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Conan The Exiles Sourcebook
Publisher: Modiphius
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/21/2020 14:45:39

"Conan the Exiles Sourcebook" is a 120 pages long supplement for the Modiphius D20 Conan RpG. Inspired by the on-line game, this book gives rules to roleplay it on tabletop, and stunning art from the net adorns many pages of it. As always, interesting character archetypes are given. There is a section about the Exiled Lands, but it is quite vague, so much that we'll surely prefer to have a look at the Conan Exiles wikia for more information. I don't understand why they didn't take back the rules from "Ancient Ruins and Cursed Cities". In fact, the real interest of the book lies in its many rules taylored to roleplay survival. They explain how players can create basic facilities with their bare hands and step-by-step improve them up to cities ! For this, hexcrawl rules are given, with "resources" generation for each kind of biome, and an interesting encounter table. The survival game can be played at different scales, at the individual one, with "ingredients", or at a group level, with "material". The only regret I have here is that no measure unit is indicated for how wide those hexes are. Apart from this, there are detailed rules for (bad) weather, settlement management and war. If you want to create a harsh setting with no stable power (no money, no national "pride") but day-to-day survival, then this book is for you !



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Conan The Exiles Sourcebook
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Legends Of Araby
Publisher: Rebel Minis
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/17/2020 14:58:41

"Legends of Araby" is 91 pages long "skirmish" game by Ed Teixeira, i.e. a game halfway between RpGs and a stand-up/figurine game that you can alone.

It uses Ed's "2D6 Sword & Sorcery" system found in other of his books, a system (described in 9 pages at the end of the book) that revolves around one stat : Reputation (a little like "level" in many RpGs, however this "Rep" can both increase or decrease following the outcome of the different encounters). OK, I'm aware that it was impossible to lodge a more detailed system but I explained in one of my other reviews ("Talomir Tales - Distant Shores") that this One-Stat leads to the impossibility of developing a strategy and to two opposite ends : either you're too weak and are doomed to failure and demise, or the lucky end, you become near invulnerable after two encounters (what happened to me...)

Fortunately, the setting really saves this book for Ed has managed what not everyone has attained : to render the atmosphere of the Arabian Nights. "Legends of Araby" is set in the desert realm of Barylistan (of the larger "Talomir" world used by Ed for his medieval fantasy works). Most of the game revolves around the "interactions" that your character shall have with the inhabitants of that country : tens of different Interaction tables with diffeent results are given, with encounter tables depending on the region, or the city you are in. Therefore, the game turns itself into a small gamebook full of little adventures like being given a mission to set free a nomad chief's daughter from a harem or become a mercenary in a "faction" (like the army, the hill bandits, etc...), in the very spirit of Aladdin or the tabletop game "Tales of the Arabian Nights". So, these encounters and interactions are a must for any lover of Sword & Sorcery who, perhaps, shall use them with a ruleset of his choice.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Legends Of Araby
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Talomir Tales: Distant Shores
Publisher: Two Hour Games
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/14/2020 04:25:23

"Talomir Tales - Distant Shores" is a "skirmish game" by Ed Teixeira, i.e. a mix between a tabletop wargame and a role-playing game, where you can manage a small group of adventurers and have them face different challenges. Ed Teixeira wrote many other games of the same category in his collection "Two Hour Wargames". The book is 70 pages long and contains approximately 29 pages of rules, 24 pages of encounters and the "scenario", Distant Shores on 9 pages. The rule system is quite simple and revolves around one Stat : Reputation, which can increase or decrease following the outcome of the Encounters, i.e. scenes where you face a challenge like "exploring", "carousing", etc. Similar systems are used in other titles of the collection and the issue with that "one-stat" is that you're either doomed to defeat, or that you can become near invulnerable after two encounters (and that's what happened to me in another title of the collection) if you're lucky. But worse, developing a strategy is what makes the gist of wargaming, and even of tabletop RpGs; here, the boiled-down rules and the one-stat don't let you much space for strategy and you end up throwing mechanically the dice until you grow tired of it. The fourteen encounters are the sole interest of that PdF even if they are of different qualities : the abstract dungeon generator does work, and the employment encounter can help you start some short adventures. However, on the contrary to his other works, Ed didn't bother/forgot to give us a random encounter generator. OK, you can start by carousing at the local inn, meet a potential employer and go wandering or delving into a dungeon. But there are no links to other encounters like "Explore"; that's why I suspect that Ed Teixeira just took back some material from his previous works ("Mission St Mary" ?), turned it into something medieval but forgot to fix the loose ends. The "scenario" doesn't help under such conditions : what's the point in having encounters artificially strung together and filled with heaps of enemies whose stats are desperately similar ?



