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Publisher's Choice - Black & White: Iconic Heroes
by Robert N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/27/2019 16:24:48

Cool set of bl/wh character illustrations that I use simply for my fantasy RPG character portraits. And while you can find free images using a Google search, I like to support artists. A few bucks isn't going to break the bank.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Black & White: Iconic Heroes
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Stranger Stuff (TinyD6)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/11/2019 12:59:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This version of the “Stranger Stuff“-theme clocks in at 124 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page blank inside of back cover, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 117 pages of content. The pages are laid out in 6’’ by 9’’, which means you could theoretically fit 4 pages on a given sheet of paper.

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

Rules-wise, this game employs the rules you may know from e.g. Beach patrol, Tiny Dungeons 2E, etc., adapted for use with the Stranger Things-like set up that we could e.g. see in “Vs. Stranger Stuff” – in essence, this is the TinyD6-version of that game, substituting that engine for the VsM-engine. That being said, familiarity with said games is not required – this book explains all required to play.

There are plenty of differences, though – in the VsM version, the game champions three different playstyles, easy, normal and hard mode, and this iteration relegates easy and hard mode mostly to sidebars – these do tend to have serious implications when added to the game, as we immediately learn.

We dive into the rules – simple actions doe not require rolling the dice, but more complex or difficult tasks do – these require a so-called Test. These are the core mechanic of the game, and entail rolling 2d6 from the Dice Pool (more on that later). 5s and 6s are successes. Certain Traits selected at character creation can grant you advantage, letting you roll 3d6 instead; conversely, other tasks let you roll only 1d6 – these are known to be made at disadvantage. Important: If you’d have advantage on a Test, disadvantage OVERRIDES that – even if you’d usually roll 3d6, you only get one die! There are some few means to override this, but yeah – disadvantage is NASTY. Things you overcome with a Test (or roleplaying!) are called Obstacles. Then, there are Save Tests – these are required to stabilize, to prevent bad stuff from happening, and otherwise are used just as other Tests. The first page of the pdf btw. does suggest Save-or-Die Tests (self-explanatory) for hard mode games – which would have made more sense on the page that actually, you know, talked about Save Tests, but that is me nitpicking. Still, there is a big artwork here, big enough to fit that box…

When the action needs to be broken up in units of time (say, in combat), we enter Initiative Mode. Initiative is rolled by making a test, and adding the results of the 2d6 together. Initiative order follows from highest to lowest, with Kids (the name of PCs) going before enemies in case of a tie. Once all have acted, a new Turn begins – a turn is, per default, roughly equal to 6 seconds. Once per game session (dubbed Episode), each player gets one Cinematic Moment when about to roll a Test. The Player describes the action, and instead of rolling, we have an automatic success as though the check had been made at advantage and come up as three 6s. The GM may also declare Cinematic Moments – twice per session. The GM can make an NPC auto-succeed, or a Kid auto-fail. Okay. So what if a Kid auto-succeeds due to a Cinematic Moment, and the GM uses Cinematic Moment to make the Kid auto-fail? This very obvious interaction is not covered, at all – the absence of clear rules here is a pretty glaring hole.

Anyhow, during each Turn, you have two Actions – you can use an action to move, attack, use a Trait, pick something up, etc. Moving to some place may require a Test or multiple Actions, depending on what the GM decides. A rough rule of thumb baseline is provided – an Action used to move is approximately the equivalent of 25 feet. Riding e.g. a bike doubles your movement as a default, but can differ.

Attacks use a simplified rule-set: You have to be in range, and attacking is a simple standard test executed with 2d6, with the enemy being the obstacle. On a successful attack Test, you deal 1 point of damage, regardless of weapon, though good roleplaying, weapons, etc., could increase that. The degree etc. is wholly left up to the GM, though.

Beyond that, there are three special actions: If you Focus, your next attack will be successful on rolled 4s as well, but only for one attack. Focus actions don’t stack with themselves, and can’t be stored – they vanish if combat ends. Cover imposes disadvantage on attacks against you. Evade lets you test 1d6 until the start of your next turn if successfully attacked, damaged, or harmed. On a success, you evade and take no damage. Recapping this is interesting, as it emphasizes a pretty potent defense option array – hitting and defeating defensive targets will not be simple.

The game differentiates between three types of weapon – Melee, Light Ranged and Heavy Ranged. Weapon improvements are covered, and the game presents Easy Mode suggestions to handwave ammo consumption, if you want to de-emphasize the survival horror aspect of the game.

Toughness denotes how much damage something can take. On 0 Toughness, you’re knocked out. If an attack shows all 5s and 6s on the attack and might seem particularly potent, it can immediately knock out a target – this is known as Dramatic Knockout. Attacks made with Disadvantage can’t score such a knockout, but oddly, attacks with advantage have mathematically a lower chance to knock out a target. Weird decision.

Stress is basically the mental equivalent to Toughness – when reduced to 0, all actions suffer Disadvantage.

Toughness and Stress are both regained by resting/sleeping – 1 hour spent doing something relaxing replenishes 1 Stress; 1 hour of sleep replenishes one point of both Toughness and Stress. 6 hours of uninterrupted rest fully replenishes both pools.

