5/10/2012

Published on 5/10/2012 Written by 0 comments

3 Mini Reviews: Costumes, Content, and Posters.



Today we have a fun trio of goodies to look at, including a free system for your superhero needs, a magazine of content for OSR gaming, and a poster handout for your next Pathfinder session!



HiLo Heroes. Jeff Moore. 36 pages. Free.

Ahh, Jeff Moore. If you check his page, he has maybe a half-dozen (maybe more now) mini-systems freely available for download, and most of them are actually worth your time if you're ever looking for a quick, simple system for some beer and pretzel gaming.

HiLo Heroes is no exception. In fact, it may very well be the jewel in Jeff Moore's crown of game systems. It's simple, uses the readily available d6, and does almost nothing to limit the variety of superheroes you can create.

To create a character you need only specifiy three features: Build, Mentality, and Temperament. Each has two options, high or low, and those two options influence all your other abilities. It all boils down to rolling 2d6 and using either the higher die or the lower die.

That's really it. Sure, you can design a couple of powers (to gain +1s on various rolls) but the core rules can be explained to new players in one sentence. When was the last time you said that about a roleplaying game?

But how does it play? Well...I won't lie, having run four games with the system, I can safely say it is very rules lite and narration heavy. Which means those of you who prefer the crunch of Mutants and Masterminds might shrug it off. But those of you who want to HULK SMASH as quickly as possible should give this freebie a try.



Knockspell #1. Mythmere Games. 1st Edition Retroclones. 61 pages. $5.00.

Knockspell is rather renowned in OSR circles for providing a lot of good content for 1st Edition retroclones, especially OSRIC and Swords & Wizardry, and this, its first issue, was released at the start of 2009.

I like retroclones more than the next guy (unless the next guy happens to be James Raggi) so I went in very excited. I mean, how could I not be? There's a cover from Pete Mullen staring me in the face, promising great adventure and terrible death!

And for the most part, Knockspell #1 delivers.

True, we get a few tired old editorials (really? In this day of instant blogging there still need to be opinion columns in a gaming magazine?) and a one page advertisement article (for Ruins and Ronin) but there's also a host of good content, including a delightfully evil necromancer class for OSRIC and a monk and paladin for S&W.

We also get an adventure for the (as yet) still unreleased Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers RPG that's compatible with your retroclone of choice. It's nice and could be worth running (especially with some adaptions for the new Dungeon Crawl Classics RPG).

The other sandbox adventure, Isles of an Emerald Sea, has a lot of really good potential hampered by weak writing and unfinished monster stat blocks. With some elbow grease it might be fun, but it ought to be considered severely unpolished.

And to round the whole package out there are a handful of variant rules, a couple of random tables (my favorite being the How Do You Open This Thing? table, dictating the methods for opening challenging doors or the like), a new character class (the Thrall) and part of Michael Curtis' masterful Dungeon Alphabet.

Is it worth five bucks? Yes, I think so. The character classes are great and the Charnel Crypt adventure looks to be fun. It's only a shame that some of the content feels so unpolished, especially after all the work that clearly went into the magazine (art and editing).




Adventurers Wanted Volume 1. Skortched Urf' Studios. d20 systems. 7 pages. $0.75.

This is not an adventure. I say that because I can see how easy it is to be fooled. I mean, it's a product called Adventurers Wanted, there must be an adventure, right? Not quite.

It's actually an adventure seed. A brief outline of a possible d20 side quest. It's about three paragraphs in length and has suggestions for three different tiers of play (low level, mid range, and high) that dictate the recommended reward and enemies. The basic plot is that a noble lady has disappeared and needs finding. Simple and to the point.

The real selling point are the three Heroes Wanted posters, one in Common (English), one in an Elvish script, and the third written in Dwarven runes. They look good and make for great handouts.

This is a fine product at a great price if your players happen to wrap up their main quest a little early and you find yourself at a loss on what should happen next. Just remember that it'll take a bit of work to make this seed a real adventure.



Another week down, and another three digital products from my collection reviewed. As always, suggestions and comments go below. Until next week, roll those d20s, gamers.


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5/03/2012

Published on 5/03/2012 Written by 0 comments

3 Mini Reviews: Adventures, Gunslingers, and Doors


Hey all! It's been a while and, unfortunately, I don't have as nice an excuse for my absence as C.D. had (congrats on the little one, C.D.!). Mostly a new job with a revolving schedule that has sucked my gaming time dry. And with my gaming time so goes my writing time.

But now, as things begin to settle, I'm going to crack my knuckles and try and get some kind of regular writing habit going again.

