DriveThruRPG.com
Browse Categories













Back
Other comments left by this customer:
You must be logged in to rate this
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/14/2021 10:49:09

Originally poster here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/05/review-stars-without-number-revised.html See link for pictures of Print on Demand version.

A few years back I reviewed Kevin Crawford's Star Without Number. At the time I said: The game is beautiful and there is so much going on with it that it would take me a number of games with it just to get the right feeling for it. The overall feel I get with this game is that it is the perfect child of Basic D&D and Traveller. So much of what made both of those games so great is here.

Is Stars Without Number perfect? No, not really. But it is really, really damn close and even from a short distance I could not tell it apart from a perfect game. Recently I went back over the game and still found it to be nearly perfect. But I had not played it all that much since then.

So on a whim really I picked up the newest Stars Without Number: Revised Edition and I figured I would grab the Print on Demand as well. I just go it in the main this past week.

Wow.

That is really the only way to describe it. Any of the reservations I had about the previous edition evaporated with this edition.

I am considering the PDF and the full-color Print on Demand version.

Written by Kevin Crawford, art by Jeff Brown, Christof Grobelski, Norah Khor, Aaron Lee, Joyce Maureira, Nick Ong, Grzegorz Pedrycz, Tan Ho Sim. And what fantastic art it is too! All pages are full color and each one is evocative and eyecatching. 324 pages.

Chapter 1 covers Character creation. We have seen this all before, but perfect for people new to RPGs or sci-fi fans new to the Classic 6 Attributes and level/class systems. The feel here is solid old-school and SWN:RE wears its old-school and OSR cred proudly. BUT they are also a new game with new design sensibilities. For example, character creation is broken down into easy steps.

You can determine your character's skills (and these can be from a number of sources). There are background packages that can be added to classes to give your character more depth and determine some of their skills. There are also training packages to further define your character.

The classes are the three "archetypes" that you can find in other games, The Expert, The Psychic, and The Warrior. This edition also has The Adventurer which does a little bit of all the above.

Character creation is a breeze and no one seems to die while doing it. There is even a quick character creation method on pages 26-27.

Chapter 2 covers Psionics. Psionics are rather central to the background fiction of the SWN:RE universe, so they get special placement. There are quite a lot of psionic powers detailed here. So first thing, if psionics are something you must have in your sci-fi game then please check this game out first. Psionic points always give the powers a different feel for me than magic, so this is another plus really. These powers are not merely reskinned spells, they have been redone to fit within the mythos of the game better.

Chapter 3 is the Systems chapter. It includes the expected combat, but also a new twist on the skill checks with Target Numbers. Useful if you are using the skills as described here, but its real utility comes in how flexible it can be. I would have to try it out more, but it's close enough to other skill + die roll + mods vs TN that I can see its use in a variety of situations. What I like about these skills is they are a 2d6 roll resolution system and not a d20. Sure makes it feel a little like Traveller. TRhis chapter also covers all sorts of actions, like combat (regular d20 vs AC here) and Saving Throws; Physical, Evasive, and Mental. Hacking also dealt with here since it is most similar to a skill check.

This also covers Character advancement.

Chapter 4 details all the equipment you will need including the Technology Level of the equipment. D&D would be tech level 1 (or so) while we are at TL 3. The game is set at TL 5 with some artifacts at TL 6. Time Lords are hanging out at 7 or 8 I would say. D20 Future and Traveller also use a similar mechanic, so if you want to see how they can also work, checking out those games is advisable.

The standard batch of weapons and armor from sticks and stones all the way up to energy weapons are discussed. AC is now ascending. What is really nice about this game is in addition to lasers, energy swords, and computers it also includes Cyberware, Drones, Vehicles, and "pre-Silence" artifacts.

Chapter 5 gives us Starships. Everything on size, type, and costs to ship-to-ship combat.

Chapter 6 covers the History of Space of the default campaign setting. Even if you don't use it there are some great ideas here.

Chapter 7 is Sector Creation which is just FULL of material for any game. While this game has a lot going for it, this is the real gem in my mind. This chapter is long, detailed and honestly, it makes me want to create worlds.

Chapter 8 covers Adventure Creation. You have characters, you have created all these worlds. Let's get them together.

Chapter 9 is the Xenobestiary. AKA the Monster Manual. Again we are given a lot of detail on how to make alien beasts and then a listing of several samples. Given the old-school nature of this game you could grab ANY old-school monster book for ideas. Yeah...doing Space Orcs could be boring, but Warhammer 40k has been doing them for so long and if you wanted to do them here, well the rules won't stop you. This chapter also covers the creation of alien species. First, the hows and whys of aliens are discussed; what to use, where, and why to use them. Some of this is situated in the campaign setting, but there is some good advice here even if you plan on using your own background/campaign or not even have aliens.

Chapter 10, Factions. Factions are important groups. Say a group of allied pirates or smugglers, a government or a band of plucky rebels. Several key factors when creating a faction are given and there is a huge list of sample factions.

Chapter 11 is Game Master Resources. It talks about character death and when to roll for skills. How to build a galaxy and conversions from First Edition Star Without Number.

Chapter 12 covers newer material, namely Transhuman stories. Or what I call the Altered Carbon chapter. The ability to move on to new bodies.

Chapter 13 has my undivided attention since it is Space Magic. That's right magic and wizards in space. Not psionics, but real arcane magic.

Chapter 14 covers heroic characters. These are not your Traveller grunts or even characters from Star Frontiers, these are your Luke Skywalkers, your Buck Rogers, and more.

Chapter 15 is True Artificial Intelligence.

Chapter 16 covers Societies.

Chapter 17 gives us Mechs.

There is also a fantastic Index (sadly lacking in many books).

SWN:RE ups the game in every possible way over SWN:1st Ed.

Print on Demand

I said this book was gorgeous and I meant it. The print-on-demand copy I got is sturdy and heavy. It is also the closest thing I have seen to offset printing in a POD product. You would have to look hard to tell difference.

I described the previous version as "nearly perfect." Reading through this version I am only left to say that is one pretty much is perfect. It does everything a sci-fi game should. I mentally slot different sci-fi stories, tropes, and ideas in while reading through it and I could not find something that didn't have a fit somewhere.

I have read a lot of sci-fi games this month, but this is one of the very best.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Revised Edition
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Space Opera
Publisher: Fantasy Games Unlimited
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/13/2021 14:01:59

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

Space Opera has always been one of those games that I have wanted for years but never tried. Anytime I thought about the game it was usually out of print and the prices were a bit high. Then I'd forget about it again. Reading through all my old Dragons, especially in the 1980-1983 time frame, there was an ad for it every issue.

Since this is SciFi month I figure I should go back to this one. Thankfully for me, it is now available as a PDF from DriveThruRPG.

Space Opera (1982)

Space Opera, 1st Edition, was released in 1980 which makes it one of the first competitions to the Classic Traveller RPG. The 2nd Edition version, which is what DriveThruRPG has, was released in 1982. I can't really speak to the differences. According to a post over at Wayne Books, there are not really many differences between the 1st Ed "Blue" box vs. the 2nd Ed. "Black" box save for the art.

There also seems to be a slight difference between the two black box 2nd edition covers.

Space Opera was written by Edward E. Simbalist, A. Mark Ratner, and Phil McGregor and published by Fantasy Games Unlimited.