If you are at 0 Toughness AND in combat, you reduce Stress by 1. As long as you have at least 1 Stress, you can make a Save Test to regain 1 Toughness and end your turn. If both your Toughness and Stress are at 0, you get one final Save Test at Disadvantage – if you fail this test, you die. The Healer trait or administered medicine might heal you as well.

From hiding and sneaking to other things that would require being pitted against someone else, there is no contested Test or the like – instead, one side checks with advantage or disadvantage, depending on the circumstances. Whether you like that or not depends on your tastes.

Okay, so how does character creation work? There are two main archetypes: Middle Schoolers get 4 Toughness, 6 Stress, and when an ally takes an action to help a middle schooler, they get Advantage. The Kid also gains advantage to avoid being seen or to sneaking, Disadvantage on checks that involve raw force. When hit, they can test 1d6 sans taking Evade. On a success, the middle schooler evades the attack. When they use Evade, they have Advantage on the Evade Test.

High Schoolers have 6 Toughness and 4 Stress. They have advantage on checks made to subvert authority and they can make Tests on stuff they shouldn’t be able to; if they actually have experience with what they attempt, they have Advantage.

The book also provides (optional) rules for adults – 8 Toughness, 5 Stress, and they have one Trait more.

Then, you choose 3 Traits and 1 Drawback – these are a bit like the Good/Bad Stuff from Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. Traits include gaining an additional Cinematic Moment per session, having Advantage on all acrobatic checks. There is a trait that makes your Stress act as Toughness as a damage soak, letting you contribute longer to the action before dropping unconscious, etc. We also have one that lets you Focus better, extending the success range to 3s as well. Drawbacks include Disadvantage on all Tests related to social interaction, having an impaired arm…or what about having a lack of self-confidence mean that the GM may, thrice per day (NOT per session!) take Advantage away? Sickly is also brutal – it reduces your Toughness maximum by 2, and makes you start the day at 2 Toughness less – as a middle schooler, this would render you comatose/dying without the aid of medication and treatment. Every Kid also starts play with an important piece of equipment, which might include age-restricted stuff. Write a description + tagline, and bam, done.

So yeah, all in all, an easy to grasp, rules lite system. The book then proceeds to the GM-section, which is particularly helpful for newer GMs, presenting maxims such as “keep is simple, make it fun”, advice on preparing/over-preparing, a suggestion of a 4-act structure for modules. We also get advice on the types of story to tell, some suggested adventure hooks, ideas for sidequests, etc. – and then we proceed to world-building advice – the game presents a pretty nifty series of rules here: Locations have costs to hang out, and associated rules components – they may have Good Features and Bad Features – which are akin to Traits and Drawbacks, save for locations, obviously. A location’s Cool is a bit like Toughness – the higher the value, the less likely weird stuff will go down there. Bad stuff happening can damage a location’s Cool, making it more susceptible to weird happenstances – you get the idea. All these location traits are tracked on a scale that ranges from No/none, Low, medium to High. The game also mentions an interesting means of using index cards as representations of locales and provides an array of different archetypical locations. A minor complaint – the locations don’t have the respective attributes spelled out in an overview, requiring that you parse the text – having a “mini-statblock” of sorts would have made that aspect quicker to use. Again, nitpicking here.

The pdf provides stats for 4 sample generic NPCs to use with non-named targets, and then proceeds to present a total of 3 fully realized antagonist NPCs. This section also presents a couple of (magical) items, rules for paranormal abilities, psionic powers, etc. – and, of course, we do get monsters, which come in 4 broad categories – Alien, Cryptid, Human and Supernatural. Really cool: The book presents a concise and quick to use engine to DIY build your own critters, with abilities, general types, suggested stats etc. – super helpful and quick. Speaking of which – there is a random adventure (outline) generator included in the book as well!

After these, we get some 1984s trivia (highest grossing films, billboards, etc.) and then an introductory adventure penned by Kiel Howell – “The Mask behind the Makeup.” It’s…and adventure about creepy clowns. Yep, another one. Yep, there already are quite a lot of those, and if you own Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, you’ll be familiar with this one – it’s a good adventure, and one I liked. We close the pdf with a b/w map of a sample town (that can be colored), and a sheet for locations and characters.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules language level – I noticed a couple of minor hiccups, but no undue accumulation of issues. Layout adheres to a one-column standard that resembles a notepad, with the artworks akin to pencil-drawings and modified sepia/b/w-photography – the unified aesthetics are nice. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Lucus Palosaari and Rick Hershey (with the module penned by Kiel Howell) deliver a solid alternative take on Stranger Stuff. The TinyD6-engine is employed in a robust manner. That being said, the system could use advancement rules, and has an issue – it has to compete with Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. And while it does have a different feel than that system, courtesy of the higher impact drawbacks etc., I couldn’t help but feel that the VsM-engine version is simply better. It has the Crestview Hills sample location information, and while it has less to offer than the TinyD6-iteration regarding powers, its rules are presented in a slightly cleaner fashion. I like this iteration of Stranger Stuff, and it shows a lot of promise, but I don’t love it as much as the VsM-engine version. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Stranger Stuff (TinyD6)
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5th Edition Horror
by Joseph K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/04/2019 13:07:40

There's just so much great information here for people wanting to run a full horror campaign or just wanna spice up their sword & sorcery fantasy campaign. Highly recomended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Horror
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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Character Subscription
by Rafael L. V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/14/2019 17:20:06

Most of the art is good or very good, with a "neutral" style that makes it usable in multiple kinds of publications.