And even though I haven't been running nearly so many games, I've been unable to convince myself to stop buying gaming goodies. And since I like to spread my thoughts (much like Yellow Mold or Green Slime) about what I buy, I thought it'd be interesting to do a semi-review of some of these roleplaying related products, whether they be full games, expansions, or whatever I decide to spend my hard earned money on.

The question is...are all of these products worth it? This week, I look at a group of PDFs, including a Labyrinth Lord adventure, a mini game, and a PDF whose usefulness is eclipsed by its utter pointlessness.



100 Doors and Door Features. Ennead Games. 8 pages. System Neutral. $0.50.

Wow. As much as it should shock me that a product like this exists, it shocks me more that I decided to actually buy it!

This is a case where you get precisely what the cover says, no more, no less. Well...a little less. It would be a little more accurate to call itself 100 Doors/Door Features, as you don't get a hundred of each.

No, instead, you get a basic table (the kind you can whip up in five seconds work with the document editor of your choice) and 100 entries, each detailing a door or door feature that you may or may not find interesting, along with a brief description to help get the creative juices flowing.

Yeah. It's about as useful as you can imagine. Three random examples, rolled with my trusty d100, are: 32-Fake Fake Door, this door looks fake, but is real and is twice as hard to open as a normal door; 34-Fake Lock, the door has a fake lock, the real lock is hidden; 9-Blessing, a powerful creature has blessed the door so that those who pass through are blessed on holy days.

Really? Even for a random table that's kinda random.

Overall, you get exactly what you pay for with this product. A whole bunch of semi-interesting, semi-useless door descriptions. You might be able to scrounge some ideas off them, but this is as bare bones as it gets, and with a handful of spelling errors to boot!

Still, for the price, you can't say it's some kind of devious trick. Maybe it'd make for a good purchase if your shopping cart was exactly fifty cents away from a nice even number and you obsessed over things like that, otherwise I say save the change and use it for a down payment on a Twix bar.




The Curse of Crosskey
. Knightvision Games. 14 pages. Labyrinth Lord. $1.99.

The Curse of Crosskey is an adventure for 4-6 characters of levels 3-4 and is based around the classic "shipwreck" plotline that forces the PCs into a hostile environment and asks them to survive.

Otherwise, it's nothing extremely special. You have a little exposition for the GM, but it's very spartan and has no real backstory other than a few salient points, meaning it will take some work to adapt to your campaign. Of course, that can be useful when you don't want to try and shoehorn in any overly specific fluff.

I haven't had the opportunity to run this adventure as of yet, so consider this only a partial review, but from what I can tell, The Curse of Crosskey should provide a decent challenge for the recommended levels, especially with some of the deadly new fauna introduced, and has enough mysteries to solve if the GM can find ways to work what little backstory there is into the game. It'll probably last no more than one or two sessions, unless the GM can convince the players that it's worth exploring more of the island and brings in some of the hinted at plot points (pirates and weather elementals).

The writing is plain and to the point. You get brief descriptions of rooms and areas, combat encounters (one of which, with a number of hostile crab people, has an unfortunate omission that had me scouring the pdf for stats on an "Elder Crabman" that did not exist), and some sparingly handed out treasure. There's really nothing here to build a campaign on, but enough meat to work into a fun side adventure. And, in a big plus to me, it even mixes in a little sci-fi with a crashed spaceship, although the players need never even realize it if the GM so wishes.

You also get a couple of new magic items and a handful of new enemies. Nothing huge, but definitely a nice bonus.

Overall, you have to be willing to put a fair amount of work into this adventure to get the most out of it. Flesh out the NPCs and backstory and this sandbox adventure is worth the low asking price, so long as you're willing to go with functional over pretty.



Weird West. Stuart Robertson. 8 Pages. $1.00.

Disclaimer: There is nothing very weird nor very western about this mini-game. In fact, aside from the lovely cover and descriptions of skills and "magic", you would be hard-pressed to find anything of any flavor.

That's because Weird West was designed as a Pocketmod, a mini book made out of one sheet of paper and folded like origami, so only the bare bones made it into the final product.

Some of it holds up as very clever. I especially liked how you roll for your HP at the start of each new session and keep the total if it's higher, giving the heroes more of a tough-guy sort of build without needing to overbuff them with special abilities.

That said, it's very rules lite, uses all your favorite polyhedral dice, and would be child's play to adapt to any setting. There are no rules for sanity or really anything aside from hitting your foe and the most simple of magic systems, but it wouldn't take long to house rule anything that's missing.

It won't be for everyone, but if you have a lone dollar burning a hole in your pocket and you need a new generic system, but demand something light on rules, then Weird West ought to be added to your shopping list.



Well the first round up of three is done. What's for next week? I'm not sure, I've got a large list to go through. If anyone has any suggestions on cheap gaming products (preferably digital ones) I ought to look into, post in the comments. I'm always looking to expand my collection.

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