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Talomir Tales: Distant Shores
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Rebirth
Publisher: GRAmel
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/24/2019 07:07:29

"Rebirth" is an 8 pages long scenario (+ Stats) by Umberto Pignatelli for "Beasts & Barbarians" in the latest version of Savage Worlds (the "Adventure Edition"; if you prefer, you can download the conversion guidelines in a separate PdF for free on this same website). Because of its shortness, "Rebirth" is more a SW "Savage Tale" than a B&B adventure as we used to know. The heroes are marooned on a tropical island (so notice that you ought to play this adventure after your playing characters were actually sailing...), there they have to cope with the natives and a big danger, atop the main mountain. This scenario is therefore very reminiscent of some Conan tales and the part on climbing the cliffs (with the well-functioning "Abstract Navigation System") shall give some fun to the players.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Rebirth
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The Eye of Xalath
Publisher: GRAmel
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/20/2018 14:34:28

The "Eye of Xalath" is a 25 pages (+ stats and book of lore) adventure for Beasts & Barbarians by Umberto Pignatelli. It takes place in the decadent empire of Tricarnia (though it may be adapted to some other dark realms). The heroes wake up tied on a sacrificial altar, while the ceremony is being performed ! Yes, I know, starting in medias res is a staple of Sword & Sorcery, but some gamemasters may have to justify this situation in front of their players. If the latters did not fail their previous adventure, I suggest that the GM, as a "reward", include some precious items in the second part of this story. A beautiful Tricarnian princess is about to stab them with a magical dagger when, suddenly, minions of her brother and foe rush into the tower. Both the heroes and the princess have to flee on a giant bat in the direction of the Brokenchain Mountains, where their "air-beast" finally crashes into a giant maze, the "Xalath", populated by strange three-eyed humanoids who capture the princess. After this railroading (that's why I spoilt this part of the story :-) ), the adventure becomes interesting : will the heroes seek to save the princess, or only their own souls ? And what about the minions of her brother ? As usual, don't await any map in this book; Umberto uses once again his acclaimed "Abstract Navigation system". Since a short book of lore of the Xalath is given at the end of the PdF, any gamemaster might well lengthen the heroes' journey in the labyrinth, in case they enjoy its pitfalls, challenges and rewards. Therefore, the course of this adventure is very open-ended.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Eye of Xalath
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Midlands Low Magic Sandbox Setting
Publisher: Pickpocket Press
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/07/2018 15:05:34

"Midlands (low magic sandbox setting)" is a 365 pages long setting book by Stephen Grodzicki. This medieval universe can be used either with the ruleset freely available on his website, or customized to any other one.

Around wide Lake Argos, five human cultures can be found : Midlanders, Varnori (Northerners), Karoks (decadent humans enslaving the last dwarves for mining), barbarian Thuels and Nydissians (northernmost remnant of a once-conquering empire). This setting can be described roughly as half-way between Tolkien and sword-&-sorcery : magic is rare and corrupting, several gods are worshipped but do not intervene, there are some daunting monsters, nearly no humanoids except humans and cannibalistic Skorns (kind of halvorcs). A few cities (all described in details !) dot the landscape but the rest are expanses of wild nature, from icy mountains to verdant jungles. So, this book holds within its pages a complete universe, that the Gamemaster (or rotating Gamemasters) can easily make his own, thanks to descriptive chapters (cities, cultures...) and plenty of random tables (including one for tavern brawls !). Three new professions are added : artificers (who yield black powder !), monks (specialists of unarmed combat) and rangers (master hunters) as well as new monsters.

The black-and-white art is beautiful, and maps are magnificient. And this was the first third of the book.... for the rest is dedicated to fifty adventures taking place in all of the different environments of the Midlands. All adventures are a few pages long (longer than, say, most Savage Worlds "Savage Tales") and are not only dungeon-crawls.

