Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Thursday, February 22, 2024

Review: Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

The Forgotten Realms Campaign Set
 I have asked this before, but it bears repeating here and now. How does one review a classic? Better question. How does one review a genre-defining classic?  Because that is what I have sitting in front of me now. A genre-defining classic. Eighteen-year-old me back in 1987, ready for his first year at university, would not have thought so at the time, but that is what much older me thinks now. 

The Forgotten Realms was the foundation of the "new" TSR, the one without Gary Gygax and many of the other founders on which they would build their new home. We can debate the merits of this and financials ad nauseam, but by any stretch of the imagination, the Forgotten Realms were very successful. So successful that the biggest video game of 2023 is set there.

This review will cover the Forgotten Realms Campaign Set, the Boxed set from 1987. Written by Ed Greenwood and Jeff Grubb and edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. But any insight to this product knows that the genesis was with Ed, and he first brought it all to life in the pages of Dragon magazine. At least that is alive to us. Many other authors have contributed to Realms over the decades, but here is where it begins.  

How do we begin? Let's take Ed's own words, which he scribbled into my Cyclopedia of the Realms as our opening.

Welcome to the Forgotten Realms

"Welcome to the Forgotten Realms!" - Ed Greenwood

Forgotten Realms Campaign Set

by Ed Greenwood, Jeff Grubb and edited by Karen S. Boomgarden. 1987. Boxed set. Full-color covers and maps. Cyclopedia of the Realms 96 pages. DMs Sourcebook of the Realms 96 pages. Maps and clear hex overlays.

Forgotten Realms box contents

For this review, I am considering the physical boxed set from 1987 and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG. There has yet to be a Print on Demand version.

The DriveThruRPG PDF combines all this information into a 230-page book. Maps are broken up and scanned in at letter size.

Cyclopedia of the Realms
Cyclopedia of the Realms

96 pages. Color covers. Sepia-tone pages and art.

"Let's start at the very beginning. A very good place to start." - Maria von Trapp nee Kuczera, Bard/Cleric

This book is an introduction to the Forgotten Realms, and maybe the most important bit here is the introduction by Ed Greenwood/Elminster and the About this Product.  We start immediately with the "voice" of the Realms, Elminster. He is no ersatz Gandalf, nor is he a more approachable Mordenkainen, and certainly, he is more interesting than Ringlerun. He is our guide, but sometimes I still like to think of him as an unreliable narrator. These are the Realms in his eyes. More (if the not the most) knowledgable, but there are still "small stories" to tell that are beneath his notice. Those are the stories (aka games) I want to know about.

This book covers the timeline (I do love timelines!) and ways of keeping time in the Realms. The date for this set is the end of 1357 DR (that's Dale Reckoning or Dalereckoning). For full context, the Baldur's Gate III video game takes place in 1494 DR, with the current year of the D&D 5e titles at 1496 DR. There is a bit of discussion about holidays and how the "weeks" are grouped as Tendays (3 a month). It feels different and I like it.  The money system is rather AD&D standard, with some proper names to the coins. This is fine because this IS supposed to be an AD&D world, and the authors want people to feel familiar with it all, if not right at home.

Languages and scripts are up. Some of these are still being used in current versions of D&D. 

The Gods are next. These were already familiar to me, not just because this is an old product, but because Ed talked about them in Dragon magazine back in 1985.  See "The Dragon Connection" below. While these gods have "Earthly" sources, it actually works out great and ties into the mythology of the Realms as one being connected to Earth. Something it shares with Greyhawk's Oerth. The connection between Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms is strong. They share almost all the same demi-human gods. By extension of the rule-set they also share all the same demons and devils. This makes moving between worlds a little smoother. The gods and their relationships are detailed well here and there is just enough unknow to keep them interesting.

Next section is about Adventuring Companies. So here is one thing that the Realms does better than Greyhawk (well there are more, but the first thing in this book). Adventurers are baked into the system. The world doesn't just need adventuring parties, it demands them. These parties can be used as models for your own adventuring parties. All these parties have names as well. I'll have to think about how Sinéad and Co would fit this format. Plus, the back cover of this book has a grid for the adventuring party! Room for 10 characters even.

Adventuring Party Roster

We get into the "Cyclopedia" part of the book now. This is an alphabetical listing of major topics within the Realms. These include things like the various character classes, races, countries, towns, areas of interest and other topics. There is a narrative piece describing it, Elminster's Notes for the point of view of the most knowledgeable native (even when he admits to not knowing much), and Game Information.

I rather like it, to be honest. Hit me with facts, and let me build some adventures around it!

