessary to pronounce a great many of these terms has always proved to be off-putting for some gamers.The campaign concept is that of ‘Fresh Off the Boat’. The player characters are the equivalent of ‘country bumpkins’, distant cousins who sail ashore at the great Tsolyáni port city of Jakálla and set out to find a place in civilised society. At first they are confined to the Foreigners Quarter, but sooner or later, one of the great clans of Tsolyánu will seek to employ them, sending them off on deniable tasks, perhaps down into the Underworld of built over ruins located under the city. Eventually, their efforts will be recognised and the patron clan will sponsor them for membership of a clan and so allow them to gain citizen and value in the Five Empires. This is very different to the simplistic campaign concepts of the period, which amounted to little more than going down a dungeon, killing the inhabitants and taking their treasure. If such games were about going off and being outsiders, Empire of the Petal Throne was about outsiders earning acceptance and recognition.  As a campaign concept,  ‘Fresh Off the Boat’ is a clever set-up. It introduces everyone—Referee and players alike to the setting of Tékumel without overloading them with its complexities and subtleties, pulling them both into the society rather than excluding them. Of course, in later iterations of the setting, roleplaying on Tékumel focused on playing citizens and clan members, but in Empire of the Petal Throne, none of these clans are specifically named.Now Empire of the Petal Throne has been out of print since 2001, but in 2017, the Tékumel Foundation has reprinted it. Unlike the original edition from 1975, it does not come as a thick spiral bound book in a colourful box, accompanied by vibrantly[...]

A Science Fiction Past


It is almost four-hundred-and-fifty years since the Kuramaja, a sleeper ship from Earth is crash landed on the newly discovered world of Taranis. It is almost four-hundred-and-fifty years since memories of Earth and the location of Earth were lost. It is four-hundred-and-twenty years since the Big Seven—C&C: Colonisation & Construction, Hardcastle Haulage, Hayden Bank, the Mining Conglomerate, Moritasgas Pharmaceuticals, Open Technology, and Smertios Security—took control of their respective monopolies and gained the power as the Consortium that they continue to wield today over colonised space. It is almost three-hundred-and-fifty years since the first wormhole was discovered and opened to exploration. It is three-hundred-and-forty-years since first contact is made with the tentacular, amphibious species, the Eulutians, in the neighbouring Damara System. It is two-hundred-and-sixty-three years since wormholes are stabilised as Jump Gates and two-hundred-and-sixty-two years since first contact is made with insectoid Ximians and ends disastrously, beginning the Bug War which will last for almost two decades. It is sixty-four years since contact is made with the tree-like Vilithi, who subsequently rebel violently against their god-leader and request permission to join the Consortium. It is almost forty years since the former CEO of Hardcastle Haulage led an open rebellion against the Consortium for their having sanctioned him and his company for its extensive smuggling operations. It is almost thirty years since the first cranial implant was developed and a little more than twenty years since the first neurally-controlled limbs were developed. It is only a year since the Resistance revealed plans by members of the Big Seven to wipe open the non-human races in the Consortium. It only this year that Gaia Adaptation and Adjustment, the Eulutian-led company which developed Enviromorphic Fungi, the edible fungi capable of growing anywhere, is invited to join the Big Seven—which becomes the Big Eight. This is despite several assassination attempts on its CEO, Gueya.This is the history and setting for Era: The Consortium, a Science Fiction roleplaying game released by English publisher, Shades of Vengeance. It is set in the far future and takes place across twelve planets and moons spread across three systems connected by Jump Gates. It is dominated by the major corporations of the Big Seven—later the Big Eight—and despite the influence of the Senate, political body consisting of representatives from the other corporations, is a ‘corporatocracy’. Throughout its history, the Consortium has been beset by two tensions. The first is between the Big Seven and the Senate, the malfeasance of one leading to the dominance of the other, but in the case of the Senate, never for very long. The second is racial tension, in turn against the Eulutians, the Ximians, and the Vilithi, the Big Seven often extorting them for their labour. Even as each of the new species is accepted into the Consortium as citizens equal to Humanity and the Big Seven and other corporations employ them on an equal footing—though this often appears to be for publicity purposes than anything else, factions within the Big Seven are formulating and executing terrible plans of extermination against them. The setting is supported with an extensive equipment section, which covers weaponry, spaceships, cybernetics, and more, including personal shield technology.The major point of Era: The Consortium and its history is that the Game Master and his players can drop into key points along the timeline and play out the events at each of those points. To that end, the core rulebook gives six campaign concepts set at these points. These include a multi-character exploration of the founding of the Consortium in ‘The Origin of the Consortium’; a multi-team military camp[...]

A Taste of the Far East


The setting for 7th Sea, the roleplaying game of swashbuckling and sorcery published by John Wick Presents is the land of Théah. Yet there are lands beyond Théah, which the publisher is only beginning to address with the supplement, 7th Sea: Crescent Empire, which explores the lands immediately to the east of Théah. Yet there are lands beyond this, far to the east—Khitai. Although Khitai marks the return of the designer to the same genre as his highly regarded Legend of the Five Rings, that is, Asian fantasy, 7th Sea: Khitai is different in that it does not dwell solely on its Japanese and Chinese influences and sources. Instead, it encompasses numerous sources and influences and encompasses numerous nations and cultures, from China, Japan, and India to Cambodia, Australasia, and Oceania. Much of the pleasure of seeing these nations and cultures included is that many of them are rarely visited by roleplaying.The first taste of Khitai comes in the form of 7th Sea: Khitai Quickstart, which includes an overview of the setting and its themes along with a complete adventure. On a very personal level, the difference in themes between Théah and Khitai is twofold. The first is that the heroes—or player characters—are not driven to adventure, but pulled by the Call to Adventure, a very real, spiritual urge to fulfill their destiny. This call is made by the Song of the World and places a duty upon the heroes that is much greater than their personal desires. The second is that in Khitai, honour is supernatural rather than personal.7th Sea: Khitai uses the same mechanics as 7th Sea. These are essentially ‘roll and pair’, the players and the Game Master rolling pools of ten-sided dice to create ‘pairs’ of one, two, three, or more dice that each add up to ten or more. Each ‘pair’ is a Raise, which are spent to carry out actions in Action and Dramatic scenes. For the player characters, these pools are created from a combination of a character’s trait plus skill, for example, Honesty + Convince or Peace + Brawl. These combinations are called Approaches, which define how a character will do something. For example, Joy + Weaponry if a character wants to smash his way through a Brute Squad—the equivalent of a band of minions or goons or guards in Khitai—using her tetsubo or Wisdom + Mysticism if a character wants to search his memory for what he knows of a particular Kamuy or nature spirit. Bonus dice are rewarded for varying a character’s Approach from action to action and for providing an engaging description of said Approaches. In comparison, the Game Master rolls a pool of dice equal to the Strength of the Villain or Brute Squad.In a scene, Raises are then spent to inflict or block damage, to avoid Consequences—bad things that might happen to a character, to purchase Opportunities—advantages and bonuses that a character can find or gain in a scene, and to discover clues in a scene. Although the dice rolling mechanic is very much that of the traditional roleplaying game, the application is much more akin to that of a storytelling roleplaying game.There is one change in the rules between 7th Sea: Khitai and 7th Sea, a rule that the Game Master can import back to 7th Sea if he so desires. This is how Brute Squads work and the rule change makes them much more of a challenge. In combat in 7th Sea, a Brute Squad inflicts wounds, one wound per Raise, which a character counters with his Raises also on a one-for-one basis. In Khitai, when the Game Master spends Raises for a Brute Squad, it does not inflict Wounds on a one-for-one basis, but rather inflicts Wounds equal to the current Strength of the Brute Squad. The character can still counter this attack with a Raise and so block the Wounds.The 7th Sea: Khitai QuickStart introduces the setting and its rules in smart fashion. Barring th[...]

