Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Review: Amazing Adventures Book of Powers

The Amazing Adventures Book of Powers for the Amazing Adventures RPG is really, really interesting book.  Interesting in that it opens up the Amazing Adventures game, and thus Castles & Crusades and Victorious RPGs into new and interesting realms of play.   It does in a sense to Castles and Crusades what the BESM d20 rules did (or could have done) to d20 rules.

Let's start with the basics and then move into specifics.

The Book of Powers (BoP) is a slim book, 48 pages. The covers are full color, the interior is black & white.  The list price is $14.99 but as of this writing, the PDF is on sale for $10.99.
We get right away to my first gripe about the book.  The cover.  I love Peter Bradley's work and this cover is gorgeous.  However, it is not really "pulp" to me at all.  Sure if this were a modern supers game (which in fact you can use this book to turn AA into) this would be a great cover, but acrobatic girl with green hair, in skin tight lycra/spandex outfit with plunging cleavage isn't my idea of the 1930s.  Sorry.  I mention only because I fear that people might not grab it.
Moving on.
The premise of this book is pretty cool.  Take AA's Gadgeteer class and turn gadgets into powers.  These powers can be used along side gadgets and other powers to make some truly heroic characters.  I did a few quick and dirty character creations this morning and I am pleased so far with what I was able to do.

Expanding on this idea Vey also presents a "Sorcerer" class, a magical power wielder that could fit in right next to the Arcanist class in AA OR even the Wizard in C&C.   For my next character I want to create an AA style sorcerer for a Castles & Crusades game to see how well it works.

Expanding on these powers even further we are given rules on how to make Vampire, Demon and Angel characters.  Now this is a REALLY cool option.  I don't often pull this card, but today I will.
Jason knows his shit here.  We worked together on WitchCraft, All Flesh Must Be Eaten and of course the Buffy the Vampire Slayer RPG.  Jason is above and beyond qualified to give us these rules. And these rules are really fun.  So much so that one idea I had for a supers game I want to now convert over to an AA game with powers, sorcerers, vampires, angels and demons.  It's actually quite silly how well it work for me.

The book also has a host of new character options including a modified skill check system.  I *believe* is the same as the one in Victorious.  Though I am not 100% sure.  It's a nice simple system.  Though reading it I realize I almost never do skill checks in C&C/AA; just ability checks.
There is also a new advantage system or perks for each class.  Totally optional, but allows for greater customization.  Not enough here? They are similar enough to feats to allow importing from other d20 games.  Add these to Castles & Crusades and you basically have D&D5.

Speaking of which there is also a section on "Amazing Crusades!" with guidelines on how to get Amazing Adventures Peanut Butter into your Castles & Crusades Chocolate.  I would also add that you can add the sweet, sweet creamy caramel of Victorious to this.

I was going to like this book anyway since it does a lot of the things I tend to do in my games anyway.  It also has a lot of things I love adding to my games.  So how do I give an unbiased opinion?

Well, I will say this.  If you love Amazing Adventures, then you should check this out.
If you want some more flexibility with powers and even races in Castles & Crusades, you check this out.
If you want more Steam Punk gadgety goodness of Victorious then definitely buy this.

I highly recommend this.

Disclaimer 1:  I received of a copy of this book in the mail as thanks for being a playtester.  No review was ever mentioned, promised or implied.
Disclaimer 2: I was a playtester for this book.
Disclaimer 3: I am good friends with the author, Jason Vey, and we have worked on many RPG projects together over the last 16-17 years. 
Disclaimer 4: All links are affiliate links.  Your clicks support my book habit.


Monday, September 19, 2016

Monstrous Mondays: Woodwose for Castles & Crusades

A couple of things came together for me this week.  First off I have been going through all my Castles & Crusades material.  My son is getting ready for the game he runs with his group so I have been cleaning my game room, reorganizing my shelves and reading a lot of C&C.

I have been wanting to do something cool with C&C for a very long time.  So I am torn as to whether I am going to use it for my "Second Campaign" or "War of the Witch Queens".  I have a lot of good in-universe reasons to use this for the Second Campaign, but there is SO much of what is native to C&C that make me really want to use it for War of the Witch Queens.
In particular, books like the Haunted Highlands and Codex Celtarum are just full of ideas.