DMs Sourcebook of the Realms
DMs Sourcebook of the Realms

96 pages. Color covers. Sepia-tone pages and art.

One of the best things in this book is the Introduction. We get words from Ed (as Ed) talking about the World of the Forgotten Realms and how it is now our world too. Yeah it is trademarked by TSR and now WotC/Hasbro, but this is an open invitation to do what you want with this world now. This is a foreshadowing to all the great Ed Greenwood content we would get over the next almost 4 decades. Honestly reading Ed's own words make me excited for all the exploration ahead of me. This is followed by words from Jeff Grubb, who also had a hand in shaping the AD&D version of the Realms. And more by editor Karen S. Martin who adds her experience and excitement to this world.

So much better than any puff-piece bit of gamer fiction!

We get right into it. Information on how to use this as an AD&D campaign world is started from the word go. Overview again of the boxed set. How to set up campaigns for new players, new campaigns for experienced players, and bringing in characters from other campaigns. Hmm...I should try all of these to be honest. Maybe a character from one of my Greyhawk or Mystara campaigns could come on over. I DO like the idea that Elvish and Dwarvish and some others are mostly the same languages. Would really help bring the worlds closer together. 

A bit of coverage on the maps and how to use them. Nice comparison of the map of Faerûn compared to the continental United States. And a section of various wandering monsters. The Forgotten Realms may be Forgotten, but they are very much alive!

The next 20 pages detail NPCs of note. Any to drop in as background, enemy, or ally. 

Speaking of living. A really nice section on recent news and various rumors starting in DR 1356 to 1357 are presented. With or without your characters, the Relams live on. 

Another plus for this boxed set is the ready-run adventures for low-level characters. The first, The Halls of the Beast Tamers, is a nice dungeon crawl. Next is Lashan's Fall, which appeared in Dragon #95 as "Into the Forgotten Realms," and even the maps are the same! Mind you I think this is a bonus since that is the adventure I always wanted to use as an intro to the Realms. I still can come to think of it. 

Into the Forgotten Realms

The next section is a "Pages from the Mages" style entry.  Lots of spells books to be found with plenty of new spells. I think some of these were in "Pages form the Mages" to be honest. That's fine, they work well here.

Honestly, the ONLY thing missing here are some new monsters, and this would be complete.

Maps & Plastic Hex Overlays

There are four gorgeous maps of the content of Faerûn. While it doesn't quite live up to the artistry of the Darlene World of Greyhawk maps, they are more practical. The plastic hex overlays also make it easier to read the maps and then do your hex crawls in whatever area you like.

The Dragon Connection

One of the great things about doing my This Old Dragon feature and concentrating on the period between 1980 and 1987 is watching the Forgotten Realms develop and grow as an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons world. From Ed's musings on gods in Down to Earth Divinity to magical tomes and spells of the Pages from the Mages and The Wizards Three features to adventure Into the Forgotten Realms, all of which would find homes in an official Forgotten Realms product in some shape or form.

I mentioned already that Dragon #95's Into the Forgotten Realms makes an appearance here as an introductory adventure.

As I mentioned, all we were missing were monsters. Well, Ed penned enough monsters in the pages of Dragon Magazine that were explicitly for the Realms, so collecting them all is worthwhile. In addition to monsters, there are magic items, more spells, blades, shields, and even musical instruments, and I know I am nowhere near collecting it all. I do know I will run out of room in my box for them all.

Realms in Dragon Magazine

My Thoughts

There is a lot packed in this box. It's like a TARDIS really; bigger on the inside. In truth, nothing of what I thought was going to be here was here. Yes, there are NPCs, but they are background, and your characters may never ever run into them. They are the background noise of the Realms until the characters are the big noise. I certainly unfairly judged the Forgotten Realms. 

A lot of this stemmed from me thinking that Gygax had been done wrong. Yes, that was true, but the Realms really had nothing to do with that. The New TSR was working to relgate Gygx to the past and Ed was just the guy in the right place in the right time with the right idea. I was also unfair of me to judge the Realms on that.  If reading Ed's "The Wizard's Three" has taught me anything that Abier-Toril and Oerth have more in common than not.

Greyhawk and the Forgotten Realms

This is, of course, just the start. A big start, to be sure, but a start all the same. This is a canvas to paint on. This is a great set, not just for its time but also for now. Minus some of the stat blocks and spells, everything here can be used with any version of D&D or similar game with little or no effort. 

While I am somewhat overwhelmed by the task before me, I am also excited about it.

Honestly, I am going to pull out some dice and roll up some characters now.

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Review: Module N4 Treasure Hunt

N4 Treasure Hunt
I knew my exploration of the Forgotten Realms would take me to new and unexpected places. I just didn't think it was going to be this soon.

