The 2016 Halloween modules from Goodman Games has arrived and it is awesome! We will get in to some minor spoilers, so this review is geared towards judges looking for something to run either in the coming weeks, or any time you want to run something in the horror genre. This adventure is decidedly creepy with a nice insanity mechanic appropriately termed “unraveling”.
This is your final warning, players look away! You will suffer dire corruption if you don’t close this page now!
Just us judges? OK – Michael Curtis did an amazing job with this adventure. This one starts with a theme about closets/wardrobes/drawers acting as portals between worlds, and has the party (who may be in the same place, or entirely different planes) called to the pocket dimension of the House of Tattered Remnants, home and prison of the Sempstress. It is digest-sized and weighs in at 20 pages, so is perfect for a convention slot, or one-shot for the holiday.
The Sempstress was banished to this pocket dimension ages ago by ancestors of the party. She sent her minions through the various seemly mundane closets or wardrobes to exact revenge on the heroes for her imprisonment. The PCs give chase and emerge in the House of Tattered Remnants. This horror house is filled with creepy challenges and mood-setting details. One of my favorite features of this adventure is the unraveling mechanic. Each PC starts with a stability score equal to their personality stat. If the PCs see something mindbogglingly horrific, they make a DC 10 Will save. On a fail, they lose a point of stability. Once it drops below 10, PCs start manifesting physical signs of unraveling which acts similar to corruption for wizards. Most of them aren’t debilitating, but represent the character losing grip on reality in this twisted pocket dimension.
There are a nice mix of encounters and traps, and the gore level is just right for my tastes: present, but not over-the-top. Another excellent feature in this adventure is a nod to classic haunted houses. Clever PCs will search for an artifact that was discarded in vats of spare body parts the Sempstress uses to create her minions. Prepared judges can blind fold a player and physically have them search in bowls peeled grapes as eyeballs and peeled tomatoes as hearts, etc. to find the representation of the artifact in real life. Such a great idea!
The final battle with the sempstress herself looks to be quite challenging, even for the 6th level PCs recommended for the adventure. She will likely have a pair of Reality Tailor allies that cast spells using set numbers rather than rolling a spell check result. Those numbers descend over subsequent rounds, but between unraveling checks from the Sempstress and her ability to stitch heroes to themselves or stitch her own wounds, this will be a boss battle to remember!
I may just print out a few 6th level pre-gens for ScareFest this weekend. It seems like the perfect venue for this spooky adventure! If you’ve got a seasonally appropriate game night coming up and are looking for a memorable adventure, head to the House of Tattered Remnants. Just don’t become unraveled!
The Frost Fang Expedition by Mark Bishop has been released by Purple Sorcerer games for Dungeon Crawl Classics. This beast of a 1st-level adventure weighs in at a digest-sized 72 pages plus a 40-page full-sized digital appendix for printing handouts, maps, minis, and rumors. Also included in the appendix are great tips for judging the adventure in general, as well as ways to fit this into a four-hour convention slot.
The premise is to save the town from a floating earth mote that has been the residence of a reclusive wizard for about 100 years. Recently, lights have started going out in the castle and chunks of earth have fallen into town. The townspeople fear the magic is fading and need brave adventures to summit the peak, cross the rickety bridge, and avert the impending disaster.
This adventure features lots of background information on the town, NPCs, and baddies that inhabit the different locations. Providing this level of detail allows the well-prepared judge to bring the setting and the scenes to life. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend this adventure to a novice judge. If you have about a dozen tables under your belt, you can probably handle the amount of juggling required to keep the adventure running smoothly.
There are two NPCs traveling with the party that want the mission to get to the end goal for very different reasons. This allows a clever judge to use them to drop key hints to the party should they be stuck, but in several scenes will require these NPCs to argue in front of the party about what to do (allowing the PCs to decide the ultimate course of action). This is a really cool device, but may be tough for new judges.