Today I wanted to update a monster I did a while back that was also recently updated on the newbiedm.com blog; the Woodwose.

You can see my version for Basic Era games here:
http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2015/03/woodwose-for-basic-era-games.html

Newbie DM's version, based on a 2nd Edition version I knew nothing about here:
https://newbiedm.com/2016/09/12/monster-conversion-woodwose/

Here is a new version for Castles & Crusades.

Note: this is different that the Woodwose class found in the Codex Celtarum.

Woodwose
NO. ENCOUNTERED: 5–30
SIZE: Small
HD: 2 (d4)
MOVE: 20 ft.,
AC: 13
ATTACKS: Weapon
SPECIAL: Spell–Like Abilities,  Twilight Vision,  takes 2x damage from cold iron
SAVES: M
INT: Average
ALIGNMENT: Neutral
TYPE: Fey
TREASURE: 1
XP: 45+1

The Woodwose, or "the Wild-Man of the Wood" is faerie creature related to the brownie and buckwan. These creatures typically look like small, old men completely covered in hair. Their hair can vary from brown, to light yellow to even green.  These creatures stand about 4' to 4 1/2' tall though some have been reported as small at 2' and others as tall 7' tall.   They have a language, a very early form of Sylvan, that they use among themselves but they can speak elven when talking to others.

As their name would suggest the woodwose are a wild, barely civilized race. Much of their time is spent in raiding the homes of other faerie creatures stealing food, treasures, and their women.  Woodwose that live close to human settlements have also been known to attack an outlying farm or prey on a lone traveler.   They are only brave in packs and rarely venture out of their burrows alone.  Despite their size a woodwose will attack any creature up to and including, ogre-sized, if they have the numbers.  Woodwose fear and avoid elves.

For every 6 woodwose encountered 1 will be a shaman capable of casting spells as a 2nd level druid.  For every 12 one of those 2 shamans will be 3rd level.  At 24 woodwose, a small community, there will be a shaman with the powers and spells as a 4th level druid.
In any case all woodwose are capable of casting the druid spell Shillelagh on their club once per day.  They are also capable of casting Pass Without a Trace at will as many times as they need.
Woodwose will be wary of adventurers unless they can outnumber them 2-3 to 1.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Review: Beneath the Dome

Beneath the Dome is an adventure for the Castles & Crusades game by none other than James M. Ward.  The current versions out in game stores and OneBookShelf are a combination of four smaller adventures.  It is really like a small campaign or a longer adventure in four parts.

Each section challenges characters of progressively higher levels (1-5, 4-7, 10th and above) and deals with the invasion of a race of giant humanoids, the Amdromodon.   Aside: While the new monsters here are interesting enough, I couldn't help but think it might be cooler if instead, I replaced them with Slaadi from the old Fiend Folio.  But that was only a thought.

The adventures are interesting and I love the whole "invasion" and corruption vibe.  It made it feel a little different than your typical adventure dealing with outer planar creatures.   A little fleshing out with some other adventures the Castle Keeper could really make a nice campaign with this.  The only thing really missing is a very high level adventure where the PCs go to the plane of the Amdromodons.

There is a lot going on in this adventure(s) and it is a lot of fun really. In addition to the new monsters there are also some new spells.

The book itself is 36 pages.

Now.  I hate to be "that guy" but today I am going to be.
If your book needs so much editing that *I* notice it then you have some issues.  There is more going on here than the odd typo or comma splice. Some sections are so awkward in their phrasing and the way they were written it really made it difficult to read.  I know these complaints have been leveled against Troll Lords before and I have for the most part ignored them.  But this book for whatever reason seemed to be really bad.  Now the PDF might be updated, I don't know.  But the physical copy I have needs a lot of help.


Disclaimer: Links are affiliate links, this module was purchased as part of a Kickstarter add-on package.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Hugo & Jake watch Dark Dungeons!

Hugo and Jake of "Bible Reloaded" take on "Dark Dungeons!"



"That senior warned us about playing RPGs!"

I could not help but think of this, https://www.fecundity.com/darkdung/

"Oh my god. They killed Blackleaf!"
"You Bastards!"