My main criticism is regarding some pieces that display characters with an oversized head. Sometimes it's just a bit, sometimes it's very blatant. I counted around 1 out of 5 images with the problem. I assume it's a conscious stylistic preference on the artist's part. I'd prefer all characters with proportional heads and bodies.

Obviously the subscription lacks updates for a while, which is a shame. Hoping they get back to releasing new stuff. I got this at a discount, which made the deal very attractive to me, at just under 1.5 USD per piece. Sure I can't or won't use all images, but even at full price it's a reasonable deal, provided they live up to the 100 art pieces advertised.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Character Subscription
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Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Cast & Crew: Male Dwarves
by Robert G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/11/2019 00:07:04

These are some cool looking dwarves. I Love this style. I really wish there were more like it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Publisher's Choice - Fantasy Cast & Crew: Male Dwarves
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Tools of the Trade - Volume One
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/29/2019 13:19:18

Tools of the Trade is an art-focused magical item book - by which I mean this was created because the art was there, so each item contained within has a corresponding image that can be shown to players. That's surprisingly rare for magical items, actually, and it helps this 15-page, full-color product set itself apart from others.

This book contains 16 new items (usually 2 per page) of various rarities and styles, with brief flavor descriptions to help give them a little more presence. Some of these items are intended for players, but others are explicitly intended for NPCs and villains instead of the players, and I appreciate giving foes a few more handy tools. $2 is a pretty fair deal for this many unique items (with art!), and I think it's a pretty solid investment if you're looking for some additional magical items with curious effects to surprise your players with.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Tools of the Trade - Volume One
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Privateers: A Shared Storytelling Game Of Piracy & Plunder
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/19/2019 16:13:26

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 30 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, leaving us with 27 pages, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

So, a rules lite swashbuckling/pirate game? Why not! But before we start, let it be known that this game can be used in pretty much any context – I could see it work for a scifi-game, for example, pretty well. The game requires 2 six-sided dice and begins with the character generation.

You start by choosing a nickname, followed by selecting your attributes. There are three of those, the first being Mental, which denotes your wits, cleverness, will, etc.. Physical describes strength and endurance, agility, etc. and finally, Social, determines the character’s charm, persuasiveness, humor, etc. You assign the values +4, +3 and +2 to these.

After this, you choose one talent and one flaw; talents generally tend to provide a +2 bonus to one type of challenge, while flaws either provide a -2 penalty to all challenges pertaining some broader aspect, or -3 to challenges pertaining a more limited component – enough of those are provided to get a sense of the intended balance and make the notion of designing more of them yourself simple.

Talents and flaws may also influence your Health – the default starting value is 8.

After this, you choose your gear – gear doesn’t give you bonuses (at least usually!), but does allow you to perform certain tasks. All privateers begin with proper clothes, a knife, a blunderbuss and a letter of marquee, and the group shares a ship. Beyond that, you name items, such as a parrot or the like, and perform a simple challenge – if you win, you get the item; if not, then you don’t get it. You get to roll until you lose or have 5 items. A simple challenge is a binary roll of 2d6– you roll against the opponent, and if you win, you win, if you lose, you lose. Ties are rerolled. This is the most simple resolution method herein, but not the only one – I will get to others later.

Finally, you can act traits like age, weight, etc. and other non-.mechanical game data –and bingo. Character creation is very much possible in less than a minute – if you roll for items all at once and use colored dice, you can definitely resolve character creation in even less time.

Progression is wholly in the GM’s hand – Health is the combination of all Attributes; other than health-increases, gaining talents or removing flaws are the suggested means to depict character growth.

The Difference engine’s core resolution mechanic is to roll 2d6 + Bonus versus 2d6 + Bonus. Impossible tasks are not rolled, and easy tasks are resolved as automatic successes. Before dice are rolled, the GM and player agree on Stakes – what happens on a success, and one a failure.

The winner of the challenge is the one with the Higher Result; in case of a tie, Bonuses are compared; if the bonuses are the same as well, the highest rolled result on the dice acts as a tie-breaker – and should this still be tied, the player wins. In the case of challenges between players, neither fails – they can reattempt the check on the next turn.

But why is the engine called “Difference Engine”? Well, to determine your success in a challenge, you can have different successes – there are actually 7 degrees of success; by barely making a challenge with a tied roll of +0, you achieve minimal success, while a Difference of 11+ means an incredible success – fighting and jumping examples allow the GM to easily determine effects for a given result.

Teamwork is very potent – the player with the highest attribute rolls 2d6, and adds +1d6 per additional privateer involved. Only the highest two dice results are calculated.

Examples on how to interpret the rolls and how to make the eponymous Difference matter are provided, with several simple suggestions illustrating e.g. what happens if both player and GM roll poorly. The system knows critical successes (double 6s) and failures (double 1s), and the pdf even explains what happens on a double 6 opposed by a double 1, walking you through the entire process of using this.