The Frost Fang Expedition also has branching paths within the adventure on the way to the peak. This allows for some replay (and certainly re-run) value as the adventures will have some agency in deciding how they want to approach the summit of the mountain. That being said, the encounters are numbered a bit confusingly. Everything throughout the entire adventure is 1-something, like the typical 1-1, 1-2, 1-3 for denoting sequential encounters in certain areas. I would have liked to see the mountain broken up in to different sections, with the branches named with numbers and letters. For instance, at the end of encounter 1-1, the party must choose the left path or the right path. the left path leads to encounter 1-2A and the right leads to encounter 1-2B. both end up and encounter 1-3. Instead, the lettered encounters represent sub-rooms in a particular location. This makes the order of events and following the path of the adventure for the judge a bit more difficult.
The overall tone of the adventure is fairly lighthearted despite the impending doom of the town, should the adventurers fail. The illustrations (many by the author himself) are similar in style and tone to the Flaming Deathpits of the Minotaur Mage: Descent into Doomfire (which if you haven’t played, you really should).
The final encounter includes quite a bit of juggling (as mentioned in the included appendix) and may be a lot to handle. While there are some simplified spell-duel rules included, I would leave that out for all but the most experienced judges. There will already be a ritual to perform, plenty of NPCs and baddies to run, and a d6 counting down.
Currently on sale for $9.99 for Print+PDF, this is an awesome gaming value for some very memorable encounters. I would highly encourage experienced judges to take this one on for a con, and for home campaigns, stretch it out to two or three sessions! There is certainly a lot of good times to be had on the Frost Fang Expedition!
Fall is here! That means that AVLscarefest is only about a month away. Last year was a really fantastic time, and the organizers are going out of their way to apply feedback and make this year truly fantastic! From October 21-23 add set in the picturesque mountains of Montreat, NC, the old stone buildings of the campus and convention center set the mood for some spooky games of all types. Beyond the truly staggering amount of Pathfinder Society games, you’ll find thematically appropriate games of Call of Cthulhu, Dread, Ghostbusters, D&D adventurer’s league, Dungeon Crawl Classics, Lankhmar, Cryptworld, Savage Kingdoms, Bolt Action, and many more! Get your ticket and sign up for games at the warhorn.
Last year I had an absolute blast trying games I had never tried before like Deadlands Noir, Bolt Action, and Shadowrun. I also ran a pretty creepy table of Star Wars which became the impetus to get the Star Wars bounty hunter game going. This year I’ll be running Masks of Lankhmar and two sessions of Star Wars bounty hunters. Mike will be running the Shambling Un-dead and the Arwich Grinder!
New this year is a token system, in which players and GMs are all provided tokens that can be used to reward awesome role-playing, helping out around the con, and can be used at the end of the con to win some awesome prizes from local vendors. This encourages both excellent games and excellent community spirit. I can’t wait to see the results!
Don’t miss out on this fantastic con in the mountains. Try a game you have never played, or bring your favorite game to run. I’ll see you there!
My wife approached my desk holding the mail, shaking the noisy manila bubble-wrap mailer incredulously. “What is this?”
As a man who may or may not own too many dice, I replied, “I think you know.”
It was a bag of 105 dice in the amazing vibrant and uncommon colors that make up the “Alchemic Oddities” series of dice that I’ve had my eye on ever since Wiz Dice had a naming contest for the new colors. I’ve purchased a few bulk dice collections in the past like the Chessex Pound o Dice, and the first Wiz Dice collection of 100+ “random” dice. The Chessex dice had some really interesting dice, but were mostly just factory mistakes, some of which were d6s that were missing numbers and there was only one complete set of the same color. Not bad if you want a ton of random dice, but not great if you are looking for sets. I had seen other people’s accounts of ordering from Wiz Dice and receiving tons of complete sets with only a few odd dice out. I was pleased to have a similar experience in that first set and now own just about every typical color of opaque dice, as well as some interesting marble-like and translucent colors.