In my exploration of the Forgotten Realms product Moonshae, I discovered an interesting bit of knowledge. In the back of that book it mentions that Adventure Module N4 Treasure Hunt can be used with the Moonshae Islands. I later discovered that the islands in N4 were moved over to the Forgotten Realms for this purpose.  So I had to switch courses and check out this module. I am really happy I did.

This module is not just an introduction module, but maybe THE introduction to the game module. Where you have an honest-to-Gary Session 0 and start with 0-Level characters in 1986. Given I am new to all things Realms, I might as well start at level 0!

N4 Treasure Hunt

by Aaron Allston, 48 pages (2 full color map pages, 36 pages of adventure, 10 pages of character profiles) black & white interiors. Art by Stephen Fabian. Cartographers: David F. "Diesel" LaForce, Stephen D. Sullivan, Bill Reuter, Stephanie Tabat. Cover art by Jeff Easley/

For this review, I am considering the PDF and Print on Demand version from DriveThruRPG/DMSGuild.

Treasure Hunt is a completely introductory adventure for players of the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons 1st Edition game. I say "players" since I feel this adventure still requires a bit of rules savvy from the Dungeon Master, at least in terms of some of the lifts needed to work with the 0-level characters. However, reading this one nearly 40 years later, with honestly tens of thousands of hours spent on this game, there are nice gems here.

Speaking of which. I am not going to attempt to judge this adventure by the same yardstick as new Level-0 or the so-called "Funnel" adventures. That is not fair to the author nor the adventure itself. This has to judged on the merits of its time. But I will tell you this, I'd run this today, as is, with no changes to be honest.

There is a Player's Introduction and Dungeon Master's Introduction. 

This is the most interesting parts for me today since they cover the rules of rolling up and playing Level-0 characters.  For starters, you don't have a class yet. You are a Normal Human (or elf, or half-elf, or whatever), and you have 1d6 hit points and maybe a secondary skill. You don't even have an alignment. The plot revolves around your character, either one you make or use from the starting characters, being kidnapped by pirates, and then your pirate captors are shipwrecked and mostly all killed. Now, you are stuck in the Korinn Archipelago, later added to the north of the Moonshaes.

Korinn Archiipelago

From here the new PCs work out an escape plan and defeat their first enemy, the last pirate.

As the players play through the challenges presented on these islands they can build up what their character does and earn some XP. They are all 500 xp away from level 1. The adventure explains that even 1st level characters have some training. A fighter at level 1 is called a Veteran. A 1st level Cleric is an Acolyte. Even thieves and magic-users have some skills at first level that 0-levels do not.  Want to be a thief? Try picking that lock. Want to be a Cleric? What do you feel when you enter the Temple of the Goddess and how do you react? You won't know till the end (or near that) and you won't get there till you try.

0-level and skills

Frankly, it is great. A fantastic set of mini-mechanics to get the story going and flowing.  

The adventure itself is divided into six "episodes." And episode is a good word here since there is a bit of cinematic feel to this. It feels like Aaron Allston watched a lot of Raiders of the Lost Ark, or more to the point, Romancing the Stone. This is a good thing.

Each episode gives the new PCs something tangible to do. Defeat the pirate, stop the orcs and goblins, explore the Temple, explore the Sea King's Manor, and so on. While there is a great feel to all of this, add a bit of the Moonshaes to it, and thus some Celtic and Old Norse culture to it all, and it becomes a fun mix.

Even for the time, the adventure is a bit linear, but not in a terrible way. I mean, let's be honest, the plot is "I've been captured, now I am free, but how do I get out of here?"  At the end of each episode, there is a debrief for the DM on handling anything that went amiss, tracking the character's class and alignment progression, and so on. There are even contingencies if certain NPCs are not encountered or die before they are supposed to do something. So, linear but with enough branches to keep it fresh. 

Experience points are tracked all along the way, so there is a chance the characters will break the 500 XP threshold by the end of episode 5. 

There are appendices on "What if Things Go Wrong" or "What if the Character Dies?" and all are handled pretty well. There are some clever Player's Maps and the map of the islands. 

The character profiles in the back can be used as potential PCs or NPCs. A few are even worded to be male or female. Someone online would have screamed, "Woke!" at it, but it is presented here as just one of many options. I do feel more care was taken here to entice both male and female new players to the game.

This adventure is a good one for new players. The only thing missing here is some more guidance for new DMs. Something that B2 Keep on the Borderlands does rather well. Maybe the perfect starting trilogy is this adventure, then T1 the Village of Hommlet, and ending with B2 Keep on the Borderlands.