There is one more factor to consider – luck. Each character begins play with 1 point of Luck, and more points are gained whenever a Double is rolled ( i.e. two 2s. two 3s, etc.); if the players use Luck, the GM gains one Luck, mirroring a system I have used with some success for hero points and similar mechanics in more complex systems. Using Luck BEFORE the roll lets you add +1d6 per Luck used, but only the highest two results are used to calculate results; OR, you can add +2 per Luck used. If used AFTER the roll, you get to add +1 per Luck used OR you may reroll one die rolled, but must take the new result.

Combat is classified in turns, which correspond to no set amount of time, allowing you to categorize them anew per frame (so that naval combat might have longer turns); initiative is stacked greatly in the PCs’ favor – you begin left of the GM, round the table, with NPCs etc. acting last. Akin to how VsM-games work, difficult movement may require Mental or Physical tests. Attacking may be resolved by rolling Physical vs. Physical, Physical vs. Mental, mental vs. Mental – it depends on the context. Damage is contingent on the weapon employed and the Difference– simple weapons cause 1 base damage, improved weapons (this includes btw. the starting blunderbuss) 2 damage and advanced weapons cause 3 damage. PCs reaching 0 Health take their negative Health as a penalty to all challenges If negative Health exceeds one of the PC’s attributes, they can’t use challenges in that attribute any more. At -6 Health, a character falls unconscious, at -10, the privateer is dead.

Healing is handled easily: Roll a Mental challenge, and add Health value of target, whether positive or negative, to the result. On a success, the target regains half the Difference (rounded down) Health. On a failure, though, the Difference is taken as damage! So no, Health-scumming is not wise.

Ship to ship combat knows 6 general roles, which all have so-called techniques – specialized challenges that e.g. allow a surgeon to heal the crew, potentially reviving crew; master gunners may initiate broadsides – you get the idea. Creation of new roles and techniques is a simple process as well. Ship to ship combat is structured in three stages – sighting distance, shooting distance and boarding distance, with all three stages properly explained.

Ships have simple stats – they have a base damage for cannons, a maximum Hull (the corresponding term for a ship’s Health), a maximum and minimum crew rating – the crew rating is an abstraction and may be jury-rigged for your purposes.

The GM section provides advice and also sample bonuses that may be applied to roles to simulate 6 different difficulties – an easy task may only have a +1 bonus, a nigh impossible one +11. We also get a couple of sample stats and a nice little character sheet.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a rules-language and formal level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard with red highlights, and the pdf features thematically-fitting and modified public domain art. The pdf features bookmarks for easy navigation.

Lucus Palosaari’s work on VsM-engine products has informed a few of the components herein, but personally, I was also reminded of Into the Odd – both good things, since these are two of my favorite rules lite roleplaying game systems. With a focus on narratives, the system has one task it needs to handle well: The storytelling should not amount wholly to competitive BSing, and it is my pleasure to report that, simple though the game may be, it has a surprising depth to it. The techniques and how they work, the weapons – this book presents a great chassis and explains it in a way that is supremely easy to expand upon. I could e.g. see myself grafting the excellent VsM-magic system or a kind of arcana-system or starting packages from into the Odd onto this one. The one weakness of this game would be the lack of options regarding gear – sample options and prices and guidelines on how much loot to award would make sense and have further added value to this neat book. That being said, do you know how much this is? $1.95. I kid you not. You can’t even get a cup of joe for that around here, and I consider this to be, frankly, a steal – the system is so easy to adapt and graft that a good GM can create complex tales, devise progression reward mechanics (another aspect that could use some expansion) – but more importantly, the system, as presented, can be arguably run without the pdf. The beauty of the system lies in the fact that, once understood (which will take a maximum of reading the pdf and playing perhaps twice), it can be run spontaneously. This is a pretty big deal.

Now, for the future, I’d love to see books that expand talents, present gear, perhaps magic, more ship-options and the like – but right now, for the purpose of this review, I’ll remain with a final verdict of 4.5 stars, rounded down by a margin. This is a great system with promise galore and the potential for staying power, but right now, the pdf presents the core and relies on the Gm to expand upon that. Consider me excited to see more, and if you’re looking for a great game to teach new players the joys of roleplaying, you’ll find very few as beginner-friendly as this one!! (As an aside – The Difference engine also can help kids improve their math and hone their sensibilities regarding stochastics, but that as an aside.)

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Privateers: A Shared Storytelling Game Of Piracy & Plunder
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Stranger Stuff (TinyD6)
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/14/2019 01:07:13

With the new season of Stranger Things out on Netflix, are you looking for a fun, easy-to-learn-and-play RPG system to start diving in to your own stories? Voila. Fat Goblin Games has a lot of experience, and Stranger Stuff doesn't disappoint. .....And that, more than anything else, is what to know about this product. It's intended for a very specific genre of gaming, and it does that genre well. I wouldn't say this is a truly long-term system like, say, D&D games often are, but this product is more than enough to offer a couple of good gaming sessions and it's being sold at a very fair price for the amount of time you can spend with it. Overall, recommended to people who like this genre.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Stranger Stuff (TinyD6)
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Wonders of the Cosmos: Fine & Diminutive Starships
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/25/2019 05:09:08

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 8 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with a 1-page explanation of why you may want to include these smallest of size categories within the context of your SFRPG-game; we begin with an expansion of the starship scale, which makes Diminutive ships clock in at 5 – 20 ft, Fine ones at 1 – 5 ft. The table of scales is expanded to include weights for them, and the AC and TL modifiers (at +4 and +8, respectively for the sizes), reflect in a sensible manner the penalties incurred by ginormous space ships.