This most recent set has very unique colors with fan-suggested names like Dwarven Brandy, Faerie Fire, Boiled Bile, and Abyssal Mist. With this second set, I received 105 dice or 15 complete 7-dice sets for $26.34 shipped. That comes out to about $1.75 a set, and they are some of the coolest sparkly, marbled, vibrant colors I have ever seen. If you want specific colors, you can order individual sets at $7+shipping, or just let them pick for you and “roll the dice.” There is something for everyone in this set from oranges, neon yellow, pink, black sparkly, translucent grey, and a gorgeous marbled dark green they call Basilisk Blood.
Good sourcebooks give you usable material for your campaign and characters. Great sourcebooks inspire brand new campaigns. The Age of Rebellion sourcebook for soldiers Forged in Battle falls into the latter category. This book follows the now familiar format of three sections: new player options with new races and specializations for the career, new gear and vehicles, and finally a section for GMs about adventure seeds and building missions around soldiers.
From the jump, before we even get in to the new races this book describes potential duty posts. Each of these could be their own campaign, or at very least the premise to start a larger story arc: Local cells, sector forces, specforces, shipboard operations, intelligence services, and special operations. Between the soldier specs in the core Age book and the ones in this one, you could have a very capable versatile squad, all with the same career! This book is packed with the perfect blend of fluff and crunch. For those unfamiliar, fluff in an RPG typically refers to flavor text and window dressing that paints a vivid mental image, but has no mechanical/statistical information. Crunch is generally the numbers and stats of gear and mechanics of new talents and anything that interacts with the actual mechanics of the game.
On to the goods: There are a bunch of great backgrounds for the various specializations, as well as soldier-specific duties. This book then details four new races: Elom, Elomin, Kyuzo, and Shistavanen. Much like the Edge of the Empire technician sourcebook Special Modifications including Northern and Southern Mustafarians, Elom and Elomin are from the same planet, but are vastly different species. The Elom and Elomin are so different they merit their own individual stat blocks, not just different starting features. Eloms are pretty much mole people that can dig underground through loose soil as a maneuver. Elomin look a lot like Zabrak, but just because they have four horns out of the top of their heads. Kyuzo is the race of one of my favorite bounty hunters from the Clone Wars, Embo. Included in the gear section are stats for his hat that can be used as a Captain America style shield/throwing weapon, and occasionally downhill sled. It also goes in to detail about Clovocs of the Kyuzo that sound basically like ninja clans that specialize in a certain weapon, and may align themselves with different leaders in Kyuzo society. Lots of adventure seeds in those sidebars. Finally there are the Shistavanen. If you want to play a wolfman in Star Wars, this is your ticket. Alternatively if you wanted to play a wolfoid from Metamorphosis Alpha or a Vargr from Traveller, but the GM is running Star Wars, check out the Shistavanen. One really cool feature is they can use Survival rather than Cool or Vigilance for initiative to literally sniff out trouble.
The specializations include one repeat and two new trees. The repeat is the Heavy from the Edge Hired Gun sourcebook, Dangerous Covenants. This tree is all about using the biggest weapons to take down the biggest targets. To the core Soldier skills of Athletics, Brawl. Knowledge (Warfare), Medicine, Melee, Ranged (Light) Ranged (Heavy) and Survival, the Heavy adds Gunnery, Perception, another Ranged (Heavy) and Resilience. Not bad for the big blaster obsessed players out there.
The second specialization is the Trailblazer. This is a nice combination of combat and outdoorsy skills. To the core skills, this adds Knowledge (Outer Rim), Perception, Stealth, and another Survival. Interesting talents early in the tree include Prime Positions which allows this PC or an ally within short to increase the soak against ranged attacks by 1 per rank. There is only one rank in this tree, but I imagine we’ll see this pop up in future supplements as well. Cunning Snare can be used to create a trap once an encounter. This can cause wounds and disorient based on the Trailblazer’s cunning, and how badly the triggering NPC fails his vigilance check to spot it. On the bottom line of the tree is Ambush, which allows you to maneuver from cover and add damage equal to your stealth skill on an attack within short range. I really like this specialization as a backwoods Rambo-type. In fact, I would be surprised if Rambo wasn’t an influence when it came to this spec as well as some of the gear later in the book.