This book is everything that MERP should have been : an entire "ready-to-use" universe for at least one year of free adventuring wherever the players want to. In conclusion, "Midlands" (for 10 $ !) is definitely a must for any GM fond of Medieval fantasy.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Midlands Low Magic Sandbox Setting
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Tropicana
Publisher: GRAmel
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/18/2018 09:19:23

"Tropicana" is a hundred pages long RPG setting written by Mauro Longo and Giuseppe Rotondo for the Savage Worlds ruleset. This books describes the metropolis of San José and gives plenty of gamemastering material. San José is an independent city-state of Latin America, clustered on a peinisula at the foot of an extinct volcano, the rest of the territory being an impenetrable jungle. Once founded by the Conquistadores under the name of "Nueva Zamora" (lol !), this former pirate outpost managed in the last decades to turn itself into a global hub of offshore finance and entertainment. Imagine Miami mixed with Monaco, Havana and Singapore. So, this is the perfect setting for all kinds of adventures, whether you like James Bond, Indiana Jones or Miami Vice; and I'm quite sure you can adapt it to any other universe, even fantasy, with a little imagination.

Chapter I gives a lengthy insight into San José's history, criminal groups and major factions. I especially liked the description of "El Banco" and of the services it can provide. No map - even a basic one - is given; this seems to be a tradition among Italian authors working for Gramel :-) OK, a map is not always required but here, since this book is about a sprawling city, a mere plan laying out the locations of the various quarters is indispensable in my view for the GM (so, I had to peruse the book for drawing my own...). Chapter II starts with the description of interesting archetypes : I do regret that many of them are not found back in the "Bestiary" of Chapter VII, especially when I see the good list of new edges and hindrances, which allows to turn many tropes of TV action series into (N)PCs. Chapters III, IV and V are respectively for Gear, Agencies (which you can run) and GM Setting Rules : most of those game mechanics are rudimentary but efficient and perfect for this kind of setting. I think I see the positive influence of U.Pignatelli there ("Beasts & Barbarians"), as for instance in the "After the Adventure Events table". Chapter VI is the Game Master's Guide with tables for Agency Management, Secrets, as well as plenty of advice for running adventures in San José, described as a mix of "Action, Adventure and Mystery".

In conclusion, "Tropicana" is the best and most interesting setting I have ever seen for a modern city; only its minor flaws - which could have been prevented in my opinion - keep me from giving it five stars. But if you're looking for a city of sea, sun, pleasure and intrigues, don't hesitate !



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tropicana
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Creator Reply:
Dear Olivier, can you shoot me at piotr@fajnerpg.pl with flaws? We are working on Companion for Tropicana (will be on Indiegogo this spring/summer) and we will offer printed version of Tropicana with any corrections we can give. Thanks in advance!
The Justice of Kerir Shar
Publisher: GRAmel
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 01/01/2018 02:46:23
"The Justice of Kerir Shar" is a short adventure (14 pages + stats) by Umberto Pignatelli for Beasts & Barbarians. While travelling along the Lush Jungle, the heroes are drawn into a story of revenge between an exiled Syranthian judge and the evil sorcerer whose son he sentenced to death three years ago. All the action takes place during one night and mainly consists of cinematic fighting scenes, with a few twists. Consequently, this mini-adventure is rather for tough warriors, though a sorcerer could have an opportunity to gain a (dangerous) item of power.....

Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Justice  of Kerir Shar
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Garden of Death
Publisher: GRAmel
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 12/31/2017 03:17:04

"Garden of Death" is a 68 pages long campaign written by Umberto Pignatelli (+ 7 pages of stats and 16 pages of a Book of Lore on the Fallen Realm of Keron). Please be warned that this scenario requires that one of your playing characters is a skilled military leader.

Indeed, at the start of the adventure, the heroes are member of the military of Zura, and their task is to defeat the nomads raiding the caravans coming from and going to this Independent City. But the king of Zura shall give them soon a new mission : to bring back his deceased son from the Garden of Death, a very remote location in the haunted realm of Keron. The only person who can guide them there is.... the chief of the nomads whom they've recently captured... Will they come back safe from this place full of magics and dangers ?