The ships may be created by taking Tiny size frames and halving HP and cost for each size category below Tiny, rounding down. CT must thus be recalculated, and a pilot must be size Medium or smaller t o pilot the ship at Diminutive ship size. Complaint here: Something seems to have gone haywire with the rules language here when it comes to accounting for pilot sizes in relation to ships, as it refers to numbers, when it should refer to sizes; otherwise, that should refer to the aforementioned values, but then, listing that caveat after pilot sizes just creates unnecessary confusion. That being said, I consider this to be the proper interpretation here, as the follow-up information makes sense in that context. Piloting bonus is increased for each size category smaller than the listed base frame. Basic and XL escape pods and how they interact with these ships are covered, and calculations based on frame size employ the Tiny size, preventing abuse of e.g. armor or similar cost calculations.

6 base frames for Fine and Diminutive ships are provided: Sneakaboard, Stealther and Escape Pod for Fine; Ground Support, XL Escape Pod and Mini Bomber for Diminutive ships, so yeah – this provides a slightly different angle on the escape pod default. The pdf presents a helpful size category to creature equivalency for the new star ships, and it presents easy to implement guidelines for making starships for creatures smaller than Small. Size-wise, as you could glean, this puts the starships at the intersection with regular vehicles and really big critters. The pdf provides easy to implement rules here, and collision damage and its scaling is also covered. Since star ship and regular combat is rather different from another, the pdf provides quick and dirty guidelines for using starships in regular combat – a more differentiated approach would have been nice to see there.

The Ramming rules from the Cosmic Odyssee-installment are reprinted here, with ramming speed table provided, and ramming size modifier table modified to account for the new size categories. Movement by thrusters, with speed in hexes (for starship combat) and as vehicle speeds are provided. Things become more interesting with low-range remote control, and rules that make them more viable – they are harder to detect due to their size, and from Stealth to acting as shielding, there are quite a few nice details included.

The pdf closes with 5 sample starships –all tier 1. Escape pod and boarder would be Fine, while Lifeboat, gunship ad troopcutter are Diminutive.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are generally very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a nice two-column full-color standard, and the pdf has no interior artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, in spite of its humble size, which is neat.

Kiel Howell’s small expansion to the starship rules is nice – while the use of escape pods as vessels is probably something that won’t be too useful beyond some narrative scenes, the supplement does a solid job providing the necessary tools for the integration of these ships. I couldn’t help but feel that presenting tables that did the calculations required would have made the pdf much more user-friendly, but if the math isn’t daunting for you, this delivers – and it does so for a more than fair price-point. At currently a single buck, this is definitely worth checking out. My final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wonders of the Cosmos: Fine & Diminutive Starships
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Privateers: A Shared Storytelling Game Of Piracy & Plunder
by James E. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/11/2019 21:09:33

A solid product for the price! This is a 30-page, partially-color (mostly red) product, and as you probably gathered from the descriptive blurb, this is a fairly rules-light game that's very easy to both learn and play. In many ways, Privateers is more of a roleplaying game than a rollplaying one - while the dice are involved, they're not kidding about the focus being on storytelling, which makes this great for creative people and anyone who wants to spend less time staring at their character sheet and more time helping tell a story. You can also use this as an alternative ruleset for games that don't really address piracy - the conversion is easy, and at this price, extremely affordable.

I think my biggest note for this product is that it's good for players who really like to get involved with the game, rather than observing or focusing on mechanics. They're not kidding about the shared storytelling thing. That's not inherently good or bad (different groups like different things, and that's okay), but it is worth keeping in mind. For what it's worth, I like this product myself, and it's worth serious consideration if you enjoy pirate-themed things.

(Also, this game has a fairly sensible outlook - if things are impossible or practically unfailable, it encourages just handwaving it and moving on with the story. Save the rolls for tense moments!)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Privateers: A Shared Storytelling Game Of Piracy & Plunder
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vs. the Wasteland
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/05/2019 06:39:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This massive VsM-Engine based game clocks in at 110 pages,1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC,1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a mighty 105 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue as a prioritized review at the request of my patreon supporters.

It should be noted that the book does feature a location sheet and a character sheet for you to use.

Like the excellent second season of Vs. Stranger Stuff, this game differentiates between Easy, Normal and Hard mode, allowing for pretty solid customization options to modify the game to suit your respective tastes. Player characters are, aptly, called “Survivors” in this game, and the person doing GM duties is the “Dystopian Master” – DM for short. Clever! The book walks you rather well through the process of creating your character. You begin by selecting a name and writing a short biography (a few sentences, tops). Survivors have 5 Attributes: Offense and Defense are self-explanatory. Mental and Physical are the catch-all Attributes used for non-combat skills. Mutations would be number 5, and it is used to account for a wide variety of strange powers.