The last spec is the Vanguard. They add another Athletics, Cool, Vigilance, and Resilience to the core skills. When I think of a vanguard, I think of the tip of the spear, always leading the attack. This tree includes a lot of focus on the guard part of Vanguard with two ranks of Body Guard available, as well as new talents Improved Body Guard and Supreme Body Guard. These allow you to to take a hit for an engaged PC you protected with the body guard maneuver. Supreme allows you to protect as many engaged characters as ranks in Resilience. My favorite new talent from this tree is Suppressing Fire. This allows you and allies within short to spend advantage on failed combat checks to cause 1 strain per rank. With two ranks in this tree and it applying to other allies, this is one awesome power to take out minions in a hail of concentrated fire. One of the talents at the bottom is Seize the Initiative. Once a session if you make a hard athletics check, all PCs can take their turns immediately. Now that is a Vanguard.
Both signature abilities are pretty cool in this book. The Bigger They Are… allows the character to try and take down vehicles, ships, or creatures of silhouette 2 (3 with an upgrade). If a knowledge warfare check succeeds the PC and friendlies within medium can attack with personal scale weapons, ignoring armor or soak. This calls to mind the scene from the new Rogue One trailer when the soldier launches a missile at the side of an AT-AT head. If I’m not playing in an Age Special Forces campaign before Rogue One, I imagine I will be shortly thereafter. The second signature ability is Unmatched Courage, which allows the PC to ignore effects of critical wounds for the duration. With upgrades, this allows you to not become incapacitated after your wound threshold is exceeded. You still suffer crits for any additional hit, but you keep going.
The gear section includes a number of nice new rifles, and massive guns for the Heavies. Of note is the T-7 Ion Disruptor that featured prominently in an episode of Rebels, and was used against the Lasat in a massacre lead by Agent Kallus. There is also a pulse cannon that has an option to expend all its ammunition in one shot to add Breach 1 and Vicious 3. It is slow-firing, but not a bad idea to keep one around in case you need to make a big hole in something. The Imperial heavy repeater slugthrower has a similar quality in which you can expend all its ammunition to add Blast 7 and Concussive 1. The armor section includes some new stealthy suits, as well as Rebel Heavy Battle Armor and Imperial Hazard Trooper Armor that includes protection from hazardous environments, as well an internal comm that can reach low orbit and a targeting system that removes two setback from darkness, smoke, or similar environmental factors. The Shistavanen Combat Utility Blade features many possible configurations but may contain a fire-starter, a hydrospanner, water contaminant detector and functions as a toolkit to repair devices and droids, but adds a setback die to such checks. It also adds a boost to survival checks. So pretty much a Rambo knife. Also of note in the gear section is the modular backpack. The basic storage unit just adds encumbrance capacity as normal, but there are other units that help control temperature in hazardous environments, power weapons or tools, mobile communication hub, sensor suite, or oxygen supply. Lots of cool options to kit out your squad with different gear depending on the mission.
Vehicles include the 6-legged Clone Wars era AT-TE, as well as an Imperial Troop Transport that sounds like the one used commonly on Lothal in the Rebels TV show, as well as a repulsor tank that looks a lot like the old Cobra H.I.S.S. tank. Also from the Clone Wars era, LAAT/I and LAAT/C used as both troop and vehicle transports in the prequels and Clone Wars shows. These would be a fun way to get into and out of battle.