The PDF from DriveThruRPG is 200 pages split into to two volumes. There are two color pages of the box art and the rest is a very old-school style b/w text with some minimal art. While this sounds like a drawback the game is very much a sandbox-style game. So the "Art" that would be here is from whatever your favorite sci-fi property is. Space Opera tries to be all things to everyone and ... well we will see how well it does at this. The PDF is a scanned image, then OCR'ed. There is no bookmarking.

Out of the box we learn that Space Opera is exactly that. A game to emulate your favorite Space Opera fiction. This is not the hard science of Traveller or the weird science of Gamma World/Metamophasis Alpha. This is Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers. I have heard it described as "not drama, but melodrama."

The sections are numbered like many old-school war games. 1.0 is "Space Opera" 1.1 is "Required Materials & Equipment" and so on. There are four major sections of Vol. 1, the player's book, 1. Space Opera, the introduction, 2. Character classes, 3. PC Career Experience and 4. PC Knowledge and Skills. Vol. 2 is the "Star Master's" section. Yes they are indeed called Star Masters. Here we have sections 5 to 18. 5. General Equipment Lists, 6. Personal Weapons, 7. Heavy Weapons, 8. Ground Combat, 9. StarShips, 10. StarShip Combat, 11 StarShip Economics & Interstellar Comerce, 12. World Creation, 13. Cultural Contacts (aka Aliens), 14. Directory Design of Planets, 15. Habitable Planets, 16. NPC Races, 17. Beasts, and finally 18. Personal Living Expenses.

If it looks like the game is heavy on weapons and combat then yes, it is. It is also so wonderful old school with bunches of different systems and sub systems.

Instead of completely reviewing a 40+ year old game let through out some caveats and some points.

First, while this game was certainly an attractive alternative to Traveller at the time, we have many more games out now that do this all better and with clearer rules.

Second, if you are a fan of older games or a fan of Sci-Fi games then really is a must have for your collection. The PDF is nice and cheap compare to the $100+ to $300 range I see copies go for online. For $10.00 it is worth your while if you are curious about the game, the history of RPGs or Sci-Fi games.

Now some points. Or how to get the most out of the 10 bucks I just asked you to spend.

Section 1.2 covers units of measurement, all metric focused. Many games do not have these, this is useful for anyone working in three-dimensions or needs a good idea what a cubic meter is.

Section 1.4 has good advice on dicing rolling in any game. Don't roll unless the outcome is in question or it serves the drama. There are lots of time to roll the dice, it doesn't need to be done all the time.

Section 2.0 covers classes. They boil down to Fighting, Tech, Science, Medical and Specialist. We will see these in one form or another time and time again in nearly every other Sci-Fi RPG from Stars Without Number, The Expanse, to Starfinder and even Star Wars and Star Trek.

Section 2.2 is a nice overview and random tables of Planet of Birth. They are all d20 rolls and should work with every other system out there. My back of the napkin math even tells me it would work great in such games like White Star.

Section 2.3 character races has great guidelines for just about every sci-fi race out there. Humans, future humans, evolved apes, cats, dogs, bears, birds, lizards. All here. Again guidelines so cut and paste into what other Sci-Fi game you have going on. No giant insects though.

Section 3.1 on covers some great guidelines on Mercenary service. I can't vouch that the economics will transfer from game to game though.

Section 4 has so many skills. I prefer a simpler skill system these days, but this would help you define some specialized ones.

Section 4.10 has a lot of Psionic skills as well. Might work with Stars Without Number. This is also how you get "The Force" without pissing off Lucasfilm/Disney.

Section 5. So. Much. Equipment!

Section 15. Great toolkit for habitable planets.

Section 16. NPCs and sample Alien races.

I said above it tries to be everything to everyone. It does this by taking every sci-fi trope there is and giving it a home here. Does it work? Well...it ends up being very long, very complicated and somewhat unattractive, but I can't tell if I am judging it by today's standards, my standards for game design or the standards of the time. This is a toolkit game with 1000s of options and you only need to choose the ones that work best for you.

This is not the Granddaddy of Sci-Fi RPGs. That would be Traveller. This is however the Great Uncle. He still has some good ideas and since he has no kids of his own he can spoil the grandkids as much as he likes.

I am sure that there are groups out there still today that would LOVE this game. Me I prefer something a little more streamlined. That all being said, I am glad I bought the PDF of this as opposed to spending $100s on eBay for it.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Space Opera
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2021 10:17:43

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/05/review-star-frontiers-alpha-dawn-and.html

Gamma World might have been TSR's first big entry into sci-fi gaming (Warriors of Mars and Metamorphasis Alpha non-withstanding), but it was not their biggest. While I don't have any hard numbers in front of me, I am going to have to say that Star Frontiers edges out the later Alternity in terms of popularity. It was certainly built at the height of TSR's fame with the first edition, simply Star Frontiers, published in 1982 with the new edition and trade-dress Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn and Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks. Certainly, in terms of fans, Star Frontiers has Alternity beat. But more on that soon.

For this review, I am considering the PDFs and Print on Demand versions of both Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn and Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks. I am also going to go with my recollections of playing the game when it first came out.

The Alpha Dawn book is designed by "TSR Staff Writers" but we know ow that a huge bulk of the work was done by David "Zeb" Cook and Lawrence Schick. Knight Hawks was designed primarily by Douglas Niles. The cover art in both cases was done by Larry Elmore with interior art by Elmore and Jim Holloway with contributions by Jeff Easley, Tim Truman, and even some Dave Trampier. Keith Parkinson would go on to do some other covers in line as well.

While originally boxed sets (gotta love the early 1980s for that!) the PDFs break all the components down into separate files. Handy when you go to print the counters or the maps. The Print on Demand versions put all the files together into an attractive soft-cover book for each game. The maps are published in the back, but you will want to print them out for use.

Both books are easy to read and really nice. They have been some of my favorite Print on Demand purchases ever.

Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn

Alpha Dawn is the original Star Frontiers game. The box game with two books, a Basic and Expanded game rules, some maps, counters, and two 10-sided dice. The rules indicate that one is "dark" and the other "light" to help when rolling percentages, but mine were red and blue. Go figure.

The Basic Game is a 16-page book/pdf that gives you the very basics of character creation. There are four stat pairs, Strength/Stamina, Dexterity/Reaction Speed, Intelligence/Logic, and Personality/Leadership. These are scored on a 0 to 100 scale, but the PCs will fall between 30 and 70. Higher is better. These can be adjusted by species and each individual score can also be changed or shifted.

The four species are humans, the insect-like Vrusk, the morphic Dralasites, and the ape-like Yazirian. Each species of course has its own specialties and quirks. I rather liked the Dralasites (whom I always pronounced as "Drasalites") because they seemed the oddest and they had a weird sense of humor.

We are also introduced to the worm-like Sathar. These guys are the enemies of the UPF (United Planetary Federation) and are not player-characters.

The basics of combat, movement, and some equipment are given. There is enough here to keep you going for bit honestly, but certainly, you will want to do more. We move on then to the Expanded rules.

The Expanded Rules cover the same ground but now we get more details on our four species and the Sathar. Simple ability checks are covered, roll d% against an ability and match it or roll under.