de Harken Inheritance II


MontiDots Ltd. publishes both horror and fantasy scenarios. The former, The Fenworthy Inheritance and The Smoking Mirror, are set in the Jazz Age of the 1920s and written for use with the GORE™ Open Game Content Rules published by Goblinoid Games—best known for the Old School Renaissance Retroclone, Labyrinth Lord—means that they are surprisingly compatible with the mechanics of Call of Cthulhu. The latter, consisting of the trilogy, MD2 The Curse of Harken Hall, MD3 Necromancer’s Bane, and MD5 Tantulus, are written for use Knights & Knaves’ OSRIC™ System (Old School Reference and Index Compilation) for its mechanics. This means that it is roughly compatible with Advanced Dungeons & Dragons, but the advantage of this and many other Old School Renaissance roleplaying games, scenarios, and supplements is how compatible they are with Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition.This trilogy takes place in and around the village of Highcliff Gard, located at the heart of Highcliff Gard Vale in the south of Fiefdom of Kaldemar. Insular and isolated, there are major differences between the world of MD3 Necromancer’s Bane and that of standard Dungeons & Dragons-style fantasy. Both the people and the valley are, in particular, this showing in their attitude towards Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and the like. Locally, they are known as the ‘Erle Folk’ and possess the ‘Fae Sight’ to one degree or another. Notably, the peoples of Highcliff Gard Vale are ill disposed towards them. This means that all player character ‘Erle Folk’ will have the Fae Sight and if they Elves, suffer some prejudice, so the players do need to know that their characters are going to be subject to xenophobia and be okay with that before play starts.The reasons for the prejudice lie at the heart of the trilogy, but are fully explained in the scenario’s appendix, as are the changes to both the Cleric and Magic-User Classes. Clerics in Highcliff Gard are polytheistic, worshipping a pantheon rather than a single god and making offerings to each of the gods of the pantheon as necessary. This gives Clerics access to a wide range of spheres and thus spells, the given pantheon for Highcliff Gard suggesting a Norse influence—no surprise given that the designer is from Yorkshire. Magic-Users can brew potions with the aid of a liquid known as Aqua Conjurum, which is brewed by alchemists typically of higher Level.Designed for First Level and Second Level characters, MD2 The Curse of Harken Hall brought the adventurers to Highcliff Gard and had them investigate the strange curse which beset the valley’s rulers, the de Harken family. This saw them investigate a recently discovered complex of rooms and tunnels below Harken Hall. The relatively small dungeon revealed the nature of the curse and pointed towards to a possible cure. Locating this cure lies at the heart of MD3 Necromancer’s Bane: An Adventure for characters of 3rd to 5th level and the catacombs cut in the south cliff face of Highcliff Gard Vale. It is here that the peoples of the valley inter their dead—and it is from here that knocking sounds have been heard…What lies beyond the doors leading into the catacombs is a good-sized dungeon, with its sixty-six halls, tombs, crypts, and shrines split across two levels. Just as in the dungeon in MD2 The Curse of Harken Hall, this dungeon is rich in funereal, memorial, and sepulchral detail, almost Victorian in its oppressiveness. There are rooms and locations here whose description are a page or more in length and the players are likely to want to take notes as their characters explore its furthest reaches. Given that this is a catacomb, it should be no surprise that the dungeon is rife with the undead, not all of it inimical to the player characters, but as they advance into its depths,[...]

Inside the End of the World


One of the disappointing aspects of Mutant: Year Zero – Roleplaying at the End of Days is that it limits the types of characters that the players can choose from. In ‘traditional’ and more familiar—if slightly gonzo—post-apocalypse roleplaying games, the options include pure strain humans, mutant humans, mutant animals, and mutant plants, but in the Swedish roleplaying game originally published by Free League Publishing and published in English by Modiphius Entertainment, the only option is the mutant human, or simply, the mutant. That changes with the release of Mutant: Genlab Alpha, which is either a roleplaying game and campaign of its own or a supplement to Mutant: Year Zero, depending on how the Game Master wants to use it. Mutant: Genlab Alpha adds anthropomorphic animals to the setting of Mutant: Year Zero and supports their addition with a campaign that can be run prior to—or parallel to—the campaign outlined in Mutant: Year Zero – Roleplaying at the End of Days. Or the Game Master can simply ignore the campaign and use the book as a supplement to add the animals to his campaign from the start.Published following a successful Kickstarter campaign, just like the forthcoming Mutant: Mechatron - Rise of the Robots Roleplaying, the setting for Mutant: Genlab Alpha and the campaign—‘Escape from Paradise’—is Paradise Valley, a valley high in the mountains, the high slopes covered in snow enough for skiing. The valley is closed off, entrance and exit prevented by a double electric fence. Within the confines of the valley can be found forests, rivers, swamps, lakes, islands, and more. It is inhabited by nine tribes, each consisting of a specific type of animal. These are the Ape, Badger, Bear, Cat, Dog, Moose, Rabbit, Rat, and Reptile tribes. Each of these tribes lives separately to each other and consists of several species. For example, the Ape tribe consists of the Chimpanzees, Gorillas, and Orangutans, whilst Rabbits and Hares are part of the Rabbit tribe. Maintaining near constant surveillance on the tribes are the robotic Watchers—Creepers, the spider-like service drones, the airborne Drones, and tracked and armed Sentinels being the most common—which set up roadblocks, carry out raids, track the inhabitants, and even abduct the animals for experimentation in the near mythic Labyrinth under the valley. This is done, to varying degrees, with the complicit acceptance of the tribes to whom the existence of humanity has faded into myth. For example, many of the tribes are riddled with informants who work the watchers, whilst the Dog tribe readily accepts and supports the activities of the Watchers, whilst the Rabbit tribe is at all but open war with the robots and their unknown master. Between them, with cells established throughout Paradise Valley and the tribes is the Resistance. This loose organisation seeks to overthrow the Watchers and perhaps escape the confines of the valley.The default set-up in Mutant: Genlab Alpha and ‘Escape from Paradise’ is that the player character are inhabitants of Paradise Valley, the members of one or more tribes. At least one of their number is a member of the Resistance and the likelihood is that the other player characters will quickly follow suit as the events of the campaign play out. These are built around a series of key events—abductions by the Watchers, searching for a means to counter the Watchers, discovering some of the secrets of the Labyrinth, and more—ultimately coming to a climax in an assault on the Watchers’ base and revelations as to the true nature of Paradise Valley. The campaign is supported by both descriptions and mechanics.The mechanics track the growth and activities of the insurgency conducted by the Resistance and how the Watchers react to its activit[...]