The final section is dedicated to the GM and how to integrate soldiers in missions that focus on other careers as well. Included are sample missions and possible strike targets, asset denial, and a Coup D’Etat of a planetary governor. Beyond those scenarios it provides ideas for different battle environments like trench warfare, urban fights, and raiding operations. Near the very end there is a really cool section on building fortifications as well as suggested ways to spend advantage/threat and triumph/despair on those constructions. It also details how to spend different results in different environments from city battles to boarding actions and wilderness combat. The very end of the book describes soldiers learning talents after recovering from critical injuries. The idea being that which doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. It is an interesting concept, and could definitely add a lot of flavor to a soldier since you’ll likely be in the thick of it for most adventures. It also talks about possible trophies that soldiers may collect like an Imperial Officer’s cap and how they could add a boost die to coercion checks against imperial troops.
Overall this book is jam packed with awesome material for GMs and players alike. If you are playing a combat-focused Age game, this is a must-have. If you are interested in putting together an A-Team or X-COM style squad of soldiers with various skills that when combined can pull off amazing missions, this is the book for you. Between Sharpshooters, Medics, Heavies, Commandos, Trailblazers, and Vangaurds, I would argue Soldier is now one of the most diverse and well-balanced careers in the entire FFG Star Wars system. You will be hard-pressed to find another career in which every PC could play a soldier with a different specialization and end up in such different roles. Highly recommended.
Clearly, I’m a huge fan of the FFG Star Wars line, and often they knock it out of the park. This review, however, will be mixed. One can’t blame FFG for cashing in on Star Wars mania since episode VII came out. On the Order 66 podcast some FFG staff members reported a surge in sales after the movie release. Unfortunately, in this most recent (and likely last) beginner game, they cut some serious corners.
First the good: The materials include stats and details for New Republic-era First Order baddies, including Captain Phasma herself! It also updates the included galaxy map found in any of the core books with new locations of episode VII scenes: Jakku, D’Qar, Takodana, and Starkiller Base. The rulebook includes some background information for the different factions like the New Republic, the First Order and the Resistance. As in previous beginner boxes, the adventure continues with a PDF supplement on the FFG support page for the product, so you can get a few gaming sessions out of it.
The bad: There are no additional PC folios on the support page for the product. This means there is a GM and 4 players maximum. Also, 3 out of 4 of the PCs are human. Out of all the interesting alien races in all the Star Wars products from THREE different product lines, and there is ONE alien? You could mix and match character folios from other beginner boxes or create a few supplementary PCs, but that assumes you own other boxes or have enough familiarity with the system to create them. This makes running the beginner box at a convention or a FLGS more difficult. I’ve run the previous boxes for groups new to the system, and typically at conventions you have 6 PCs and a GM. All previous beginner boxes shipped with 4 folios and included 2 PDFs in the support section for the product so you could fill out the table. Also, the additional adventure PDF is several pages shorter than previous versions for Edge, Age, and F+D. The map (which is one of the main draws to purchase this for many veteran players) is only 17″x 22″ which isn’t too bad, but the flip side contains both maps used during the adventure. This puts them at such a tiny scale that they are almost unusable. On one half, First Order Troop transports are represented as being about two inches long, with a TIE fighters in racks on the walls being about 1/2′ x 1/2″. That is not a great personal scale map. The other half is an entire length of a Corellian Corvette which is a massive ship! It feels like those were supposed to be the two sides, which would have worked, then someone said, “Let’s add a galaxy map!” Instead of adding a separate poster with something cool like Jakku planetary locations on the reverse, they shoe-horned it into the player/scene map poster. Very disappointing. Finally, with the exception of the PC folio portraits and maps there is no new art in the product. This is a huge missed opportunity and gives the appearance of cutting corners as all the illustrations are movie stills or promo shots from the movies. The reason I buy FFG Star Wars books is for the amazing art. Just think of Rey, Finn, Poe, Phasma, etc. in brand new scenes from the amazing stable of artists FFG commissions. Such a shame.
Overall, this is the first FFG Star Wars product I would suggest skipping. It feels rushed, and doesn’t provide the same great experience as previous boxes. It’s not bad if you need an extra set of dice and want a pretty nice galaxy map to illustrate other adventures, but this is a pretty low value product for the money. Hopefully, this is not indicative of a new direction for FFG RPG production, and merely a one-off to capitalize on movie hype.