When creating a new survivor, you assign fixed scores to these Attributes: 5, 3, 3, 2 and 0. A 0 in Mental means you’re braindead, in Phyiscal, it means you’re paralyzed from the neck down – and as such, the 0 should not go there. The book, in a rather neat gesture, does tell novice players. A 0 in Offense or Defense just makes you terrible at that part of combat, while a 0 in Mutation makes you a normal human. This is surprisingly elegant – you pay for strange powers automatically by the distribution of these Attributes. In case you were wondering: Easy Mode has, well, no surprise there, higher Attribute values to distribute, while Hard Mode makes them lower.

All Survivors start the game with the same Health of 10, unless modified by Gimmicks. There are two types of Gimmicks – Good Gimmicks and Bad Gimmicks. You can choose up to 4 Good Gimmicks – but there’s a catch – for each Good Gimmick you choose, you also have to select a Bad Gimmick. In Easy Mode, you btw. get a free Good Gimmick sans the drawback of a Bad Gimmick. These Gimmicks include, to give you a general idea, drawing an additional card for melee or ranged attacks, increases of an Attribute by 1, being capable of operating civilian or military aircrafts (reducing the penalties) – you get the idea. Nice here: Not all Gimmicks are based on numerical advantages regarding the drawing of cards – we can, for example, find the means to get a kind of 6th sense that warns you of impending danger, which can be rather fun indeed. Similarly, having a friendly mutant deus ex machina out there to save your behind? That may very well be worth biting the bullet for a Bad Gimmick. It should also be noted that quite a few of these feature the (Reward) tag – this designates Gimmicks you can attain over the course of playing the game. Similarly, there are Gimmicks for NPCs and e.g. being versed in Sumo Style actually manages to be mechanically interesting, in spite of the rules-lite nature of the game, with the distance you can shove foes contingent on the type of card you draw and its suit.

To give you an idea of what you have to pay for these Good Gimmicks, let us talk about the Bad Gimmicks as well: Here, we can find allergies (and rest assured, I can vouch for allergies being a real detriment in and out game…), being plain annoying (one card less in social interactions), being afraid of flight, being a drunk, reductions of Attributes, reduced melee attack damage and the like. Being afraid of mutants, having a nemesis, missing a limb – you get the idea.

Now, while you do have control over your Gimmicks, the same doesn’t hold true for Mutations – here, you’re at the mercy of the cards, which makes sense. You draw a card and then consult one of the 4 tables, each of which is associated with a given suit. Drawing aces nets you two powers – unless you’re playing in Hard Mode, when you instead get to choose a power within the card’s suit. In Easy Mode, you get to redraw any Spades-card. The Hearts suit includes claws, being able to project illusory copies, having a force field, being able to mind control targets – basically a whole smattering of X-men-ish tricks. Diamonds and Clubs net you slightly less pronounced powers, like Attribute increases, being immortal (but NOT invulnerable!), having an extra arm, etc. Spades, as per VsM tradition, is bad news – here, you can end up with an antagonistic arm, being susceptible to certain types of energy, etc. However, not all of these suck – you can end up being an anthropomorphic animal, and in one of the most curious options, there is one entry that allows you to teleport the contents of your bowels into another target. Being capable of removing limbs or levitating similarly does not constitute a drawback, so yeah – if you do draw Spades, don’t be too bummed.

Cool about the Mutations – where applicable, the Mutation score obviously governs the potency of the respective abilities, governing e.g. potency or number of uses of the abilities. The core mechanic of the VsM-engine remains untouched: You draw your relevant Attribute in cards, and compare the value of the highest card drawn with a TV – the Target Value. If greater or equal the TV, the task succeeds. Res suits are generally “good”, black suits are generally “bad” regarding their associations. If you btw. really don’t want to play with cards, you’re in luck – the book does offer information for using the game in conjunction with your polyhedral friends (read: dice). Teamwork is very important in the game: When multiple Survivors cooperate on a given task, they draw the highest applicable card allotment, and add +1 per assisting Survivor. Example actions and associated TVs help the DM keep tabs on what values are sensible for a given task. Should you require a bit more differentiation, optional rules for varying degrees of success can be found. As an aside: This is, in spite of its theme, not a grimdark supplement: While definitely on the serious side, the example of “Parkour through a settlement to avoid your ex” made me chuckle. This is not a dry read.

As per usual for VsM-games, movement is handled in a narrative manner, using Physical and Mental, if in doubt. Melee attacks let you draw Offense, using the target’s Defense as TV. For ranged attacks, you instead compare Offense to either the Defense-based TV, or a TV based on range: Very long distances (25’ +) require Ace to hit. Yes, this focuses on thrown weapons and handguns. And yep, there are long-barreled rules – e.g. a proper sniper rifle will have a massive multiplier to range. Simple, elegant. Like it. In case you prefer using battle maps and the like, the book has you btw. covered as well.