Characters also have a wide variety of skills that can be suited to any species, though some are better than others, Vrusk for example are a logical race and gain a bonus for that. Skills are attached to abilities so now you roll against an ability/skill to accomplish something. Skills are broken down into broad categories or careers; Military, Tech, and Bio/Social.

Movement is covered and I am happy to say that even in 1982 SF had the good sense to go metric here.

There are two combat sections, personal and vehicle. These are not starships, not yet anyway, and were a lot of hovercars and gyro-jet guns.

There is a section on creatures and how to make creatures. I am afraid I took that section a little too close to heart and most of my SF games ended up being "D&D in Space" with the planets being used as large dungeons.

The background material in the Frontier Society though is great stuff. I immediately got a good just of what was going on here and what this part of the galaxy was like. While Earth was never mentioned, you could almost imagine it was out there somewhere. Either as the center of UPF (Star Trek) or far away, waiting to be found (Battlestar Galactica).

This book also includes the adventure SF-0: Crash on Volturnus.

When it comes to sci-fi some of the rules have not aged as well. Computers still feel very limited, but the idea that as we approach the speed of light we can enter The Void has its appeal.

The price for these books is perfect. Grab the PDF and POD combo. Get some d10s, load your gyrojet gun and get ready to make the jump to the Void. There are new planets to discover!

Parts of Star Frontiers, in particular the species, would find new life in D20 Future, part of the D20 Modern line.

Both games are fun, but suffer from and/or benefit from the design principles of the time. Newer players might find some of the game elements dated. Older players of the games will find them nostalgic. Personally reading through them now some 40 years after first reading them I get a lot more enjoyment from the rules. Back then I was really too D&D focused to really enjoy what I had in front of me. Today, well I can't wait to stat up a character or two and a starship.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/12/2021 10:17:37

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2021/05/review-star-frontiers-alpha-dawn-and.html

Gamma World might have been TSR's first big entry into sci-fi gaming (Warriors of Mars and Metamorphasis Alpha non-withstanding), but it was not their biggest. While I don't have any hard numbers in front of me, I am going to have to say that Star Frontiers edges out the later Alternity in terms of popularity. It was certainly built at the height of TSR's fame with the first edition, simply Star Frontiers, published in 1982 with the new edition and trade-dress Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn and Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks. Certainly, in terms of fans, Star Frontiers has Alternity beat. But more on that soon.

For this review, I am considering the PDFs and Print on Demand versions of both Star Frontiers: Alpha Dawn and Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks. I am also going to go with my recollections of playing the game when it first came out.

The Alpha Dawn book is designed by "TSR Staff Writers" but we know ow that a huge bulk of the work was done by David "Zeb" Cook and Lawrence Schick. Knight Hawks was designed primarily by Douglas Niles. The cover art in both cases was done by Larry Elmore with interior art by Elmore and Jim Holloway with contributions by Jeff Easley, Tim Truman, and even some Dave Trampier. Keith Parkinson would go on to do some other covers in line as well.

While originally boxed sets (gotta love the early 1980s for that!) the PDFs break all the components down into separate files. Handy when you go to print the counters or the maps. The Print on Demand versions put all the files together into an attractive soft-cover book for each game. The maps are published in the back, but you will want to print them out for use.

Both books are easy to read and really nice. They have been some of my favorite Print on Demand purchases ever.

Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks

Ah. Now this game. Star Frontiers was great, but this game felt like something different. Something "not D&D" to me.

In fact I have often wondered if Knight Hawks had not been a separate game in development by Douglas Niles that they later brought into the Star Frontiers line. I also think that TSR was also suffering a little bit of what I call "Traveller Envy" since this can be used as an expansion, a standalone RPG, and as a board game!

Like Alpha Dawn, this game is split into four sections. There is a "Basic" game, and "Advanced" or "Expansion" rules (and the bulk of the book), an adventure, "The Warriors of White Light", and all the counters and maps.

As far as maps go, that hex map of empty space is still one of my favorites and fills me with anticipation of worlds to come.

The PDF version splits all this into four files for ease of printing or reading. The Print on Demand book is gorgeous really. Yes...the art is still largely black and white and the maps and counters are pretty much useless save as references, but still. I flip through the book and I want to fire up the engines of my characters' stolen Corvette, the FTL Lightspeed Lucifer. Complete with the onboard computer they named Frodo.

The Basic rules cover things like ship movement, acceleration, and turning, along with ship-to-ship combat. By itself, you have the rules for a good ship combat board game. It works fine as long as you don't mind keeping your frame of reference limited to two-dimensional space.

The Expanded rules tie this all a little closer to the Alpha Dawn rules, but I still get the feeling that this may have started out as a different sort of game that was later brought into the fold of Star Frontiers.

Ships are largely built and there is a character creation feel to this. Their 80's roots are showing, no not like that, but in that, the best engines you can get for a starship are atomic fission. Of course, no one just gets a starship, you have to buy it and that often means taking out a loan or doing a bunch of odd jobs to raise the credits. Often both. I don't think I ever actually bought a ship. The Lucifer was stolen.

There is also quite a bit on the planets of the UPF, Frontier Space, and the worlds of the Sathar. It really had kind of a "Wild West" meets the "Age of Sail" feel to it.

The last part of the POD book is the adventure "The Warriors of White Light" with its various scenarios.

Minus two d10s everything is here for an unlimited number of adventures in Frontier Space. Rereading it now after so many years I can't help but dream up various new adventures. I also can't help to want to use the Sathar in some of my other Sci-fi games. They have such untapped potential.

The price for these books is perfect. Grab the PDF and POD combo. Get some d10s, load your gyrojet gun and get ready to make the jump to the Void. There are new planets to discover!

Parts of Star Frontiers, in particular the species, would find new life in D20 Future, part of the D20 Modern line.

Both games are fun, but suffer from and/or benefit from the design principles of the time. Newer players might find some of the game elements dated. Older players of the games will find them nostalgic. Personally reading through them now some 40 years after first reading them I get a lot more enjoyment from the rules. Back then I was really too D&D focused to really enjoy what I had in front of me. Today, well I can't wait to stat up a character or two and a starship.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Star Frontiers: Knight Hawks
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/10/2021 15:55:54

Originall posted here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/search/label/Classic%20Adventures%20Revisited

One of the first adventures I ever bought via mail-order was S3 The Expedition to the Barrier Peaks. I had already latched onto the idea that the S series of adventures were going to be mine to run in our extended group of players that crossed many DMs and groups. I grabbed it without really knowing a lot about it. I knew there was crashed spaceship central to the adventure and I knew that it was a larger adventure. Since I was spending my limited paper route money on my new D&D addiction I had to make every dollar count. S3 had two booklets, at 32 pages each, and color inserts. There were two covers with maps. So even my young mind all of this was more valuable than a simple adventure that only had half that material. I got it in the mail one summer and took with me on a family trip to the fish fry my parents loved to go to every year. It was hot, and July and all I wanted to do was sit in our van and read my adventure. This was also the first time that I encountered what I would later call the "Gary Gygax" effect. This would be the "E.G.G." on the map of Level II. I remember not liking it at the time because if this was a real spaceship then why was that there.