A Larder of Life and Death


If there is a singular feature to Dungeon Crawl Classics, the retroclone published by Goodman Games, it is the ‘Character Funnel’. This takes Zero Level player characters—usually four per player—and pushes them through a Zero Level dungeon. Devoid of the abilities and Hit Points that a Class would grant them, a Class is what each of these player characters aspires to and can acquire if they survive the challenge each of them will face in the dungeon. Thus prepared by their terrible experiences they can go onto greater adventures of ever higher and higher Levels. In the meantime, there is the ‘Character Funnel’ in which there is death and danger aplenty, as well as a challenge for the designer, because every has to present the right mix of death and danger if any of the characters are to survive. This is because the characters lack the abilities, spells, and combat acumen that First Level adventurers possess, instead they have to rely upon their luck and their wits.Published by Purple Sorcerer Games, Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry is one such ‘Character Funnel’. It takes place in Bitterweed Barrow, a village unaccustomed to mysterious tunnels, missing halflings, or the need for brave adventurers. Yet with the discovery of the disappearance of Nebin Pendlebrook, a local Halfling, down a dark tunnel he found whilst expanding his pantry, there are adventurers—that is, the player characters—ready to discover what happened to him, which means that all of a sudden, the village of Bitterweed Burrow has all three! Being at the door to Nebin Pendlebrook’s pantry marks the beginning of the adventure for the player characters, or rather haberdashers, potato farmers, locksmiths, pig herders, indentured servants, glovemakers, smugglers and more, one which will see them encounter strange hybrid creatures and the undead, magic—big and small, and danger and mysteries…Like most ‘character funnels’, the labyrinth below Nebin Pendlebrook’s pantry consists of a limited number of rooms and encounters—in this case twelve—organised in a fairly straightforward fashion. This fashion is not quite linear as there are a couple of deviations, but on the whole, the layout of the labyrinth is unfussy and uncomplicated. The same cannot be said of each individual room. Each of these is highly detailed, with lots of features to examine and explore, not always immediately, but for the curious and the careful, there plenty of things to find and plunder. Of course, some of this exploration involves some nasty encounters—if only for Zero Level characters—and some quite deadly encounters, including monsters and traps. These will whittle down the number of player characters, ready for the first of two confrontations in the dungeon. There is one which solves the mystery that triggers the adventure and one that solves the mystery that becomes apparent as the dungeon is explored.Nebin Pendlebrook’s Perilous Pantry can be played in a number of different ways. It could of course be played by a standard party of First Level characters, but the Dungeon Master might want to add a monster or two to each encounter because as written they do not represent too much of a challenge. Alternatively, it can be run as a ‘Character Funnel’ in one of two ways. The first is as an ‘Instant Action Adventure’, one that can be run in a single four hour session, including character creation, making it suitable for play at a convention or a demonstration game in a hobby store. The second is as standard scenario, allowing the players to take a bit of time creating their characters and establishing themselves in the Bitterweed Barrow and their relationships with each other, checking for rumours, buying equipment, and so on. Then it is off[...]

Frozen Fears


Cold Warning: A chilling 7th Edition scenario by Scott David Aniolowski is the first single scenario published by Golden Goblin Press, a publisher best known for anthologies such as Tales of the Crescent City: Adventures in Jazz Era New Orleans and Tales of the Caribbean. Released following a short, but successful Kickstarter campaign, the scenario is designed for use with Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition and is set in its classic period of the Jazz Age, though it can easily to be adjusted to take place in the Mauve Decade of Cthulhu by Gaslight or the contemporary period of the here and now. Equally, it could easily be moved to another country with ease as all it really needs is for it to be winter somewhere where there is a hunting lodge. Despite Golden Goblin Press publishing the scenario for the first time, Cold Warning comes with a little history. It is penned by Scott David Aniolowski who has been writing Call of Cthulhu scenarios for some thirty years, starting with ‘Temple of the Moon’, co-authored written with Mike Szymanski, in Terror From the Stars and more recently having contributed to both New Tales of the Miskatonic Valley and More Adventures in Arkham Country from the late, lamented Miskatonic River Press. Cold Warning was written twenty-five years ago in the early 1990s and was originally intended to be included in the never published supplement from Chaosium, Inc., Amerikan Gothik. In the 2000s, there was the possibility that it would be published by Miskatonic River Press, but Golden Goblin Press has inherited it and following a rewrite by the author, has finally brought it to print.Opening in Arkham in February, 1927, at the start of Cold Warning the investigators are hired to find Marilyn Sutton, the pregnant widow of the late Joseph Sutton. His alienist, Doctor Trenton Harrod, believes there to be something more to Joseph Sutton’s unexpected suicide and wants the matter better investigated than that conducted by the Arkham Police Department. Alternatively, Marilyn’s family are concerned for her well-being given her recent loss and her pregnant state and hire the investigators to find her, or her physician, Doctor Ephraim Sprague, is concerned about some of the symptoms of her pregnancy and hire the investigators to find her. Although these two alternatives are given in the scenario—and the second of these lends itself to the possibility that investigators might be staff from Miskatonic University medical school, the default set-up in Cold Warning has the investigators hired by Doctor Harrod to find Marilyn Sutton and is written to that end. That said, the scenario is straightforward enough that it is easy for the Keeper to adjust its opening scenes to fit whatever introduction he wants to use.The investigators should quickly learn that Marilyn Sutton is staying with her brother-in-law, Stuart Sutton, at the family’s hunting lodge located in the woods north of Bangor in Maine. Fortunately, it being the midst of midwinter, the investigators will be pleased to find that the lodge hires rooms and has rooms, especially given that the increasingly wintery weather is drawing in as they arrive. The meat of the scenario takes place here, with the investigators exploring their surroundings—both the woods and the nearby separate, but forbidden guest cabin—and interacting with the few NPCs already staying at the lodge. These NPCs are nicely drawn and although some do veer very close to being clichés, they are quick and easy for the Keeper to roleplay. There are some nicely drawn connections between some of the NPCs too—if the investigators go looking for them that is.Barely a day will pass before events in and around the lodge begin to escalate in their we[...]