Even if they do, messing with unlife and former foes isn't without consequences. The second part of the adventure ( which can be developped easily into a full fledged campaign) is truly grandiose and epic : old alliances are shuffled into new belligerents and our heroes can play the leading role there. Umberto exploits at its best the possibilities of B&B and the narrative elements of Sword & Sorcery (as is often the case in B&B, I just regret the lack of any map to visualize the main geographical features of the campaign area).

As for "Shadows over Ekul", I do believe this adventure would be fit for a movie scenario !



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Garden of Death
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Soul in the Water
Publisher: GRAmel
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/28/2017 04:24:42

"Soul in the Water" is a 20 pages (+ Stats) adventure by Umberto Pignatelli for (the new edition of) "Beasts & Barbarians". The first part of this adventure takes place at Jalizar : however (unlike "the Crying Mother"), this adventure can be played without "Jalizar, City of Thieves", or even (though "Jalizar" is an excellent setting I recommend) adapted with little imagination to any other seaside city if Jalizar doesn't meet the requirements of your ongoing campaign. An old guy called Vanthar hires the heroes for a risky burglary : they have to retrieve some special item precious to him from the windowless mansion of Val Catha, a powerful sorcerer. Fortunately, this wizard shall be absent tonight, and will leave as usual his home to Wulf, his trusted warden. Wulf notoriously uses this free night for wenching at the "Headless Chicken" tavern. So, the plan is straightforward : a pretty female player (or some hired professional....) shall bait Wulf into a tavern's room, have him drink some drugged wine, and steal from him the entrance keys to Val Catha's home (all of this constitutes a very interesting role-playing scene !). Once Wulf slumbers into unconsciousness, the heroes have three hours to search through the mansion (GMs, be warned ! Once again,no map is given... surely you may need to draw one....), find the needed item, bring back the keys to Wulf before he wakes up - because the theft must be discovered as late as possible), and meet back Vanthar on his ship moored at the New Docks... Straightforward... but easy ? It's up to the players to have the final word !



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Soul in the Water
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Enyia’s Song
Publisher: GRAmel
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/27/2017 04:12:36

"Enyia's Song" is a 26 pages (+ Stats) adventure by Umberto Pignatelli for (the new edition of) Beasts & Barbarians. This time, the plot is simple but still efficient, and takes place at (and later near) Tal Vorak, a small fortified town close to the swampy deltas of the Elephant River (the border river between the Borderlands and Tricarnia). For a few weeks, a strange girl, who sings marvelously every evening - has been held prisoner in the tower of the local lord... and the heroes' task - on behalf of another lord - is to set her free ! They've just arrived in town and they must act quickly : tonight, the lord has left his castle to indulge his favorite passion : hunting in the marshlands. As nearly always in B&B modules, there is no map : the castle's locations are described in writing only, what is not practical for Gamemasters (nor infuriated players...), who will surely have to draw such a map before the gaming session. In this small town, the girl's escape won't remain unnoticed for a long time... Be ready for ferocious chases !!!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Enyia’s Song
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Trollhunt
Publisher: GRAmel
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 11/26/2017 03:42:06
"Trollhunt" is a 30 pages (+ Stats and a Book of Lore about Trolls and Troll Hunting) adventure by Umberto Pignatelli for (the newest edition of) Beasts & Barbarians. The players are riding in the mountains of the Northlands when they encounter a young dumb girl tied to a tree and whose head and breast are smeared with a disgusting blood-like mixture. Of course, the heroes set her free and they soon discover she was a sacrifice for a Troll. The neighbouring village-dwellers believe they can placate this way the Troll living in the glacier above their home, to prevent it from being crushed down by the ice-shell. The heroes' task will be both to save the life of the girl and to find what's behind that weird ritual. The Troll seems nearly invincible but an old maimed smith may have a clue. This nice adventure reminds me - in terms of emotion - of "Citadel of the Winged Gods" : the heroes both have to care for a youngster and are faced with a unique supernatural creature - this time as an enemy. Though the primary focus of that adventure is fighting and survival, the interactions with other people - especially the smith - endow it with a bit of soul and make it a story that your players shall long remember.

Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Trollhunt
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Liberation of the Demon Slayer
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/05/2017 07:48:35

"Liberation of the Demon Slayer" is a 68 pages long dungeoncrawl written by Venger Satanis. It follows the same pattern as his other publications : more or less disorganized, full of nudies, deliciously weird and beginning with a section on setting rules. A short and very classical "story hook" is suggested as well.

This dungeon consists of six levels (whose connections to each other have remained hitherto mysterious, despite the maps); the first one is very classic one à la "Firetop Mountain", the second one is flooded, the third one is a crashed starship (!), n°4 is filled with cannibals and Dark Elves, n°5 is a den for worshippers of Chtulhuoid aberrations, and n°6 a volcano.

A mix of classical D&D with Lovecraft, Frazetta and "Murphy's World" (this last one for the absurd side). I think those levels should be played separately, as a geomorph of a larger dungeon.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Liberation of the Demon Slayer
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The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/03/2017 07:18:29

"The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence" is a 110 pages hexcrawl by Venger Satanis. Let's begin to notice that this book is more carefully organized than some of his other products. The book describes three islands populated by a mix of primitives, aberrations and remnants of sci-fi; a first part is dedicated to setting rules and the second one gives encounters and scenes for most of the hexes (2 nice maps are provided at the end of the book).

Yes, some contents are "mature", but, as a Continental European, I have no problem with this : our real world is full of ugly ideologies and religions that enslave women while, on these islands, nothing keeps you from having a chivalrous behaviour and set free those female slaves...

As is often the case with VS, many random tables are given to spice up your gaming pleasure. I like the "While they're sleeping" and the "going native" tables. Yes, this book is weird... but that may be the best module I have found for "tropical" adventures, and you are free to adapt it as you like. Just remember, in the real world, Stanley's expedition deep into the Congo, less than 200 years ago. That was no "walk in the park", rolling just random encounters like "Oh ! A monster attacks you!", but unexpected, unknown, gruesome things...

Here, cruelty is counterbalanced by sci-fi and derision, so why not give it a try ?



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Islands of Purple-Haunted Putrescence
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Revelry in Torth
Publisher: Kort'thalis Publishing
by Olivier S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/01/2017 13:48:18

"Revelry in Torth" is a sandbox adventure by Venger Satanis. The action mostly takes place at Aryd's End, a city lost in a desert, in a post-apocalyptic world that lives in an eternal night. The setting is a blend of Sword & Sorcery, Lovecraftian mythos and sci-fi à la Frank Herbert. If we discard the art and other paraphernalia, we get approximately 12 pages of setting rules and description and 12 pages of adventure out of 44 pages.

As for the adventure, it consists of different encounters (or "vignettes") in Aryd's End (or a few days far from it), some of them relating to a general campaign arc where the players might (I do write "might") get involved into the murder of a noble, and will be summoned to the royal palace by the local Barbarian king. The whole contents of that book is really evocative of a decadent (rather oriental) S&S city, no doubt. But this is no full-fledged adventure : what if the players don't mess with the different encounters ? Alas, the very general background information as well as the paucity of information given in some encounters oblige the GM to add much more preparation before the gaming session.

Venger Satanis gives me, here, the impression of being a talentful cook with excellent ingredients but who can serve to his guests (because of a lack of time ???) nothing else than a succulent ketchup.

The reviewer in "Tenfootpole.org" wrote : "This module is everything I would like Xoth to be". To go on with a culinary comparison, then Xoth's "The Spider-God's Bride" would be a nourishing but tasteless dish of meat. Since "Revelry in Torth" is basically a succession of encounters, I think it could be best used as such, in any fantasy universe featuring a decadent city.

Therefore, I am puzzled in front of that product : clearly it is literarily speaking interesting, but technically a mess. I know that Venger Satanis can do better (cf: Isles of Purple-Haunted Putrescence), maybe he should have charged one more dollar and delivered a brilliant adventure standing on its own. So my rating may look severe : I just want to warn purchasers.

Buy it - really buy it - if you plan an adventure in a S&S decadent city and already have an other RPG background that you want to enhance with Venger Satanis' vivid scenes. Otherwise, you may feel disappointed.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Revelry in Torth
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