Sci-Fi gaming was not new to me. I had picked up Traveller and I knew about Gamma World. I also had learned that Gamma World and S3 had a shared parentage in Metamorphasis Alpha, though I will admit I wasn't 100% clear on what that meant at the time. Without knowing much about the size of the Warden (MA) we always assumed this was the Warden. Given the shape of the ship that landed on Greyhawk and it's size this was more obviously some sort of smaller scout ship with a prison or brig. One thing everyone in my groups agreed on was this is how Mind Flayers came to Greyhawk.

S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks

For this review, I am considering my printed copy from 1982 or so (not my original sadly, lost that one years ago) and the PDF from DriveThruRPG. This adventure was written by Gary Gygax himself and was the official Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Tournament scenario at Origins II in 1976. The adventure was updated and published in 1980. Cover art and art book art by Erol Otus, interior art by Jeff Dee, David "Diesel" LaForce, Jim Roslof, David Sutherland III, Gregory Flemming, and Erol Otus.

The adventure comes in two 32-page black and white booklets. The first covers the adventure and the second covers all the weird animals, plants, and gadgets found on the ship. There is also four pages in the center of book two with full-color art of the animals. I have one copy where they are glossy and another where they are matte. I have no detail on what the differences mean.

Book 1 covers the adventure. The preface sets up what this adventure is about and gives some background on how this adventure came to be. The rest sets up the adventure, placed in the Grandy Duchy of Geoff in the World of Greyhawk. There is a bit of explaining the nature of this "dungeon," really a crashlanded ship, and how to read the maps.

While one could call this a funhouse dungeon it is a bit different than the other Gygax funhouse, Tomb of Horrors. There are a lot of new and weird monsters here and some older ones (like the Mind Flayer) that are given a new life so to speak. What is most interesting to us, and to the players, were the new tech provided. The tech items were designed not really to be functional, but to confuse the players as much as possible. There really seemed to be a fear that D&D characters would run around with laser rifles. Of course the design makes no sense from a human perspective, so we tried to figure out how they might been created. One idea was that these make sense if you are a Mind Flayer.

The adventure itself is a pure dungeon crawl into an unknown structure.

Book 2 covers all the visual aids for this adventure.

The adventure is a must-have really to say you have had the complete D&D experience. My oldest hated it though, saying he hates mixing sci-fi with his D&D. My youngest loved and wanted lasers for everyone.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks (1e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

The Witch (player class)
Publisher: Dungeon Masters Guild
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/09/2021 20:16:38

Originally Posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/dmsguild-witch-project-hedgewitch.html

The Witch by PCSpinner (was called the Hedgewitch)

The Witch PDF is a PWYW with a suggestion of $1.00 for 10 pages.

It looks like the math here is about ¢10 a page. That is a good ratio in my mind.

It comes in standard format and printer-friendly format.

The Witch is true to its name and presents a witch class. She gets spell levels up to level 5 only. The class has a nice variety of features and powers and all have a really nice witchy feel to them.

The "sub-classes" or archetypes of the witch are "covens" which is exactly what I would do and would expect since "Traditions" were taken by the Wizards class. There is a nic variety here.

The layout and art look really nice. I think some of it is public domain art and photos. At least they look a little familiar.

There are no "new" spells, but it does use spells that were new at the time of publication.

Quite a nice version of the class really.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Witch (player class)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Stars Without Number: Original Free Edition
Publisher: Sine Nomine Publishing
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/08/2021 20:17:04

Originally Published here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/05/review-stars-without-number.html

Continuing my deep dive into the OSR-based SciFi games we naturally next come to Stars Without Number. This gem was released in 2011 and was written by Kevin Crawford and Sine Nomine Publishing. SWN is a big book, 254 pages filed with maps, sheets, a great index, but no OGL statement that I kind find. To me this book feels more like the work of hard sci-fi; like that Asimov, Bradbury and Heinlein. Certainly it is epic in scope. There is more of a setting here than other OSR-flavored games, so if you like that, great, if not, well it seems easy enough to ignore.

Chapter 1 covers Character creation. We have seen this all before, but perfect for people new to RPGs or scifi fans new to the Classic 6 Attributes and level/class systems. The classes are the three "archetypes" that you can find in True20 and other games, The Expert, The Psychic and The Warrior. Each has their own advancement table and Hit Die. SWN assumes a 20 level career in case you were curious. Each class also gets their own saving throw tables. There are background packages which can be added to classes to give your character more depth and determines some of their skills. There are also training packages to further define your character. Character creation is a breeze and no one seems to die while doing it.

Chapter 2 covers Psionics. There are quite a lot of psionic powers detailed here. So first thing, if psionics are something you must have in your sci-fi game then please check this game out first. Powers as expected have point cost values. Psionic points always give the powers a different feel for me than magic, so this is another plus really. These powers are not merely reskinned spells, they have been redone to fit within the mythos of the game better.

Chapter 3 details all the equipment you will need including the Tech Level of the equipment. D&D would be tech level 1 (or so) while we are at TL 3. The game is set at TL 5 with some artifacts at TL 6. Time Lords are hanging out at 7 or 8 I would say. D20 Future and Traveller also use a similar mechanic, so if you want to see how they can also work, checking out those games is advisable. The standard batch of weapons and armor from sticks and stone all the way up to energy weapons are discussed. AC is descending by the way. What is really nice about this game is in addition to lasers, energy swords and computers it also includes Cyberware.

Chapter 4 is the Game Systems chapter. It includes the expected combat, but also a new twist on the skill checks with Target Numbers. Useful if you are using the skills as described here, but it's real utility comes in how flexible it can be. I would have to try it out more, but it's close enough to other skill + die roll + mods vs TN that I can see it's use in a variety of situations.

Chapter 5 covers the history of space of the default campaign setting. Even if you don't use it there are some great ideas here.

Chapter 6 is the Game Master Guide of the game. Deals with running the game and how and where to use skill checks.

Chapter 7 is World Generation which is just FULL of material for any game. While this game has a lot going for it, this is the real gem in my mind. This flows right into Chapter 8, Factions. Factions are important groups. Say a group of allied pirates or smugglers, a government or a band of plucky rebels. Several key factors when creating a faction are given and there is a huge list of sample factions. Chapter 9 discusses what sort of adventures you might be able to have. With Chapters 6 through 8 and all the details they give, running out of ideas is the least of your worries really.

Chapter 10 covers the creation of alien species. First the hows and whys of aliens are discussed; what to use, where and why to use them. Some of this is situated in the campaign setting, but there is some good advice here even if you plan on using your own background/campaign or not even have aliens. Plenty of traits are detailed and how they might combine. There are three alien races detailed. Naturally this flows into Chapter 11, Xenobestiary. AKA the Monster Manual. Again we are given a lot of detail on how make alien beasts and then a listing of several samples. Chapter 12 gives us Robots and Mechs. We have various traits detailed and then plenty of samples. Chapter 13 deals with societies. This might have felt better coming after Chapter 8 really. Chapter 14 has designer notes. I nice little treat to be honest. Chapter 15 deals with the Hydra Sector, or the "Known World" of this game. Instead of countries we have planets. Chapter 16 ends the book with scores of random tables. Create just about anything with a few rolls of the dice. There is a nice Index (sadly lacking in many books) and plenty of maps and blank sheets for characters, starships, and adventures.

Stars Without Number is big. It is a vast game with endless possibilities. If there is a sci-fi property out there chances are good that this game will be able to do it.

My only complaint is a non-existent OGL declaration. Can you do a game like this without one? Maybe, but I would not want to. Plus it makes the game's utility a little less for me.