Leagues of Ghosts


Leagues of Gothic Horror takes Triple Ace Games’ roleplaying game of globetrotting adventure and mystery, Leagues of Adventure: A Rip-Roaring Setting of Exploration and Derring Do into that melodramatic genre full of legends, ghosts, vampires, dark magic, great evils, sinister villains, and even romance—gothic horror! That supplement is further supported by a number of smaller books, each of which explores various aspects of the gothic horror genre in greater in order to bring them to life. The Guide to Apparitions is one such volume, expanding upon the information upon things that go bump in the night—and more! And just like other titles in the series, the fact that it is written for use with the Ubiquity roleplaying system means that its contents works with other roleplaying games and settings which use those mechanics, such as Exile Game Studio’s Hollow Earth Expeditions and Clockwork Publishing’s Space: 1889.The Guide to Apparitions has a lot to get through in its sixty-four pages. This includes the infernal origins of ghosts and their history, the creation, motivations, and lairs of ghosts, the diabolical and other powers of ghosts, and ghosts and apparitions of all shapes and sizes, right up to true villains. This includes some thirty-four ghostly powers, thirty-one sample ghosts, thirteen unique apparitions, two new occult tomes, and one new ritual. All together it gives the Game Master the means to create and modify a veritable host of ghosts with which to do the frighteners on the players and their characters.The supplement sets off at a canter with a race through the history of ghosts and apparitions that runs from prehistory and the dawn of civilisation up the modern day—by which the author means the 1890s or ‘mauve decade’ of the Victorian Era. This very quickly highlights the widespread acceptance of the Christian interpretation of ghosts, though other faiths are not ignored. Of course, in the setting of Leagues of Adventure there are clubs galore, each devoted to a particular fascination and when it comes to hauntings and apparitions, there is the Ghost Club. Its studies have formulated and categorised numerous types of ghosts and their means of creation and motivation, and their physical nature, fetters, triggers, and so on. Naturally, these categories are how the supplement classifies its ghosts, so the Guide to Apparitions is both a sourcebook for the Game Master and a reference manual of sorts for members of the Ghost Club. (That said, the Game Master should be careful in what he lets his players read).These motivations include being cursed—either for their wickedness or the wickedness of another, being driven or duty bound to fulfil a task, or seeking justice or revenge. Such motivations differ from Motivations—that is, what drives a player character and earns them Style Points, including player character ghosts. Although NPC ghosts do not earn Style Points, they do actually possess a Motivation, which is the same for all ghosts and that is, Duty. This Duty is acting in accordance with their motivation, so the Duty of a vengeance-born ghost is carrying out that revenge, whilst a Driven ghost is forced to recreate its actions again and again. Their physical nature is essentially how corporeal they are; a fetter is what ties a ghost to the mortal world and can be a place, a person, or a possession; and triggers are set a ghost to act, usually a time or an event. The Guide to Apparitions also introduces how to use the Resources Talent with ghosts, either as a refuge or equipment, rather than as monies. The first is typically set up as a haunted house, but it can be any haunted location and it works well with ghosts who hav[...]

Today's Scenario. Literally.


The Haunted Clubhouse: The Little Play House of Horrors is the first scenario from new publisher, Trepan, written for use with Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition. Designed to be played by between two and four participants in a just a single session or so, it is set in the modern day and takes place in New England, though not in Lovecraft Country. That said, it can easily be reset anywhere to most rural locations and in addition, notes are included to allow the Keeper to adapt the scenario to the roleplaying game’s classic period of the Jazz Age. It comes as a twenty-page, 4.99 MB PDF (with a Print on Demand option to follow), done in full colour with some terrific artwork.Specifically The Haunted Clubhouse is set in the New Hampshire town of Lincoln on an evening late in October. Even more specifically, it takes place on the date of this review. The investigators—four friends and students at Lincoln High—are out for a walk when they are approached by two young boys, Lineham and Miller, who will beg for their help. One of them will explain that their best friend, Smothers, is dead, his ghost is trapped in their clubhouse and unable to leave without some form of help. Both boys are going back to the clubhouse even if the investestigators elect not to help them.Some research will reveal that Smothers disappeared in the forests that surround the Lincoln, just over a year ago. Nor is it the first disappearance in the area, a number having occurred over the last century or so… Is this due to hikers simply getting lost in the woods or is there some other agency at work? Of course it is the latter, but the scenario does not really present a means for the investigators to find out what this is, beyond that is, a horror in the woods. What it sets up though, is a survival horror situation which the investigators need to find a way out of. Their efforts will be hampered by the strange events around them, trees that seem to act against them, an oddly enraged moose, visions, and so on. There is something Lovecraftian behind all this, but ideally what the Keeper should be hinting at is that one of the two boys, Lineham or Miller, are responsible, that somehow they have acquired psychic powers and that their sense of grief at Smothers’ disappearance is causing them to activate their new found abilities in random ways. The hints in the scenario at the abuse suffered by the children lend themselves towards this possibility. Then the Keeper can then bring the Lovecraftian elements in as the scenario proceeds. Unfortunately, The Haunted Clubhouse misses this opportunity as well as ignoring what either of the young boys are doing whilst they and the investigators are trapped in the boys’ clubhouse. Certainly the character of Lineham and what he knows could have been better developed as he really is the primary NPC in The Haunted Clubhouse and the point of contact for the investigators.Unfortunately, the Keeper will also need to do quite a bit of work to set The Haunted Clubhouse up. The problem is that the scenario is intended to be played by four students from Lincoln who are attending Lincoln High, but it is not written like that. Rather it is written as if outside investigators have come to the town and get pulled into the scenario’s events. Ideally, both approaches should have been presented and presented in a better fashion than they are here, but primarily the scenario needs handouts and prepared information to set the four players of the students (or visitors to the town) up with the information they need—primarily the disappearance of Smothers the previous year, as well as hinting that the [...]

Iconic Battles I


High Magic & Low Cunning: Battle Scenes for Five Icons is a supplement for 13th Age, the Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG  with an emphasis on storytelling as well as high action published by Pelgrane Press. It is the first book in the ‘Battle Scenes’ trilogy, each of which presents a series of Icon-themed encounters which can be dropped into an ongoing game with relatively little preparation upon the part of the Game Master. These encounters are battles, built across the three tiers of play—Adventurer, Champion, and Epic—and tied to each one of five Icons. These are the Archmage, the High Druid, the Orc Lord, the Prince of Shadows, and The Three. There are three such encounters per Icon, with three battle scenes per encounter, giving a total of some forty-five or so battles in High Magic & Low Cunning. Further, the supplement comes with a companion Map Folio, which contains maps for each of the volume’s battle locations, so that the Referee can bring the action to the table in full colour.Besides the 13th Age core rules, the Game Master will also need access to the 13th Age Bestiary, 13 True Ways, and the Book of Loot. Some new magic items are added in High Magic & Low Cunning, but these are not the focus of the supplement, whereas the new monsters it does add, are more the focus of the supplement.High Magic & Low Cunning is well organised. Each battle series follows the same format. This begins by giving the suggested Level range for the player characters, followed by an introduction, suggested story openings, and alternate Icons. The story openings, typically three or four per battle series provides options for involving the player characters, these varying according to their relationship with the Icon involved. For example, in the first battle series for the Archmage, ‘Moz’s Magnificent Mess’, the story opening for the player character with a positive or conflicted relationship with the Archmage is to have him go clean up Moz’s mess, whereas the story opening for a player character with a conflicted or negative relationship with the Archmage might go to Moz’s aid for favours before the Archmage can or learns of it. Between these two options are two more neutral story openings. Alternate Icons offers other avenues into the battle series via the player characters’ connections with Icons other than the primary one for the series. These typically put a different slant or flavour upon the battle series. A text box, ‘Icons in Play’, discusses which Icon relationships work with the particular battle series and so should be favoured in terms of information and other advantages by the Game Master.Each battle series consists of three battle scenes. These are come with a map—done in greyscale rather than the full colour of the maps in the High Magic & Low Cunning Map Folio—flavour text and location description, and details of the terrain, traps, monsters, their tactics and loot, how Icon relations will work in the battle, plus monster stats and next steps. The latter helps the Game Master set up the next battle or gives options for outcomes after the last battle in a series. Notes are included on how to scale each battle scene up and down, according to the number of players. Penultimately, each battle series is rounded out with a number of story endings, each one corresponding to a story opening given at the start of each battle series. So for ‘Moz’s Magnificent Mess’, the story ending for the player character with a positive or conflicted relationship with the Archmage and who together with his fellow player characters succeeds in cleaning up Moz’s mess without c[...]

