Saturday, March 5, 2011

Reviews: Can't Sleep, Clown Will Eat Me edition

Some reviews while I can't sleep.

Legends of Excalibur: Arthurian Adventures HC
I picked this up at the same time I did the True20 version.
This is one of the best Arthurian legends games I have read in a good long time. The text is very readable, the layout is very well done and the maps are fantastic.
The use of the d20 system here is nice, but lacks the elegance of the True20 version.
You do get a number of very good feats and prestige classes here though so that evens it out some.
If you are a fan of Arthur in any of it's many re-tellings then this is a fantastic game to own.
5 out of 5 stars.

Fantasy Women Clipart JPEG 7
20 clip art images to use in your games. All are 3D "poser" style computer images, so their utility for certain styles of play might be limited. But all in all they are not bad and the price is fine.
4 out of 5 stars.

Solid! The d20 Blaxploitation Experience
A very interesting take on a little traveled genre in RPGs. While the rules are firmly within the d20 Modern ruleset, there are bit of interesting crunch here and there to make it worthwhile. But where this game shines really is as a guide to the Blaxplotation film genre and history. If you want to run any type of game, regardless of the system, set in the 70’s then this is a good place to start.

Damnation Decade
I have a love/hate relationship with the 70s. I grew up in the 70s and have good memories of them. Loved classic rock, hated disco. Loved the new age occult revival, could have cared less about some of the other stuff. I grew up then, but consider myself a child of the 80s.

Damnation Decade though is the pure raw distillation of everything 70s, good and bad, into one awesome game. It is a historical game, in the same way Ghosts of Albion is about 1839. Damnation Decade takes a wrong turn in 1974 down a dead end. The world is sort of like ours, yet also very different in some key respects. Damnation Decade is also quite possibly the one RPG product to ever tacitly or implicitly illustrate that things under President Ford could have been a lot worse that what we really got. Reading through Damnation Decade is at the same time a trip down memory lane and an exercise in identifying puns and analogues to our real world. Green Ronin: did we really need a world where folk singer Edmund Fitzgerald sings about the Wreck of the Gordon Lightfoot? But I guess you are forgiven by giving us the first RPG product to feature a real Fantasy Island.

It reminds me of Solid!, which is also about the 70's. If Solid! is Parliament, then Damnation Decade is Grand Funk Railroad. Damnation Decade though gives something that Solid lacks; memorable NPCs. Sure if you can get past that most of them are amalgams of 4 or 5 70s figures, for example Humboldt Suede is not just a bad Hugh Heffner rip-off, he is part Hugh Hefner, Bob Guccione AND the Son of Satan. Though some are original enough to be useful outside the 70s atmosphere; Theramin Hunker for example could work well (maybe even better) in 21st Century games full of conspiracies.

Damnation Decade works great as a d20 game AND it has a True20 appendix that might even be better.
Plus that cover rocks.
5 out of 5 stars.

Bunnies And Burrows
The premier RPG of playing something other than a human or anything humanoid. It is basically "Watership Down" the role-playing game, but there is much more to it than that.
It would be disingenious to review it with modern eyes (it is nearly 35 years old now) but it has a very good skill system, and one of the first to be honest. Since the characters are rabbits, there is not much in the way of combat and instead a focus is placed on solving problems and role-playing.
5 out of 5 stars.

Dreaming Cities: Tri-Stat Urban Fantasy Genre
Dreaming Cities was one of the first attempts I had seen of putting together a good Urban Fantasy game that was not also trying to do horror. Sure we had Urban Arcana for d20 and a few others, but this one felt a bit different to me. At least at first. So the real feature of this game is the background information and how they make Urban Fantasy work for them.
The game system itself is Tri-Stat which at this point was mostly the same as BESM 2nd Ed-Revised and SAS. If you know the powers and rules for those you have the same things here.
The real meat for this game comes in only around page 70 when we see how to apply these character rules into archetypes to work in Urban Fantasy. Many seem cribbed from other versions of Tri-Stat/BESM/SAS games, but that is fine.
The rest of the book talks about how to make an Urban Fantasy game work. Like the treatment SAS gave the 70+ year history of comic book heroes, DC tells about the modern urban fantasy genre. There is a quite a bit of crunch mixed in with text on how a modern society deals with things like magic, pixies, zombies, demons and dragons and visa versa.
GoO and Tri-Stat are gone, sad to say, but this game is still worthwhile and has a lot going for it. If you play a modern horror game or a modern supernatural one where magic and supernatural are still hidden, then this is a refreshing little breather.
IT’s not D&D with guns and computers mind you. It is however something very fun.
The rules suffer the same pros and cons as SAS, BESM and the rest of the Tri-Stat family. There is not a lot here that is new in terms of rules, just new ways to use them.
The text is clear and the art is very good.
4 out of 5 stars.

ION Guard
Bash! Edition
ICONS Edition

If you need a reason to buy BASH or ICONS then this is it. At just about 60 pages this supplement presents the Intergalactic Ordinance Network Guard or ION Guard, an intergalatic police force defending the universe from all sorts of bad guys.
Yes we have seen this before, but the the presentation in this book is so enduring you ignore the obvious DNA of this product and just pull on your ION Fist, say your Oath and protect the Galaxy. NPCs are detailed as well as bad guys for you to fight. The layout of the book is awesome and I honestly can't say enough good about it.
Dislike: would have liked to see more bad guys.
5 out of 5 stars.

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