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Reviews: Castles & Crusades Adventures

My son is doing some gaming with his own group, so he has been spending a lot of time working on his own stuff.  So I have been reading a lot of Castles & Crusades.

I have to admit, and this is not really an admission since you all know this, but I love this game.
For me, it really hits a nice blend of 1st, 3rd and yes even 5th Edition.  Plus there is lot of material that I have not even been through yet.  The more I read it the more I REALLY want to use this for my War of the Witch Queens  adventures.

But before I do that I want to look at some of these adventures on their own merits.
Review Disclaimer:  I purchased these adventures as part of a Kickstarter add-on some time ago.



The Fantastic Adventure
This is a short adventure, 16 pages, for 4 to 8 characters of 1st to 3rd level. Actually, it is three very short adventures in a general area.  One flows to the next easily and can be run in a couple of sessions. The starting adventure revolves around finding a missing gem and this leads to the PCs saving a deranged golem.  There is also a host of really weird and interesting NPCs that could, if needed, be used as characters.  I know that C&C typically takes its cues from AD&D1, but this adventure felt like something right out of D&D Basic to me.  I mean that in the best way possible; I love D&D Basic.  This would make for a good first adventure to anyone new to C&C, but familiar with other FRPGs.
I often gush at the nostalgia fuel that Castles & Crusades often is for me, but this adventure really does capture a lot of the fun of playing in the late 70s and early 80s. Particularly the early 80s.  It is set in their larger, and somewhat more dangerous, World of Aihrde and can lead up to their other adventures.  Or it can stand alone for a couple nights of rolling dice and having fun.

I1 Into the Unknown: Vakhund
26 pages, for 4-6 characters levels 1 to 2.
Vakhund, Into the Unkown is a short adventure that builds up to some epic events in the later I series from Troll Lords for Castles & Crusades.  It starts out simple enough really. The party has been hired as guards for a caravan. Soon the wealthy merchant is dead and his daughter kidnapped.
Vakhund is interesting since for an adventure that has it's DNA in a game known as "Dungeons & Dragons" there are neither dragons nor dungeons (for the most part) in this adventure.  Typically for low level adventures there is a dungeon to explore. In this one the PCs are thrown right to a plot and it is rather interesting to be honest.

I2 Under Dark & Mistry Ground: Dzeebagd
34 pages, for 4-8 characters levels 2 to 4.
Following up on the events of I1 Vakhund the party finds the missing girl but uncovers a larger plot involving many local factions.  The conceit of the adventure is the party will be drawn in, but as far things go this is not a bad one.
This one is a bit longer than the last adventure and a bit more involved with all the factions.  This adventure can stand alone, but it works best as part of the I trilogy.  Interaction with the NPCs is really what makes this adventure so the game master should read up on all of them and their motivations ahead of time.

I3 Dogs of War: Felsentheim
22 pages, for 4-8 characters levels 3 to 5.
Felsentheim is the epic conclusion to the I series of adventures.   As with the last adventure the GM should be knowledgeable on all the NPCs and factions in this adventure.  Again it can be played on it's own, but works best as the conclusion to the I series.  While the adventure is shorter there is quite a lot of combat in this one.

All together these three books are greater than their parts and make for an interesting set of adventures.

Interestingly enough the entire time I was reading these I kept thinking how well they would work with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea.  Not that there is anything here that screams AS&SH to me, but just a feeling that it would work well.  I'll have to try it someday.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Reviews: Back into the Blue

Today I want to look at two products for the Alpha Blue line by Kort'thalis Publishing and +Venger Satanis; Girls Gone Rogue and Universal Exploits.

Full Disclosure: I received both of these PDFs in trade for a fair review.
Fuller Disclosure: I had already bought Girls Gone Rogue and had it in my review queue anyway.

Full Frontal Disclaimer: These products sit behind an Adult verification wall on OneBookShelf. By clicking, you are giving tacit, if not implicit, consent to see such things.  Don't whine if you see something you don't like.  These are not for the easily offended. 

Ok. So Alpha Blue is Venger's infamous "brothel in Space" source book that also includes a brief system for play.  I reviewed Alpha Blue a while back and I really enjoyed it.  I opted at the time to use this book along with some other Old-School inspired Sci-Fi books including White Star. Keep in mind that Alpha Blue nor these books are overtly compatible with any of those other games, but Venger's system is simple enough and these books are written in such a way that they are easily adapted for use.