Robbing the Reich of Rommel


Published by Arc Dream Publishing, Fox Hunt: A Godlike adventure is a short scenario for one of the best roleplaying games to come out of the 2001 and 2002 boom in World War II roleplaying games. This is Godlike: Superhero Roleplaying in a World on Fire, 1936-1946, a game in which the player characters are Talents, members of the Allied forces who have been ‘blessed’ with an amazing ability such as lowering the temperature around him, open any lock by pointing a finger, or simply picking up a Tiger tank throwing it at the enemy! The player characters are soldiers first before being trained to use their Talent effectively in battle, but as more and more of them appear, fewer and fewer lack the experience of using their Talent in battle, especially against the Übermenschen, the Nazi Talents who are part of the SS and who many of them revel in their powers and the Aryan ideals of the ‘Super Race’. There is also the matter of each Talent’s Will, for it is his Will that fuels a Talent’s powers and his ability to cancel out another Talent’s powers that can be lost in a contest of Wills with an enemy Talent. This is the situation that TOG-151 (Talent Operation Group-151) finds itself in the very early morning of June 6th, 1944 as it parachutes into enemy-occupied France.Fox Hunt: A Godlike adventure originally appeared in issue #5 of Gygax Magazine, the late lamented magazine published by TSR, Inc.. It is the fourth in the publisher’s Pantheon line of digest-sized set of adventures reminiscent of the early days of role-playing, which also included the fantasy setting, Gnatdamp; They All Died at the International Space Station, for use with Metamorphosis Alpha; and Operation Rendezvous Oasis, for use with Top Secret. Like the other entries in the line, Fox Hunt comes as a digest-sized book containing the adventure itself and a seperate fold-out A3 sheet which serves as a ‘Godlike Boot Camp’. The sheet folds out to give the base rules for running Godlike and the six members of TOG-151, ready to play. What this means is that Fox Hunt can be run without reference to the core Godlike rulebook.The title of Fox Hunt suggests the mission assigned to TOG-151. Its members are to drop into France on the morning of D-Day and take advantage of the poor reaction to the invasion upon the part of the occupying forces in France. With the forces under his command in disarray, Rommel is racing back to Normandy after having celebrated his wife’s birthday in Germany—and the Allies know which route he is taking. TOG-151 is assigned the mission of ambushing his convoy, kidnapping him, and returning him to England. This is a challenging mission, not least because the TOG will need to avoid the local soldiery—initially the French Milice or militia, rather than the German garrison—if it is to make contact the French Resistance. Their help is required if the TOG is to execute its mission.The problem with a lot of military adventures, especially commando missions like this one, is that they can be very linear and straightforward, and so it is with Fox Hunt. Yet some solid hooks and wrinkles have been thrown in along the way to make things interesting. These begin with a scene setting introduction when the members of the TOG have the opportunity to establish themselves as members of the squad, and continue with the interaction with the members of the French Resistance cell, including rivalry and romance. The ambush and its consequences are also interesting in that the man in the car might not be Rommel himself—perhaps a situation similar to that of General Bernard Montgomery and M. E. Clifton Jame[...]

Swashbuckling & Sorcery


From Game Designers’ Workshop’s En Garde!, Yaquinto Publication’s Pirates and Plunder, and Fantasy Games Unlimited’s Privateers and Gentlemen to The Australian Gaming Group’s Lace & Steel, Evil Hat Production’s Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies, and Triple Ace Games’ All For One: Régime Diabolique, the swashbuckling RPG has been a perennial favourite. Yet few have managed to capture all of the roleplaying genre’s elements—swashbuckling, sorcery, pirates, romance, adventure—with as much love as 7th Sea. Originally published by Alderac Entertainment Group in 1999, it was co-designed by John Wick, best known for Play Dirty and Legend of the Five Rings. For almost a decade though, the 7th Sea roleplaying game has been out of print, but with the acquisition of the publishing rights by John Wick and the subsequent successful funding of a new edition on Kickstarter, 7th Sea is in print again with an all new Second Edition.Now published by John Wick Presents, 7th Sea presents a setting that is very like the Europe of the late seventeenth century. There are pirates, there is religious rivalry, there are flashing blades and musketry, there is diplomacy and intrigue, there is adventure and romance, there is disruption in country after country as medieval kingdoms evolve into modern nation states. Yet there are large differences also. There is an equality between the genders and races; greater advances have been made in the sciences as much as the Inquisition would seek to burn all knowledge of it; there are superstitions and monsters who are much more than folklore; and there is real magic, whether that is the Glamour magic of Avalon, the Sorte or ‘fate’ magic of the Vodacce women, or the Le Magie des Portails or Porté of Montaigne. This is a roleplaying game of great heroes and heroines, but also great villains; a roleplaying game in which the player characters are expected to be those heroes and heroines; and a roleplaying game which draws mechanically from the past as much as it does from the now, for 7th Sea is as much a storytelling game as it is a roleplaying game.Unfortunately, right from the start, 7th Sea has a problem and that is with its overview. Now 7th Sea is a roleplaying game with an extensive background and setting as befits a line with some forty or releases for its first edition alone, and yet whilst some of that setting is given in the 7th Sea corebook for its second edition, what it really lacks is a timeline. This is a problem because the focus of 7th Sea is very much on recent events, many of which are mentioned in the 7th Sea core book’s setting material, yet without a timeline, the game feels hamstrung because it has no history let alone a sense of history and worse, because it has no context. Without that context, it is difficult for the players to create characters and it is difficult for the Game Master to create scenarios because it is difficult to tie them back into the setting.A less pressing issue concerns the name of the roleplaying game. 7th Sea refers to the mythical sea beyond the six seas that surround the game’s setting. There is an explanation for this, but it seems so odd that this explanation appears almost a hundred pages into the book when it feels like it should and could have been mentioned much, much earlier.The setting for 7th Sea is Théah. The year is 1668 Anno Veritas. The continent is dominated by eight countries—Avalon, Castille, Eisen, Montaigne, the Sarmatian Commonwealth, Ussura, Vestenmennavenjar, and Vodacce. Each of these countries has parallels with those of seventeenth century Euro[...]