The game is beautiful and there is so much going on with it that it would take me a number of games with it just to get the right feeling for it. The overall feel I get with this game is that it is the perfect child of Basic D&D and Traveller. So much of what made both of those games so great is here.

Is Stars Without Number perfect? No, not really. But it is really, really damn close and even from a short distance I could not tell it apart from a perfect game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stars Without Number: Original Free Edition
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Mutant Future: Revised Edition
Publisher: Goblinoid Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2021 15:40:39

Orginally Posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

I reviewed 1st Edition Gamma World which got me thinking about Mutant Future. I was surprised to discover I had written a review for Mutant Future. Well, today seems like a good time to do that. This review will cover the PDF and the POD versions from DriveThruRPG.

Mutant Future (2010)

Not to start with, Mutant Future is not really a Retro-clone, near clone, or anything like that. The closest game it is like is Gamma World. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, Gamma World has its roots in the dawn of the RPG age and D&D in particular. Filled with mutant animals, plants, and humans of all sorts.

While Gamma World has its own near-D&D system it is not 100% compatible. Maybe 95%. Mutant Future doesn't have that issue. It is the exact same rules as its sister game Labyrinth Lord. Plus Mutant Future is not trying to emulate Gamma World exactly. Mutant Future then is a new game that feels like an old game that never really existed. Mutant Future does have some differences from Labyrinth Lord. The game is set in a post-apocalyptic Earth much like Gamma World.

Section 1: Introduction

This covers the basics. What this game is and what to do with it. A brief overview of dice and common abbreviations is covered. This largely the same as what we see in many games and in Labyrinth Lord in particular. Mind this is not a drawback to this game. There is a strong implication here that anything made or written for Labyrinth Lord is also good for Mutant Future.

Section 2: Characters

Again, there is familiarity here, and that works to Mutant Future's advantage. The ability scores are the same as Labyrinth Lord/D&D and are generated the same way. The various species or types you can play are also here. Characters can be an Android (basic, synthetic, or replicant), mutant animals, mutant plant, mutant human, or the rare pure human, also like Gamma World. Abilities can go as high as 21 and there are a different set of saving throws, but the basic rules are the same as Labyrinth Lord. The types also list what HD each character has and how many mutations you have.

This section also covers gear. It uses a coin system much like D&D and Labyrinth Lord as opposed to the barter system of Gamma World. Either works fine.

Section 3: Mutations

This covers all the mutations that all characters, NPCs, and creatures can have. In true old-school fashion, these are all random tables.

Section 4: Adventuring Rules

This covers the rules of the game and what characters are likely to do. Again these are replicated (but not cut and pasted) from Labyrinth Lord. Mutant Future sticks with feet and Basic movement as opposed to Gamma World's metric and more AD&D-like movement.

Section 5: Encounters and Combat

Combat and weapons of all sorts are covered. Also covered are damage from stun, paralysis, diseases, radiation, poisons, and more. This is one of the bigger departures from the Labyrinth Lord core, the saving throws are keyed for Mutant Future damage types. There is also a mental attack matrix here much like Gamma World.

Section 6: Monsters

This section covers all the sorts of creatures you can encounter. It is fairly expansive and since the format is the same as Labyrinth Lord creatures can be used in one or the other or both. 40+ pages of monsters is a good amount. There are also plenty of detailed encounter tables.

Section 7: Technological Artifacts

This would be the "Treasure" section in a fantasy game, but this is highly appropriate since the world of Mutant Future is supposed to be littered with the technology of past ages. This includes non-playable robot types, vehicles and things as mundane as protein bars.

Section 8: Mutant Lord Lore

This covers how to run a Mutant Future game. Not just how to run their own but how to build your world. Unlike Gamma World which has a sort of baked-in setting, Mutant Future is more open. The Mutant Lord (and I think an opportunity was missed in not calling them Mutant Masters) gets to decide how the world is the way it is. Advice is given on how to run adventures and a sample setting is provided.

Section 9: Mutants & Mazes

While it might not really be needed, this section discusses using Mutant Future and Labyrinth Lord together. The rules are remarkably similar, like 99%, so there are only minor pieces to consider. Though this section does expand mutations to the standard D&D tropes of race/class.

All in all this a fine game. It is not exactly like Gamma World, more was it trying to be. It does however give that Gamma World feel in an OSR ruleset.

Print on Demand

The PoD version of this book is a sturdy hardcover that compares well to my Labyrinth Lord books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mutant Future: Revised Edition
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Gamma World (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 05/07/2021 14:14:49

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/

There is an important piece of my 40+ years of D&D anniversary that I have neglected and I thought I must rectify that as soon as I can.

1981 was a banner year for D&D. I FINALLY got my real copy of the game, the Moldvay D&D Basic Set which I have talked about ad nauseam here for years. Within that "Gateway to Adventure" catalog there was another game that I knew a little about and would also soon be part of my ever-growing desire for a good sci-fi game. That game was TSR's own Gamma World.

Over the next few years, I'd spend time with this game and other editions of it, but it was this first edition that really grabbed me like no other.

I am going to review Gamma World here and talk a little about what I did with it and what I will do in the future. For this, I am considering my original Gamma World book (the box and dice are long gone), the Print on Demand version, and PDFs from DriveThruRPG.

Gamma World (1978, 1981)

Living thru the Nuclear Scare was an interesting time. I vividly recall having conversations with kids my own age about how they saw no future because the Russians were growing to blow us all up any day. Regan was president and I was convinced he was going to do something stupid to get us all nuked. Instead, he just destroyed the middle-class. But the threat was there all the time. The news, the movies, even all the music videos, to quote Frank Zappa, used all the same cheesy atom bomb explosions. Yup we were going to all die and the world become a nuclear wasteland where people drove around Mad-Max style in supercars and fought for the remaining resources.

I suppose then given that environment a game like Gamma World was inevitable. Gamma World was our world, but very different. It is always interesting to read an older game describe how the world of their future and our present would turn out. Gamma World paints a nice picture of the early 21st century as a time when we stopped polluting the Earth and taking resources from it. Science Fiction indeed. With that, let's delve into this book.

Gamma World original print vs new PoD

Introduction

There is a lot of interesting thing going on here. We know this is a (maybe even THE) Post-Apocalyptic game. This said apocalypse began in 2309 going to 2322. We get some world-building here with various wars leading up to the attack against a group known as The Apocalypse by what remained of the various governments and groups and The Apocalypse fought back. While it is not said to be a nuclear disaster, that is certainly how it feels. We know that due to this event that some life-forms were completely wiped out and others were mutated into new and strange forms. It is stated that many of the weapons were biological in nature too. So we have a heady stew of alchemical death raining from the skies. The year is now 2471 (450 years from now). There are humans and other things here and that is where our adventures begin. I can't help but draw parallels between this and the Buck Rogers in the 25th Century TV series which came out at the same time. Gamma World predates the TV show, but not Buck Rogers. The TV series takes place in 2491, so 20 years after GW. With TSR's later dangerous flirtation with Buck Rogers, I wonder if any attempt was made to bring the two lines together? I certainly would have tried if I had been into GW as much as I was into D&D.

How to Use This Book & Designing Gamma World

An overview of what this book is about and how to use it. If you ever played an RPG then you know what is here. If you ever played AD&D then you might even have this section memorized. Gamma World uses the same dice as D&D.