N4 Print on Demand

About the Print-on-Demand Scan

This is a print of a scanned image. So there is some fuzziness to some of the letters. It is obviously not as sharp as, say, a direct from digital print. It is still very readable.  Getting the PoD and PDF will give a book you can use and be able to print out the character cards and player maps as needed. 

Treasure Hunt in the Forgotten Realms

I already mentioned that the location of this adventure, the Korinn Archipelago, was dropped as right into the Moonshae Isles, which were already an addition by Douglas Niles to the Forgotten Realms, supplanting Ed Greenwood's own islands that were there. Already the Realms are evolving in front of our eyes and it is not even fully 1987 yet.

As an adventure, it is also a great start for Realms-centric characters. I had already planned to make my start in the Moonshaes, this just sets characters on the path of adventure in a different way. You didn't meet in a tavern or bar. You were captured and met your companions along the way. Something we will see again in Baldur's Gate 3 or even, to a degree, Skyrim. 

The Temple of the Goddess in Episode Three can easily become a Temple to the Earth Mother / Chauntea. Lots of different Goddesses are given as example, but I thought it might be fun if the Earth Mother appears as all of them. Playing into my fascination with "the Goddess is all goddesses" motif.

Sinéad for Treasure Hunt

Sinéad's Perspective

At the outset of these reviews, I said I wanted to explore the Realms through the eyes of a native, but one that was just as naïve as me. Sinéad is that character. She was chosen partially because she has a pseudo-Celtic background (so starting the Moonshaes was great). She was a Forgotten Realms native already, but mostly because she was just so much damn fun in Baldur's Gate 3. 

For Sinéad, I re-did her sheet as a 0-level character.  The DMG suggests using Method I for rolling up characters; 4d6 drop the lowest and arrange as desired. Well. I did that with Sinéad as a first level, so I opted to use a trick I used all the time in Unisystem's point build, I just knocked a few points off. 

Her "1st Level" abilities add up to 92, so I took 10 off and re-distributed the points among her six abilities. Then I added on back. My world. My rules. I also felt that since her main defining feature at this point is that she is a half-elf, I decided that was her class. So I used a Basic-D&D style sheet. The one I have above is from New Big Dragon Games Unlimited's GM screen.

Since my concept of her is a proto-Bard at this point, and she is young, I figure she really doesn't have any secondary skills yet. At best, she can play the lute or flute. If she was captured by pirates, she likely lost whatever she had. This would be a bigger loss to her than however much gold she had. 

At the end of the adventure, she becomes a magic-user with her one spell, Burning Hands. The same spell she accidentally burned down the barn she was in back at home, which was why she was running and how she got caught by pirates. 

After this adventure, how could she possibly go home? There is an entire world out there. 

Besides, she survived pirates. What can be worse than that?

Oh. And since I have had friends do this exact thing, after her adventure here, Sinéad uses the dagger she found to chop off her hair and dye some of it. Seems like a perfectly reasonable trauma reaction to me. 

Sinéad at the end of N4

She is just a kid at this point.

Final Thoughts

If I had been smarter, I would have used this first when re-creating Sinéad on paper, but as it is, this worked out fine. This is also a great new-to-me adventure for a new-to-me world. While I LOVE B2 Keep on the Borderlands, it is too closely tied to Greyhawk and the Known World for me to really adapt it over the Realms. Would it even fit in the Realms? I am sure many online users have found a home for it. Maybe one day I could as well, but for now, this is a great adventure to start with. In fact, I want to go through all the N, aka "Novice," adventures and see how they fit my needs here. But for now, I am pretty happy with this.

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Review: FR2 Moonshae

FR2 Moonshae
 Today, I begin my journey into the Forgotten Realm properly. But even a journey as epic as the Realms needs to start out small and, for me, local. I have my guide. Now, grab some guidebooks. But which ones?  Well that part is easy. I will review the Forgotten Realms books I have on hand, literally and figuratively. I will just review the physical books and boxed sets I have here. I might buy more in the future, or I might not. I might seek out some books on purpose, others, well, maybe I found a reasonable price on them.

Up first will be a book I bought years ago (from Castle Perilous!) because I knew if I ever "did the Realms," this is where I would start.

FR2 Moonshae

by Douglas Niles, Print and PDF. 64 pages, full color, dual-sided map. 1987.

For this review, I considering both my original version and the PDF from DriveThruRPG.

Ok, why am I starting with a supplement and one not even from Ed Greenwood himself? Simple, the Moonshae islands were always that one bit of the Forgotten Realms I was really fascinated by. It was also where I knew I would set my native Realms in. It felt close enough to the Irish and Celtic myths I loved while still being "D&D" enough.  I knew enough of the history of this and the Moonshae novels by Douglas Niles to make this worthwhile to get. But I am getting ahead of myself here.