Sorcery & Souvenirs


Published by Lost Pages, Wonder & Wickedness is a book of magic and magic things for the fantasy roleplaying game of your choice. Primarily written for the Old School Renaissance, it collects and collates content from the author’s blog to present some fifty-six spells divided into seven schools, a whole new system of magic, and a total of fifty magical items. The spells are accompanied by catastrophe after catastrophe should the spellcasting go awry; the seven schools are Diabolism, Elementalism, Necromancy, Psychomancy, Spiritualism, Translocation, and Vivimancy; the new system of magic is Level-less a la Original Dungeons & Dragons and Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay; and not a single one of the magic items is a plain and ordinary +1 item. All this is capped off by exquisite illustrations by Russ Nicholson, which are just lovely.The simple idea behind each of the spells is that they can all be cast by First Level arcane spellcasters. These are not weak spells, but spells that scale with the caster’s Level, both in terms of damage done and duration. Some spells require the application of sigils and a spellcaster can expend memorised spells to provide defence against other spell attacks or to inflict damage. Sample spells include Miasma, a Diabolism spell which summons the poisonous atmosphere of Hell for a random effect, like instant death, uncontrollable retching, burning blindness, and so on; Trapped Lightning is an Elementalism spell which traps lightning in bottle to be unleashed at a later date; the Necromancy spell, Soul Harvest collects and bottles souls for the caster to be used later as a bonus to a roll, temporary Hit Points, or as currency with other casters; and the Psychomancy spell, Fascinating Gaze, enables the caster to capture the eyes of another force them to answer yes or no questions. Second Sight is a Spiritualism spell which allows the sorcerer to the magic radiated by enchanted items and other casters; by casting the right sigil on a living being, the caster can turn him into a Living Gate to be used by the caster and his companions with this Translocation spell; and the Vivimancy spell Bloodlust instills exactly that in another, claws and all.All these spells are simple enough and easy enough to add to campaign. They can be added to a campaign as written or they might form the basis of a wizard’s particular studies or the curriculum of a college of magic. As written, there is a wonderful sense of the weird to a great many them, for example, Occult Consultation. To cast this Necromancy spell, the caster digs a square pit and fills it with wine, herbs, and a sacrifice in order to summon a throng of ghosts and enter conversation with them. With possession of their true name or treasured possession, the caster can even summon a specific ghost. Afterwards, when the spell ends, the caster can follow the ghosts back into the lands of the dead—with no guaranteed promise of easy return, if at all!There is always a danger in casting spells and so it is in Wonder & Wickedness. There is catastrophe aplenty to throw at the wizard should his casting go awry. At first these appear to organised in an odd fashion, but in actuality they are simply arranged so that the Game Master can either roll a twelve-sided die to get a result for a specific school or percentile dice to get a random result from any one of the eighty-four results (rolls of eighty-five and above are re-rolled). These outcomes to miscastings, wizardly death, and so on, add to the archness of the book, and this[...]

Cows for the Khans


It is sometimes forgotten that Chaosium, Inc. is a publisher of boardgames, starting with White Bear and Red Moon, but it has not released a boardgame since the publication of Arkham Horror in 1987. That changes in 2017 with the publication of Khan of Khans, a light card game that returns the publisher to its first love and the lands of its very first board game—Dragon Pass in Glorantha. The rich green uplands of Dragon Pass are looked upon with envy by the nomadic tribes of Prax and each of the tribes regularly sends raiders into Dragon Pass to steal the wealth of its peoples. A wealth that is measured in cows! This year the High Priestess of Prax has declared that the tribal leader—or Khan—who returns with the most wealth from his raids into Dragon Pass will be declared ‘Khan of Khans’, the paramount Khan of Prax! All that stands between each Khan and his being acclaimed ‘Khan of Khans’ is the magic of his enemies, the possibility that his cows will stampede, squabbling tribal champions, and rival Khans stealing his cows!Published following a successful Kickstarter campaign, Khan of Khans is designed by Reiner Knizia, best known as the designer of Ingenious, Lost Cities, and Keltis, the winner of the Spiel des Jahres in 2008, and is based on his earlier Polish design, Kajko i Kokosz: Przygody Wojówor or Kajko and Kokosz: The Adventures of the Warriors. It is intended for between two and five players, aged nine and over, and can be played in twenty minutes or so. The game is one in which the players must remember what cards have been drawn, press their luck in drawing cards, and use their tribe’s individual powers to their best effect if they are to be Khan of Khans.The game consists of a Map Card which shows the relationship of the ten locations the players are raiding in Dragon Pass and a set of cards for each location. These locations consist of Boldhome, Colymar Lands, Duckpoint, Dragon’s Eye, Dwarf Mine, Earthshaker's Temple, Furthest, Grazelands, Shadow’s Dance, and Sun Dome, with each Location Deck consisting of the same eight cards and one Special card. These are one twenty-, two fifty-, and one-hundred point value Raid cards and one Tribal Champion, one Waha’s Blessing, one Stampede, and one Enemy Magic, plus the Special card. The Raid cards represent the wealth or cows each Khan brings back to Prax from Dragon Pass; a Tribal Champion protects the tribe against Enemy Magic, but will squabble with any rival Tribal Champion and drive your cows (Raid cards) away, forcing a Khan to discard both; and a Waha’s Blessing card is used to steal from a rival tribe or kept to be included in the total value of a player’s Raid cards at the end. A Stampede card forces a Khan to discard his highest value Raid card; an Enemy Magic forces a Khan to discard all of his un-corralled cows and therefore unprotected Raid cards, unless stopped by a Tribal Champion. This forces the Tribal Champion to be discarded. The Special cards vary from location to location, but essentially they duplicate another card, but are themed to that location. For example, an extra hundred-point Raid card can to be taken from the Issaries cattle market at Boldhome, the feisty ducks at Duckpoint are notorious for their extra Enemy Magic, and the Dwarf Mine has an extra twenty-point card, ‘Cows in Cans’.The High Priestess has given a gift of corrals to each of the tribes, the number varying according to the tribe and the number of Khans. These cardboard tokens are used to round up cows taken on Raids and permanentl[...]