The designing part covers what you are likely to encounter in a typical Gamma World setting. It is a broad overview meant only to introduce the players. Details will come later.

Creating Characters

If you can create a D&D character then you can create a Gamma World character; they are largely the same and makes you wonder why there was no unified game system used at TSR. Well...I have my guesses. You have three "races" Pure Strain Humans, Humanoids, and Mutated Animals. Your attributes are Mental Strength, Intelligence, Dexterity, Charisma, Constitution, and Physical Strength. I am sure these are recognizable. Pure Strain Humans are just that, but Humanoids and Mutated Animals can have mutations. These are rolled randomly of course and some are beneficial others are defects. You can have a physical and/or a mental mutation. Mental ones can even include psionic abilities. Plants can also have mutations. This covers quite a bit of the book, but that is not really a surprise I suppose.

Since the tables in the game are based on various ability scores they are more important in normal play than they are in (A)D&D. Levels and experience points use does not even come up until page 42.

Play of the Game

This covers the rules of the Gamma World game. We start out with what happened a lot in GW; moving from place to place and searching for things. Combat is the next section with weapons from clubs all the way to fusion rifles. We get some combat matrices that look like they were cribbed from D&D Basic. This is a good thing. There is even something here that I always an improvement, the Mental Attack Matrix. I mean this could have, should have, been ported back to AD&D and been better than the psionics system used there.

Encounters

Gamma World is a Gygaxian fun-house dungeon writ large. That doesn't mean everything you encounter will try to kill you, but that is a good assumption. The creatures are not as evocative as say the creatures from the Monster Manual but they are compatible with each other so if your really want an orc in Gamma World game it is easy.

Also presented are various alliances. These are the groups, factions and tribes you can encounter. Only a few are presented here and the Game Master is encouraged to make more.

Artifacts and Equipment

Maybe more so than D&D there is a good reason for all these "treasures" to be laying around. But there is always the chance that something will fail. Gamma World takes the device flow charts from Expedition to Barrier Peaks (it's "cousin" adventure in AD&D) and dials it up to 11.

This section also covers trade, the value of goods, and robots. I wonder how many Gamma World games changed the importance of robots after the Terminator movies came out?

The last few pages cover an example of play and there are some charts (random encounters) and hex grids that can be removed for use. They look right at home next to my D&D charts of the same period.

Print on Demand

The Print on Demand version might be one of the best ones yet. Yes, the maps from the box set have to be printed out, but that is not a big deal. The new PoD is clear and easy to read.

Nothing is lost in the translation. Plus the new pod uses the box art for the front and back covers so everything is here. All that is missing is dice.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Gamma World (1e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Small Company Big Mess: A History of Guardians of Order and Big Eyes Small Mouth
Publisher: Yaruki Zero Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 04/22/2021 16:28:36

Great overieview of the rise and fall of BESM and Gsurdians of Order. If you are new to this situation, or want to read a tale of how one gaming company can go from the top of their genre to infamy, then this is a good read. If you are looking for a lot of details of the who, what and why, this book will cover some of that, but not everything. Still a very entertaining quick read.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Small Company Big Mess: A History of Guardians of Order and Big Eyes Small Mouth
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

XL1 Quest for the Heartstone (Expert)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 03/31/2021 08:16:20

Module XL1 Quest for the Heartstone is an adventure for the D&D Expert set, Mentzer/BECMI version. Let's be honest and upfront right away. This is not a great module. The adventure is widely described as being akin to everyone's first module. The adventure is your basic "retrieve an item at the end of a dungeon crawl" fare.

The real reason behind this module are the toys. Specifically the LJN/AD&D toy line.

In fact you can pretty much find an entry for every monster in the toy line, save for Tiamat herself.

Now I am not sure if the module was designed to sell toys (not likely since the markets seemed different to me) or rather as way to bridge the lines. There are references in the module for which toy to use for the encounter and to tell you the truth, it sounds kind of fun.

Reviewing the module again in this light, as an excuse to use the toy line, it actually dawns on me that it would be a blast with the right group.

It should also be said that this module includes the stats for many of the favorite npcs/figures such as Warduke, Kalek and Strongheart, plus a few I didn't even know about.

So viewing the module in this light, is could be quite fun despite it's short comings.

So 4/5. The adventure itself is more of a 2/5, but the stats and the idea of the using the toyline improves it in my mind.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
XL1 Quest for the Heartstone (Expert)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (1e)
Publisher: Wizards of the Coast
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 11/18/2020 11:23:45

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/11/classic-adventures-revisited-s4-lost.html

One of my all-time favorite adventures is S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth.

A solid two-level dungeon crawl, filled with new monsters, dangers, and the promise of great treasures. Additionally, there are rumors of an ancient witch/archmage and her battles with demons and even the threat that some of those demons are still around. There is plenty of wilderness area as well. A wide expanse with a gnome community nearby and a raging blue dragon.

With its "Booklet 2" filled with new spells, magic circles, and demons it made me think that a witch class with ritual magic could be something that would work for D&D.

There is so much great stuff in and around this adventure it is hard to know where to begin. So let's start with the adventure itself.

S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth The adventure, S4 The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth, was published back in 1982 by TSR. It was written by none other than Gary Gygax himself. It is listed as "S4" and was the last of the labeled "S series" or Special modules. This includes some of the most popular adventures ever written; S1 Tomb of Horrors, S2 White Plume Mountain, and S3 Expedition to the Barrier Peaks.

The adventure itself is comprised of two 32 page booklets. The first book is the adventure itself, which I will get into detail in a bit. The second booklet covers all sorts of new magic, monsters, and more.

Book 1: The Adventure

The adventure is of the classic sort; the rumor of treasure and a vague threat coming from an area of the map known as Iggwilv's Horn. The adventure is designed for characters level 6 to 10. I have found over the last 40 years that it can be adapted to a variety of levels, though higher levels are better. Though the original tournament adventure featured slightly lower levels. Likely due to the addition of the wilderness adventure.

The wilderness adventure is actually well put together and not the older crazy random monster encounters. The encounters make sense for the area. Among the encounters are the Hermit, and I could not help make this the same hermit from Keep on the Borderlands (also a Gygax creation) and the Blue Dragon. The Blue Dragon, in particular, became so much a hit the first time I ran this that in future runnings of this I changed the dragon to Korbundar from CM2 Death's Ride to have a reoccurring villain. A lot of adventure is packed into 12 pages.

The second part of the adventure covers the Lost Caverns themselves, which includes the Lesser and Greater caverns. This features a large variety of new monsters, some living here, some just wandering around. Even encounters such as "The Garden of One Thousand Earthly Delights" have a good (enough) reason to be there.

The final encounter is in the center of the Greater Caverns and it is not for Iggwilv's Treasure, but rather against Iggwilv's Treasure; the vampire Drelnza. She is a bit more powerful than your average vampire and she has magic to help her out. Eventually, she will succumb to heroes and the treasure will be found including the infamous Demonomicon of Iggwilv, Daoud's Wonderous Lanthorn, and the Prison of Zagig.