If a Survivor hits a target, they draw one card for each card that beat the Defense attribute. Compare the value of the card with the attack’s damage cap; each card equal or below this cap deals 1 Health damage. For the purpose of damage, Aces are considered to be a 1 here. Armor reduces the damage cap of a weapon, and a reduction to 0 or fewer makes impervious to attacks from said weapon. You probably won’t punch out the guy in power armor. Some weapons have a minimum damage value. As in other iterations of VsM-games, we have pain thresholds, 50%, 20% and 10% of the Health – for most characters, this will mean 5 Health equals minor pain, 2 Health moderate pain, and 0 Health extreme pain. Each step reduces all Attributes by a progressive -1. The Diehard Good Gimmick btw. also modifies these values, as represented in a handy table. -1 Health means you’re knocked out, at -2 you’re dead – unless you have Diehard, obviously. Hard Mode has an interesting mechanical tweak here – Health in this iteration means physical health, while Pain tracks basically non-lethal damage. It should be noted that Health is not as easy to regenerate – and pain killers etc. are all covered. If you do want fast healing and video game logic, you can very well have that! Highly modular in its design, the game does provide rules for more “casual” experiences.

Situational modifiers for TVs, optional rules for critical hits – you guessed it at this point: Pretty much every different component herein can be combined to generate your own customized version of Vs. The Wasteland. Equipment lists for clothing, living space, work space, transportations, etc. are provided. Want to track fuel because you enjoyed a certain biker-game in a post-apocalyptic environment? There are rules for that in here. Similarly, we can find a ton of different weapons with damage caps and special features – enough to allow you to make informed design decisions regarding your own designs, from railguns to Fat Mans…and yep, from forcefields to The Bomb to Palm Computers, pre-cataclysm tech may be found.

All the information so far can be found at the front of the book – which is nice, as it allows you to tell players to read until the Dystopian Master chapters and stop there. You see, the game comes with quite an array of different pieces of advice for the DM, for example on how to handle unique rewards, bonus draws and the like. Really cool: Bonus draws may be traded in Hard Mode into an experience point-like resource that allows you to buy new Gimmicks, buy off Bad Gimmicks, etc. Advancement in VsM doesn’t always necessarily equate improvement – you can also end up gaining new Bad Gimmicks. Downtime rules for self-improvement, and we get quick and easy means to resolve “sidequests” – basically components of the game that can be glossed over and be resolved quickly, allowing you to streamline the narrative experience.

Of course, the wasteland can be a frightful place: As such, there are rules for fear challenges, broken bones, burns, plagues, wasteland madness and a ton of environmental hazards: These rules include e.g. acid rain, endurance over time, falling, and e.g. easy to recall rules for food, water and air consumption. Light and radiation, drowning, weather – pretty much whatever you’d want handled, you can find here.

Vehicle rules work as follows: You have a Crew, a Handling penalty that reduces your number of cards drawn, movement, Health, Armor (which reduces the Damage Cap of weapons), weapons, etc. A smattering of vehicles from standard bicycles to tanks may be found.

As far as locations are concerned, the game encourages you using the new sheet and writing up the basics of a locale. Different locations have costs (to hang out there) and rules (how order is maintained); akin to Survivors, locations have Features – these are basically the location’s Bad and Good Gimmick-equivalent. A bunch of suggested sample places within the respective locale can be found, and the book features quite an impressive array of sample NPCs…did I btw. mention the fact that this has horde rules? We obviously also have rules for mutants, which are presented in a cool manner – the “Shelter 23 Survivor’s Notebook”, which is basically the GM’s little VsM-Engine Mutant engine, featuring a whole array of unique abilities. From filth fungi to glow moths, to mist-bound souls, there are quite a few inside. Did I mention the Giant Space Gerbil? There. If you haven’t been sold before, now you have, right? Come on! Giant Space Gerbil! I want one as a pet! And yes, there are robots, a “nightmarish cross of a wasp nest and a vulture-headed scorpion” – and more!

Don’t want to spend time making your starting village/location? Fret not, for Rustville is provided – a fully-fleshed out sample settlement, including stats for the major NPCs. Yes, these include…drumroll Raptor Jesus! Told you that this can be genuinely funny! Need more food for your DM-imagination? There are plenty of adventure hooks included, and the book even includes a simple generator to make your own scenarios!

The final 3 pages are devoted to a standard difficulty mode sample scenario that centers on Gravel Road –a work camp, from which your Survivors hopefully manage to escape! Solid, if very narrative-driven introductory scenario, though having a map, patrol routes or the like would have been nice.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard with a serious array of nice b/w-artworks. A few pieces may be familiar to some, but I found quite a few cool artworks I hadn’t seen before. The book comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Ben Dowell, based on designs by Lucus Palosaari and Rick Hershey, delivers big time here – the only VsM-game that imho can stand up to this gem is Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2. This massive book allows you to play anything, from Tank Girl to a gritty “The Rain”-like apocalypse sans superpowers to Fallout-like scenarios. No matter what you want to play, be it something akin to The Walking Dead or something goofy, this delivers. The exceedingly modular engine is at one of its strongest iterations ever, allowing for maximum customization of the playing experience. The book sports some genuinely creative ideas, and whether you want to play it for fun, grimdark, or a mixture thereof, this game delivers. It’s also a really fun reading experience that managed to make me chuckle time and again. The addition of mutations also enhances the longevity of the game. What more can you ask for? This is a great little, rules-lite game that delivers what it promises in spades. 5 stars + seal of approval – highly recommended if you’re looking for an easy to grasp, rules-lite RPG that you can teach in minutes!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. the Wasteland
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Wonders of the Cosmos: Strange Plants Under a Red Star
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/27/2019 05:35:27

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 10 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 5 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

We begin this supplement with 3 pages of what amounts to a xenobiologis’s handbook, written in character, as the narrator explores the xenobiome of UX-5396 – canopies of laced leaves, microtrees, pink carpets of mucilage – I was positively surprised to be transported into a strange world here, and as soon as we learn about the rainbow lake, a vast plane of lichen atop a sulfur lake’s crust, I was fully engrossed. As a minor drawback, the boots noted for safe traversal don’t get proper stats.