The After-Effects of Adventure


As its title suggests, The Bridges We Burn - A Numenera Adventure is a scenario for use with Numenera, the roleplaying game published by Monte Cook Games. Set in the far future of the Ninth World, Numenera saw adventurers—clever Nanos, wily Jacks, and mighty Glaives—exploring and using the wonders of the past to learn their secrets and benefit the peoples around them. As well introducing player-facing mechanics and an ever changing supply of mostly single-use magic items or ‘Cyphers’ to play with, Numenera essentially presented a new way in which to run and play Dungeons & Dragons-style adventures. Numenera proved to be the hit roleplaying game of 2013, win the 2013 Origins Award for Best RPG, and receive numerous supplements. Although a self-published adventure, The Bridges We Burn is a sort of sequel to Monte Cook Games’ mini-campaign, The Devil’s Spine, in that it takes place in the same city of Uxphon, with its maze-like canyons of towering pipes, which stands to the north of the Steadfast. The Bridges We Burn can also be run as a sequel to The Devil’s Spine in that when it opens, the player characters are being feted as heroes—presumably the heroes who overcame The Devil’s Spine.Designed to be played with Tier 3 characters—so they need to have more than a few adventures under their collective belts—The Bridges We Burn can be best run with access to The Devil’s Spine for possible context of the player characters’ previous adventures and The Ninth World Bestiary. Primarily though, the scenario requires that the Game Master consult the core rulebook for its information upon the city of Uxphon and of the Convergence, the rogue organisation who investigates and uses the technologies and devices of the past to its own benefit, which therefore puts it at odds with the Aeon Priests. It is the Convergence that triggers the events of The Bridges We Burn when they attempt to kidnap a beautiful young noble woman from a ball in Uxphon. It is at this very ball at which the player characters are being recognised as heroes and so when it comes under attack, they are of course expected to live up to their reputations—leap in to save the ‘princess’, and so on.Thus begins the action and intrigue in The Bridges We Burn, a lengthy adventure which takes place over five chapters and which should provide a group with many hours of playing time. Even before the action begins, there is plenty of opportunity for roleplaying and interaction as they navigate their rough hewn ways round the manners and attitudes of Uxphon’s high society and make preparations for the ball itself. Following the ball and the attack upon it, the adventurers are asked to investigate, to determine who was responsible and quite possibly rescue the kidnapped young woman. This involves tracking the miscreants and their hideouts down across the city before following the clues out to the Convergence’s secret hideout in the wastes to north known as the Fields of Death and known to be the breeding grounds for the dangerous cragworm.Yet if the adventurers manage to track down the Convergence cell and rescue the kidnap victim, there is still one very, very big threat to be dealt with—and it comes right out of the blue. At least for the player characters… Not only do they have to determine its cause, they also have to find a way to stop this threat, a threat that cannot really be killed. There are ways to deal with it though and the scenario provides several of these, but this requires getting a fr[...]

A Fulcrum in Stasis


The Coming Storm: The Red Cow Volume I is a supplement for use with HeroQuest: Glorantha. Published by Chaosium, Inc., it is the first part of The Red Cow duology, providing the setting and background details for the campaign, The Eleven Lights: The Red Cow Volume II. This setting and background is that of the Red Cow clan, famed for the red cows that it breeds and trades which make it the envy of many of its neighbours. The Red Cow clan is part of the Cinsina tribe, itself part of the Jonstown Confederation, which firmly places it in the Kingdom of Sartar in Dragon Pass. The time frame is between 1618 and 1625, so the early years of the Hero Wars that mark the end of the Third Age. The supplement details the Red Cow clan, its leaders and notables, its allies, enemies, and their aims, laying out a rich tableau which the player characters can explore and influence. They will take the role of clan warriors, hunters, herders, healers, farmers, priests, and more, their role and position becoming more important and prominent as they become involved in the events detailed in The Eleven Lights: The Red Cow Volume II. It is important to note that although The Coming Storm: The Red Cow Volume I is set during the Hero Wars and the events of The Eleven Lights: The Red Cow Volume II take place against the background of the Hero Wars, neither the player characters nor the Red Cow clan will become directly involved in the Hero Wars. Rather they will become involved in events on the side-lines of the Hero Wars or in the consequences of those events.As of 1618, the Red Cow clan, like most of Sartar, is under occupation by the Lunar Empire, the consequences of which are to divide the clan into several factions. Some like the Moon Winds, dominated by the Sardaling bloodline, have not only accepted Lunar rule, but also been converted by missionaries to worship of the Seven Mothers and welcomed the riches the Lunar presence brings. The Free Sartar faction sees those of the Moon Winds faction as traitors and would not only punish them, but see all Lunar presence driven out of Sartar. The Free Sartar faction supports those who rose in rebellion against the Lunar Empire and continues to support the surviving rebels who now conduct a guerilla war against the Lunar occupation. Its members also support the Orlanthi priesthood which has been forced into hiding since the Lunar administration outlawed worship of Orlanth. The Conquering Storm concerns itself with more local matters, in particular, old feuds and slights, wanting the tribe to keep the tribe itself strong and its neighbours weak, whilst the Wolfskinners fear the Telmori, the werewolves who live with their wolf brothers to the east and whose skin in wolf-form can only be cut by magical or iron weapons. The Wolfskinners would even co-operate with Jomes Hostralos, the Lunar General who has been given a land grant which was owned by a rival clan destroyed by the Telmori and who has led raids against the wolfmen. Lastly, there is Eye of the Hurricane, the faction which does not want to involve the clan in affairs beyond the borders of it lands, avoiding all talk of the Hero Wars and rebellion against the Lunar Empire. It is the clan chieftain, Broddi Strong-Kin, who leads both the clan and the Eye of the Hurricane faction, and so must keep a balance between the rivalries and politics of the factions, the clan, and the tribe.Interestingly, the Red Cow slogan is ‘No one can make you do anything’ and that lies at the heart of T[...]

Wolves on the Border


As its title suggests Time of the Wolves: An epic saga for the Age of Arthur roleplaying game is a campaign for the Age of Arthur roleplaying game. Published by Wordplay Games, Age of Arthur – Dark ages roleplaying powered by Fate—though written for use with an earlier itteration of the rules, both Time of the Wolves and Age of Arthur can work with FATE Core—is a gritty, Dark Ages-set Arthurian roleplaying game which presents a more historical approach to the Arthurian legend in comparison to the romantic approach taken by the classic King Arthur: Pendragon roleplaying game. Both are equally valid approaches to the Arthurian legend, but King Arthur: Pendragon is—and remains—the preeminent roleplaying treatment  of the genre, and rightly so. The historicity of Age of Arthur means that it does not quite have the grand sweep that King Arthur: Pendragon and The Great Pendragon Campaign together possess, but it does mean that there is greater scope for player character action and influence over a campaign.Set in the Kingdom of Ebrauc—roughly equivalent to Yorkshire—Time of the Wolves presents four linked adventures which see a band of heroes attempt to stave off an invasion by Angles which threatens the kingdom. Ebrauc is not the only place facing the threat of invasion. King Wehha of the Wuffingas, ruler of the recently founded Kingdom of the Angles, has designs on the nearby city of Lindum as much as he does Ebrauc and has set a competition for his sons to impress him by capturing both. In the course of the campaign, the heroes will encounter treachery and greed, honour and ambition, Fae magic and Saxon magic, and more. The fate of Lindum and Ebrauc lies in their hands.It opens with ‘Hammer to Fall’, in which the heroes are in Lindum, a city whose strategy in dealing with the threat of the Angles is to hire mercenaries—including Angle mercenaries—for protection and pay tribute to King Wehha. This has only put a temporary hold on the Angles’ ambitions and perhaps an opportunity has arisen with the news that pay for the mercenaries in Lindum’s employ has gone missing. The heroes are asked to investigate the loss and the process must deal with mercenary bands, hold off the approaching Angles, and somehow find a way of funding the city’s defence.Yet as the heroes work to save Lindum, the Angles make a move elsewhere. In part two, ‘Play the Game’, news comes to them that the heir to Ebrauc has been struck down and lies dying whilst the command of his troops has passed to a cousin. He proves ill-suited to command and even when it becomes apparent that the heir has been poisoned, he inadvertently impedes the heroes’ search for a cure. This takes the heroes off into Britain’s wilder realms where the GM gets to portray some fun NPCs and the heroes get to step up to the stage. They should earn a favour by the end of the scenario, but also owe one in readiness for ‘Put Out the Fire’, wherein the heroes must travel north to pay it back. This third part is mostly a journey, but it does present the heroes with a question of honour when they return.The last part is ‘Friends Will Be Friends’. Ebrauc’s situation looks perilous. The Angles have finally gathered enough enough forces to make their attack and the kingdom just does not enough men at its command to withstand their onslaught. The heroes must make one last desperate effort to bolster their forces before the invaders attack. This involves[...]