Book 2: Monsters and Magic

This second booklet, as I have mentioned, grabbed my attention as much as the first, if not more. Listed inside were new monsters, only some appeared in the adventure, including new demons and demon lords. There were the mysterious Xag-ya and Xeg-yi, the Derro and the awkwardly named (for the early 80s) Valley Elf. All these creatures would later be reprinted in the Monster Manual II for 1st Edition. This is fitting since the original tournament adventure introduced monsters that would become part of the first Monster Manual. There are some magic items including some wonderful artifacts mentioned above. Of these The Demonomicon of Iggwilv capture not just my imagination, but that of hundreds of others. The Demonomicon became a feature in Dragon Magazine and even a 4e book of the same name. Iggwilv went from a "long-dead archmage" to "The Mother of Witches" and the premiere demonologist in D&D. This little booklet also contains plenty of new spells.

This was classic AD&D at the end of it's 1st Golden Age.

The adventure is extremely playable and I have adapted it over the years for AD&D 2nd ed, D&D 3rd, and 5th Editions as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
S4: The Lost Caverns of Tsojcanth (1e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)
Publisher: Xacur
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/30/2020 10:35:57

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/5e-witch-project-witchcraft-magic-of.html

Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)

From Xacur This one caught my eye with its very striking art. Downloaded and the art continues throughout the book and the layout and design are top-notch. I do want to get into detail about the art, more so than other products I have reviewed, but first I want to talk about the 5e content.

The PDF is 121 pages for $13.00. That might sound like a lot, but given my guidelines of 10 cents per page that is only a buck more. So that is fine. You also get a mobile version for your phone or tablet.

This looks like the first OGL book for this author, prior to this they have had some DMsGuild Titles.

This witch appears to be based on the Web Comic "Pepper & Carrot" which helps explain the art. Again, more details on that in a bit. But for playing purposes this is part class and part world guide. The world of Hereva to be precise.

The Witch Class

The witch class presented in this PDF is a full 20 level caster. They do get spells up the the 9th level, but they do not have the normal spell progression as say Wizards or Clerics. They have known Cantrips (max 4) and known spells (max 15). It is the same as the warlock, without the Invocations. They do get Spell Research starting at 11th level and something called Rea ("Reality") Points starting at 1st. Rea points to power your spells. Doing some quick mental calculations this means that there are many spells that will tap out your Res points quickly. This makes this spellcaster a bit underpowered compared to others. They do have some other powers though.

I supposed here it should be noted that this is not a generic Witch class, but rather a Witch of Hereva.

This witch gets 1d8 hp per level and is a Charisma-based spellcaster. You do get familiars, and they have a mechanical benefit to the characters.

Witches of Hereva's archetypes or subclasses are known as Houses. A nice change from the others I have reviewed all month. You get your House at 2nd level.

These witches also can brew potions (3rd level) and get Broom riding at 5th level.

There are six Witchcraft Houses. Each provides an additional list of spells and powers. Each also has its own special niche to cover in the world.

There is a chapter on Player's Options. This includes a number of backgrounds. Most are specific to this world, but all can be altered as needed and easily done. There are some Feats as well that fit both the world and the witch in general.

The magic chapter has the witches' spell lists as well as 43 new spells. It also 74 new magic items for witches. Making this chapter a step above many of the other witch classes I have reviewed all month long.

There are also two Appendices. The first covers Familiars. The second monsters. Both feature creatures that are unique to this world.

We end with some art credits and the OGL.

The Art and Artist

I grabbed this product because of the art. It has a cool "Kiki's Delivery Service" vibe about it and that is something I have been wanting to play lately. I thought this might be the product to do that, but I was prepared to like it anyway if it wasn't.

Since this is based on a webcomic I thought I should check it out. After all, the art here is fantastic. The webcomic is "Pepper & Carrot", Pepper is the witch and Carrot is her cat familiar. It is created by David Revoy. You can find him at davidrevoy.com and the comic at peppercarrot.com.

It was here I discovered that Revoy releases his comic into the public free as Open Source! I mean wow. The comic is supported by his Patreon who charges per comic released. That is seriously cool. The comic looks fantastic and I am going to have to start reading it. I went to his story to see if there was a paper/dead tree version of his comics, there are, and to see if there was a paper or even PDF version of this D&D 5 supplement. There wasn't. Ok, no big. Did some digging.

So according to this post the Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e) was a Kickstarter project (again, no big deal) BUT the comic creator didn't know anything about it. He was not consulted or asked. Now that all seems to be fine with Revoy, he released the comic as Open Source after all, so it fits with his overall philosophy. There is a bit about how any new art created will be released back into the public domain via Creative Commons. That sounds nice and Revoy seems to take that as good enough. The author of this game supplement Xacur did in fact do that. But it was only two pieces of new art; a broom and a wand. The Kickstarter for this PDF raised a little over $3,100.00. You would think that most of that money would go for art, as typical for a Kickstarter, but all of the art was free/open source.

I can't help but think that this PDF adheres to the letter of Revoy's Open source philosophy while violating the spirit of it. No mistake, the class is fun and the spells and magic items are very nice, but I was drawn to this product based on the art and style. That all belongs to someone else's vision. Strip away what started with David Revoy and what is left? Well. Mostly an underpowered warlock with some powers I have seen in various "Hedge Witch" products. I mean the author didn't even have the decency to list Revoy as the artist on the DriveThruRPG page. Note: He is listed on the supplements for this class.

Is this a playable class? Yes. Is this a fun playable class? Absolutely. Could have Xancur created this class without the influence of the webcomic? I don't think so.

But there is something here that I feel is a bit distasteful. I know that David Revoy is likely ok with all of this. But it feels a little off to me.

Here are the links to David Revoy's sites.

In the end, you have to decide if this product is the one for you.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Witchcraft: Magic of Hereva (5e)
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Charm Roleplaying Game
Publisher: Strange Machine Games
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2020 13:51:57

Originally Posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/witch-week-review-charm.html

Also, this one appeared on my doorstep and I have no idea if I ordered it, if it was sent to me, or what. I looked back and I have no interaction with the author or the company Strange Machine Games (SMG).

So let's get into it.

Charm RPG

by Jeff Mechlinski, illustrations bt Yimi Jian "Meammy"

Charm is a "universal" RPG designed to be quick and usable across any genre or playstyle. It advertises itself as being portable enough to keep your character sheet in your pocket and use a dice roller app to play.

For this review, I am considering both the softcover physical book and the PDF. The book is 158 pages, 8" x 8" format. The covers are color, the interior art is black & white.

A quick note about the art. I like it, it does have a comic-book, almost anime style to it, but it also fits the game well.

The first 40 pages cover the basic rules and the remaining 100 or so cover the seven different sample "worlds" you can play in.

The rules are pretty simple, roll a d20 (sometimes with a d6) to get over a particular Target Number set by the GM. Greater levels of success or failure result in added effects. Rolls can be modified. You add the d6 when your character is particularly good at something.

Characters regardless of the Power Level of the game are assumed to be good at what they do. So out of the gate this game is going to have a more "Cinematic" feel to it. A thief will almost always be able to break into a place or steal something for example. Rolling occurs only when there is a chance of failure, combat (or other opposed rolls) or the GM needs it.

The Challenge Threshold, or target numbers, are pretty easy to use and memorize, so players and GMS will catch on very quickly. The levels are all multiples of 3, so abstraction of the rules is easy.