Dormant and subsisting primarily on lionfrogs and arcobeasts, the pdf contains new hazards – anaphylactic spores (CR 6) and paralytic vines (CR 12), and the means to create botanical stalkers, via a CR +3 subtype graft that is added to the plant type graft, all of which are solid, if not too outré. While subtype grafts usually don’t increase CR, here, the template style nature certainly justifies doing so – though adhering to the template graft standards in presentation might have been prudent, for as written, this does generate some work.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are pretty good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the series’ two-column full-color standard, and the pdf presents a couple of nice full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity. There are a few glitch bookmarks here, but they don’t impede functionality.

Jeff Collins’ humble little exploration of a strange planet caught me by surprise – I did not expect to like it this much. The flavor really sells what would otherwise just be a few mechanical hazard tidbits. Considering the low price, I’ll rate up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars, though it should be noted that, if you’re not interested in flavor, you may want to round down instead, as there isn’t that much going on rules-wise.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wonders of the Cosmos: Strange Plants Under a Red Star
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5th Edition Racial Options - Bugbears!
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2019 23:32:53

Not so great. The descriptive text is less than what's standard for race write-ups. The builds themselves are fine, but not very interesting - again not enough background.

All in all, this is fine for the price.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
5th Edition Racial Options - Bugbears!
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - Urban Legends of Crestview Hills: Lover's Lane
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/21/2019 07:12:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover (including relevant text) and ½ a page SRD, leaving us with slightly almost two pages of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters as a prioritized review.

This is an installment of the “Urban Legends of Crestview Hills”-series of small pdfs that provide brief adventures/hooks (HAHA!) for use with Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s default setting of Crestview Hills, though adaption to another setting is simple enough.

It should be noted that the supplement differentiates between the different play-modes for Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, which is a neat plus.

The following contains SPOILERS, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

Lover’s Lane is a staple of Americana – a dirt road where you can look upon small-town America, where teens go for some alone time. Recently, though, tales of a hook-handed madman abound!

The easy mode version takes a cue from classic Scooby Doo – here, the true culprits are masked (and potentially insane) white men, with the best aspect here being a conflict between “old” and “new money” suggested – this conflict in the American class system has always been interesting to me.

The normal mode suggestion provides stats for a new creature – the hook-handed horror cryptid – sneaky, with wings that reminded me of classic Jeepers Creepers and chitinous armor, the monster is pretty tough and cicada-like, making for a creative twist here.

The hard mode suggestion for this hook is really cool as well, as it takes the easy mode angle and one-ups it – it makes mortals responsible, but adds a sprinkling of supernatural horror, making the true culprit a living idea!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout is great and b/w, adhering to a two-column standard. It utilizes public domain art to great effect. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Lucus Palosaari managed to cram quite a lot of cool ideas with different angles and themes into this hook; from the potentially child-friendly easy mode to the more dangerous and challenging harder modes, this does a really good job providing some diverse angles for you to employ. All in all, very much worth the very fair and low asking price, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - Urban Legends of Crestview Hills: Lover's Lane
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vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - Urban Legends of Crestview Hills: The Hanging Tree
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/21/2019 07:11:31

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 3 pages, 1 page front cover (including relevant text) and 1 page editorial/SRD, leaving us with slightly more than a page of content, so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing queue at the request of my patreon supporters as a prioritized review.

This is an installment of the “Urban Legends of Crestview Hills”-series of small pdfs that provide brief adventures and hooks for use with Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2’s default setting of Crestview Hills, though adaption to another setting is simple enough.

It should be noted that the supplement differentiates between the different play-modes for Vs. Stranger Stuff Season 2, which is a neat plus.

The following contains SPOILERS, so potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the hanging tree is a kind of macabre cultural icon, and as such, declaring a tree as the proper hanging tree should not be hard; depending on the mode chosen, the angle differs, with different degrees of closeness to the triggering incident, which is the death of someone, found hanging from the tree.

In the easy mode scenario, the solution is rather simple – a vengeful spirit is responsible, and we receive some guidance on making one.

In normal mode, hungry tree spirits are responsible, and we get full and proper stats for the spirits – and, in a nice angle, a tie-in to the Krampusnacht adventure. Hard to injury and with noose-like vines, these will probably require some serious investigation to put to rest!

The hard mode option is one I really liked, as it throws a wrench in preconceived notions – here, the culprits are assumed to be terrible, but thoroughly mundane people.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout is great and b/w, adhering to a two-column standard. It utilizes public domain art to great effect. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Lucus Palosaari’s Hanging Tree offers a surprising amount of material for you to develop into an adventure; it may be a hook, but it is a nice one that offers some neat angles. My final verdict will hence be 4 stars – well worth getting for the low price point!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
vs. Stranger Stuff: Season 2 - Urban Legends of Crestview Hills: The Hanging Tree
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