Cthulhu Classics VII


From one week to the next, Reviews from R’lyeh writes reviews of new games and supplements with an emphasis on Call of Cthulhu and other games of Lovecraftian investigative horror. This series concentrates on Call of Cthulhu and other games of Lovecraftian investigative horror, but not those recently released, but those of the past. There have been innumerable titles published over the years and this is an opportunity to appraise them anew, often decades after they were first released.Having looked at the releases from Games Workshop, culminating with Green and Pleasant Land: The British 1920s-30s Cthulhu Source Pack, Reviews from R’lyeh now moves on to another early licensee for Chaosium, Inc. This is T.O.M.E. or Theatre of the Mind Enterprises, a publisher best known for the five titles it released for use with Call of Cthulhu and Gardasiyal: Adventures in Tékumel, the 1990s roleplaying game set in the world of Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne. Between 1983 and 1984, T.O.M.E. would publish five collections of scenarios—The Arkham Evil, Death In Dunwich, Pursuit To Kadath, Whispers From The Abyss And Other Tales, and Glozel Est Authentique!—for use with Call of Cthulhu, Second Edition. The first release though, and the subject of this review, is The Arkham Evil.From the outset it is difficult to determine what The Arkham Evil actually is. The extent of the back cover blurb runs to, “THE STAGE IS SET… THE CURTAIN RISES… ON A MACABRE MYSTERY FROM THEATRE OF THE MIND ENTERPRISES, INC.” So there is no suggestion as whether it is an anthology of scenarios, a series of linked scenarios, or a campaign. In fact, it is actually more the latter than either of the former, a campaign to prevent the creation of a bridge into the physical world which will enable Nyarlathotep to enter our world. It is divided into three scenarios or acts—‘Act I: Into the Throat of the Beast’, ‘Act II: The Wanderer’, and ‘Act III: And the dogs shall know you’. The campaign also requires the players to use the pre-generated characters, a team of geologists, mining engineers, palaeontologists, cavers, and so on, who work for the College of Sciences at Miskatonic University.The campaign begins with ‘Act I: Into the Throat of the Beast’, which is set in 1919. The team is asked to go to Gibsville, an Appalachian coal town in Pennsylvania where a strange crystal cave has been found inside of which are several sets of bones. The team is to investigate and survey both the caves and the bones, for both scientific and commercial reasons—the mine owners want the miners’ fears about the bones allayed so that coal can continue to be dug. The task is hampered by three factors. First is the political situation in the region, with the Molly Maguires conducting armed operations against the mine and its owner, whilst the owner has employed a detective agency to protect the mine, the miners, and suppress the Molly Maguires’ insurrection. Second are the suspicions of the miners themselves—the team works for the mine owner, so they are not to be trusted. Third is the worry amongst the community at the recent rash of disappearances of young girls from the surrounding area, each at the new Moon.Over the course of a fortnight or so, the team will survey the cave, perhaps get involved in a local romance, and even get caught up in the local politics. At the end of this, the player characters are likely to come away[...]

The Spice Must Flow


Published by Plan B Games, Century: Spice Road is a light, easy board in which the players are spice merchants on the spice road who trade spice back and forth in order to make the right sale. Each merchant begins play with some turmeric and the means to harvest more turmeric as well the ability to trade this turmeric up into other spices—safran, cardamom, and cinnamon. Eventually they will have the right combination of spices to make the right sale and thus acquire gold.In fact, this is the very light theme to Century: Spice Road, a well-appointed game designed to be played by between two and five players, aged eight and up, which takes no more than forty-five minutes to play. The spice itself is represented by wood cubes, which are in ascending order of scarcity and value are yellow (turmeric), red (safran), green (cardamom), and (brown) cinnamon. The game comes with a plastic bowl for each of the four spices and the four bowls are placed in this specific order of scarcity and value. The game’s cards, all large, with full colour illustrations, and easy to hold in the hand, are divided into two categories. The first category of cards consists of Point Cards, which are purchased with the right combinations of spice and score a player Victory Points. The more difficult the combination of spices a Point Card requires to be purchased, the greater the number of Victory Points it awards a player. The second category of card is the Merchant Cards. These are broken down into further types—Spice Cards generate spice for a player; Upgrade Cards enable a player to change spice into a better spice, for example, turmeric to safran or safran to cardamom; and Trade Cards that enable a player to trade in spice for more or better spice, for example, two turmeric for two safran or one cardamom for two safran.Game set up is simple. Each player receives some spice—the amount varies according to turn order—and the same two Merchant Cards. Each player also has a Merchant Caravan card where he can store his spice. The bowls of space are arranged in ascending order of value and scarcity. Five Point Cards are laid out face up in a row, with the game’s gold coins placed above the first Point Card in the row and its silver coins placed above the second card in the row. Six Merchant Cards are placed in a row below the Point Cards. Each time a Point Card is purchased or Merchant Card is taken, the line of cards is shuffled down and a new card is drawn to replace it.On a player’s turn, he can take a single action, which can be one of four things. He can play a Merchant Card from his hand. This can be to generate more spice with a spice Card, to improve his spice with an Upgrade Card, or get more and better spice with a Trade Card. He can acquire a Merchant Card from the row. This can be any Merchant Card in the row, but on each of the Merchant Cards to the left of the one he wants to acquire, he must place a spice cube. The leftmost card is always free to take, but as players acquire the Merchant Cards they want to the right of this card, they fill the other cards up with spice and make them attractive options to acquire. He can claim a Point card by paying the right combination of spices. If there is gold or silver coin above the Point Card, the player also gets that. Lastly, he can rest. When a player plays a Merchant Card from his hand, it goes into his discard pile. By resting, a player c[...]