Girls Gone Rogue 
Girls Gone Rogue (GGR hereafter) is an 80-page supplement for Alpha Blue.  The book expands on the options and tables found in Alpha Blue. There are additional character options and lots of tables but really sets this book apart, and makes it a must have for AB fans, are the adventures.
If you are a fan of Venger's style of mixing and matching various pop cultural references then these adventures are a real treat. In particular, the mixing of Galaxina and Ilsa She Devil of the S.S. is quite fun really.  Venger obviously grew up on a steady late night Cinemax. Actually, that explains a lot of GGR to be honest.
This one is a bit harder to judge in terms of a game book.  I will say that if you enjoy Alpha Blue, then this is a good buy and will be very useful.  If you don't like Alpha Blue then GGR will be more of the same really.  Though there are a some that would enjoy the adventure seeds for use with other games.

Universal Exploits
Universal Exploits is a 110 page book for Alpha Blue. UE tackles the universe beyond the space station Alpha Blue.  Like Girls Gone Rogue it is an expansion, but it also setting material.  The universe is a big and dangerous place.  Well, dangerous in the same universe that has a space brothel/space station orgy happening.  Or maybe that is just a result of some the horrors going on around them.  There are also some short adventures/scenarios you can use. Again, these are presented system-neutral/system-lite so they can be used for just about anything.
In truth this reads a bit like a collection of Traveller articles, that is if Traveller went really gonzo.  Or, chances are, like many used to run Traveller anyway.
The real treat comes in the form of the special Alpha Blue Character sheets.  Honestly every game should have great looking Character sheets and these are among my favorites.

So. Who should buy these books?
Well it's pretty simple. If you have Alpha Blue or like playing it then these are "must buys".
If you play some other Sci-Fi game and want to add a little "Sleaze" to your "Scum and Villainy" then these are must buys only behind Alpha Blue itself.
If you like lots of pop-culture references, especially ones that are more R or even NC rated, then this is also for you.  But if that is the case you already know this.

Who should avoid this?
Well normally when reviewing a product I stay away from these sorts of discussions.  But in this case, I will say those who are easily offended should not bother.
More to the point with me though is don't go into these books expecting to find a lot of material you can use for other, non-sci-fi, games.  Can I use it with say a Modern game? Sure, but there are a lot of conversions I'd have to do.  Not game mechanics, but style.

Both books are a lot of fun and I am certain I can still find a lot to use here even in my PG and PG-13 rated games.

I do want to mention the cover art.  Both are fantastic and really, really shows what you can do when you put your heart and soul into your games.



Now. If you are like me reading through all of this and referencing back to Alpha Blue and some of Venger's other products you might be wondering "when is Venger going to focus his eldritch eye on 'Heavy Metal'?".

Well while reviewing this Venger sent me a link to his newest Kickstarter.

Trinity of Awesome!


https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1575519826/trinity-of-awesome

Looks like a lot of fun.  If it goes the way that Universal Exploits did it will grow into 5-6 adventures.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Monstrous Mondays: 5E Monster Books

I LOVE Monster books. Always have.  One of the first, if not THE first, book I ever saw for an RPG was the AD&D Monster Manual.  My love for these books has never waned.

So of course, I am going to grab the new Monster books for 5e!


I am rather pleased with both of these, but Tome of Beasts from Kobold Press edges out in terms of things I want to use.  There are just a lot of really great monsters in this book.
Including some I will use in my current Come Endless Darkness game and some for the War of the Witch Queens.

They have their own version of Camazotz which I am dying to use.


I have not compared these stats to the ones I worked up a while back,  But I think I will use these new ones since the players did not kill Camazotz the first time.

There is also a new Witch Queen featured in the book.


She is based, somewhat, and named after the Scottish witch Nicnevin.   I will have to do a conversion of her sometime soon.  Having someone that is the "Daughter of Scáthach" is just too cool to ignore really.

I am not ready for a review of these just yet. But stay tuned.

Don't forget to include the hashtag #MonsterMonday on Twitter or #MonsterMonday on Google+ when you post your own monsters!

Special thanks go out to +Justin Isaac for letting me know about this book and that it featured Camazotz.

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