Characters are built using some basic abilities in a way that reminds me of Fate, but a little crunchier. To me this is a GOOD thing. I find Fate a little too fluffy for my needs. This includes the use of a similar term, Aspects. At first level you have three aspects rated at 4, 3 and 2 points. As you level up you can add points to these or gain new aspects. A list of sample aspects is given with guidelines on what else can work.

And that is it. Not difficult to learn and certainly very easy to play the first time. Get together with some friends, decide on a world and then make characters with various aspects. You are ready to go.

While not as crunchy as say GURPS it is crunchier than Fate or FUDGE. I'd put it just south of True 20 and Unisystem in that regard.

The seven sample scenarios are:

  • Action 5 News: You are the city's most elite local news team! It isn't easy staying on top. You'll need to pull together all your guile and charisma to keep the number 1 spot.
  • Temporal Raiders: Travel time, seeking the ultimate heist. Ally with powerful historical figures, change history, be your own grandfather. What could go wrong?
  • Dustbound: Take on the role of a god-touched gunslinger in a bleak world of dust and decay. Fight Oni, rival gunslingers, and vengeful townsfolk.
  • Mystery Incorporated: Jeepers, guys. Play as a gang of kids, or possibly a lovable pet, who solve mysteries using their astonishing meddling abilities.
  • Pact of Night: Small town woes meet big monster drama. Play a Vampire or Werewolf as you balance your life with the humans during the day and beasts at night.
  • Onitech: You exist in a high-tech world ruled by demon masters. Civility has superseded morality, leading to a perverted and deadly state of affairs.
  • Asylum Reflections: In Victorian London, people are being replaced with mirrored doubles. Uncover the duplicitous mystery in this dark world.

Actually, these all sound like a lot of fun. I have to admit it was the Action 5 News that really grabbed me at first. In this one, you are not likely to get into deadly combat, but your social "hit points" could take some damage. No they don't call them "hit points" but that is my translation to my readers. I will admit, years ago I tinkered with a True 20 idea of newspaper reporters, tabloid writers and news bloggers as a game. When Fate came around I tried it in that too. Never really got it to jell the way I wanted. Action 5 News though does this now for me. A few EASY tweaks, and to be fair all tweaks in this game are easy, and I can run it like I was planning some 20 years ago.

Mystery Incorporated practically jumps off the page and begs me to run something with it.

If I had a complaint at all it is that book makes me jump all over the place to get the information I need. For example there are lot of "see page XX" (no actual xx though, they do have page numbers.) So reading about Power Level on page 11 I need to jump to page 25 to get information on aspects. There are a few of these. Now to be fair you quickly figure out where things are and how to get to them fast. But maybe a character creation flowchart might be nice for first time players.

Still, there is a lot to like about this game.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Charm Roleplaying Game
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Creator Reply:
Thanks for the review! We can add a sheet to the DTRPG file folder that may address the jumpiness. Feel free to shoot me an email if you have some specific thoughts.
Hidden Oddities: A Witch's Primer
Publisher: Eva Brown
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 10/29/2020 13:43:00

Originally posted here: https://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2020/10/5e-witch-project-hidden-oddities-witchs.html

Hidden Oddities, A Witch’s Primer by Eva M. Brown

Hidden Oddities is a monster of a book. At 154 pages for a single class it has my attention. Also at 154 pages, no point in figuring out how much is content vs. title, ogl and the like. It is a beast of a book.

This book rivals any other published book for the D&D 5 game or any other game. The layout is great, with crisp easy to read text. The artwork is fantastic. And the authors know their OGL. I should really just say "Author". While it looks like Eva M. Brown surrounded herself with a great team to work on this, it is obvious from the reading that this is a single voice and author vision.

Up first is a Foreword and it becomes obvious that this book is just more than a witch class. There is a bit of world-building going on as well. This can only be a good thing in my mind. There are Seven Chapters in this book.

Chapter 1 covers the Introduction, what this book is about and the list of Kickstarter backers.

Chapter 2 is the Witch Class. There are little quotes and “magical text” all throughout the book that really gives it a nice feel. Break the code of the magical text for more information!

And in a bit of “magic text” of my own, “yes Eva, I do think we will be great friends!”

We start off in a place I think it great. Background. There are also d6 tables of “I Became A Witch Because…”, a d6 table of “We Whisper to Each Other By…”, “Our Relationship Is…” and “My Curios Are…” This is great stuff and perfect not just for EVERY D&D5/DMsGuild Witch I have reviewed but nearly every witch I can think of (and that is a lot is I can be so bold).

An aside. Curios are a great idea. I love them. I wish I had come up with them first. The witch is a full 20 levels spellcaster. She can’t use armor and has 1d6 HD.

Instead of getting spell slots the witch gets curios, which are tiny mundane object that can store spells. The witch records her spells in her spell book but uses that knowledge to charge her curios. The witch gains two spells per level (four at level 1) of any spell level she can cast, half her own level rounded up. This means the witch can know up to 42 spells. She can only cast the number of spells as she has curios.

The witch also gains an otherworldly companion. These are roughly the same as Familiars, but can be more than just animals. The witch’s other worldly companion teaches the witch, Witch Script. It is invisible to all non-witches save for when detect magic is cast on it.

The Witch Archetypes are known as Sacred Secrets. There are also some powers known as Arcane Wonders.

Between these, the different types of otherworldly companions and the various types of Curios, there should be an unlimited variety of witches one can create with this book.

Chapter 3 covers the Sacred Secrets. Each one has their own background, Arcane Wonders and other powers. Again, these are treated like subclasses, Traditions, or Covens in other books. There are 14 of these and are all quite details have a lot of great potential.

Chapter 4 (mis-labeled Chapter 3 in text) are Additional Options. This is a great chapter and one often forgotten about by other authors of Witch classes (including myself on occasion) and that is other archetypes for other classes. There is a new Druid Circle, a Fighter Archetype, A Paladin Oath, a Ranger Archetype, and a Wizard Tradition. There are also new backgrounds, complete with personality traits, ideals, bonds, and flaws, for any class.

This chapter also has a number of new feats and some new equipment.

Chapter 5 gives us Spells. Here there are 111 new spells. Overtly for witches they can be used by other classes as well. Some of these spells share the same or similar names with spells I have written, enough to make me do a double take. But it is obvious from reading them that these are not used OGC, merely the result of both Eva Brown and myself reading a lot of the same source materials. Which in a way is really cool.

Chapter 6 Lore is our world-building chapter. Here we get some organizations the could belong too, or are against the witches. Even if you only use them as ideas or seeds there is a lot here to add to any game. Membership, leaders (some detailed), goals and headquarters are all detailed. Nine such organizations are detailed here.

The Appendices cover how to choose a companion, what equipment you might need and the roles of the witch.

Additionally, there is art information and a Witch’s Script translation guide. OGL and a four-page Character sheet.

While this might not be my favorite 5e Witch class, it is my favorite 5e Witch book. There is just so much here that is great and really grabs my imagination.

I mentioned before that the art is great, but it really needs to be re-said. This is a great book.

You can also get the Character Sheet for PWYW. It works nicely with other witch classes as well.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hidden Oddities: A Witch's Primer
Click to show product description

Add to DriveThruRPG.com Order

Displaying 1 to 15 (of 1082 reviews) Result Pages:  1  2  3  4  5  6  7  8  9 ...  [Next >>] 
Back
0 items
 Gift Certificates