In the AD&D 1st Edition Players Handbook, Gary Gygax had this to say about Druids:

"Druids can be visualized as medieval cousins of what the ancient Celtic sect of Druids would have become had it survived the Roman conquest." - PHB, p. 21

The Moonshae Isles can be viewed as the British Isles if the Celts, the Britons, and all the rest had thrown Rome out in 55 AD.  We know that Douglas Niles was working on a Celtic-themed set of books and a new campaign setting in the mid-80s. He brought over his collection of islands, and Ed Greenwood tossed out what had been his Moonshae (or whatever was there) and used Niles' for the publication version of the Forgotten Realms. This book acts as an overview and a Gazetteer. 

The book is divided into three major sections, plus an Introduction and Appendices. 

Moonshae book and map

Introduction

This covers a bit of fiction that connects it to the Moonshae novels, particularly Darkwalker on Moonshae. I started the novel a couple of times but never got through it.  You don't need to know anything about it, though, to use this book.

Moonshae Overview

This covers the Moonshae Isles and the sorts of characters and Characters, as well as the folk and Fflok, you will meet there. It makes a very good case for this to be the starting point of the adventures. Since, to my very limited knowledge, this is the western most point on the Forgotten Realms maps at this time. You can travel east and see the entire world. 

The races are AD&D standard, but I already feel some differences here from, say, Greyhawk.  There is a good section on common conflicts. This appeals to me since one on my favorite themes to deal with in games is the waning of Paganism and the rise of Monotheism in Western Europe. The Moonshae has this theme baked in with its Druids vs. Clerics and Ffolk vs. the Northmen.

Humans are divided up into the previously mentioned Fflok (think British pagans) and the Northmen (think Norse/Viking raider pagans). There is an uneasy truce here now. I can't wait to see if this boils over or if they take a page from our world and just settle down. One of the reasons you are reading this in English now. This is illustrated with a map of the political borders, which Elminster tells us are constantly in flux in the book. 

We get another map of trade routes within the islands and to the Sword Coast mainland. Some tables on weather (it's a lot like Chicago to be honest) and lots of great random encounter tables.

The Moonshae book effectively makes the "low level" adventuring interesting where a Giant Stag is big opponent, but you could also see goblins or a faerie dragon. The Celts book for AD&D 2nd Edition would do the same thing very well. Honestly that book could be used with the Moonshae with no problem whatsoever. 

Deities of the Moonshaes

I will give Niles and TSR credit, they didn't stick a narrowly defined idea of what a god might be. The main Goddess of the Moonshaes is The Earthmother. We are told she is an aspect of the Goddess Chauntea who the rest of the Realms sees as an agricultural goddess. The Ffolk, though, do not see her like that. To them she is The Goddess. Embracing a bit of the revisionist views of British Paganism but I like it, and more to the point it works well here. If Gygax can say what he did about Druids above, then this logically follows. The Goddess has three children. The Leviathan, a gargantuan whale, Kamerynn, a large unicorn, and the Pack, a pack of wolves. All have been endowed with special qualities by the Earthmother and are her eyes and ears in these lands. There is also evil here in the form of Kazgoroth, the Beast. Who looks a bit like a wingless dragon. 

Specific Locales of the Moonshaes

This covers a dozen or so locations. Parallels can be drawn from many of these to locales in British and Irish myth and legend. And honestly, that is fine. It made figuring out where to start my grand adventure even easier. I mean I could be wrong but Callidyrr is our stand-in for Camelot, Corwell is Cornwall, Moray is like a smaller Ireland or a larger Ilse of Man, and so on. Now there are some interesting additions. What if the Vikings, when raiding, decided to set up in Scotland or Ulster and kicked everyone else out? Well, you might have had something like Norland.  I imagine the AD&D 2nd Ed Vikings Campaign book would be useful here as the Celts one was for the southern islands. 

Other areas are detailed like Myrloch, the large inland lake/sea in Gwynneth in the south and Synnoria, the land of the Llewyrr Elves. There is even Flamsterd, an island of Magic-users. You know I am heading back there sometime. 

Moonshae book

The Appendices

Appendix A covers some campaign themes for the Moonshaes, not that I need any more at this point! But it does include a note on how to bring in the module N4 Treasure Hunt into the Moonshaes, which is great really. 

Appendix B gives us some unique items of the Moonshaes. 

Elminster's Notes

There are a lot of those here. If you were to take them out, there only be about 32 pages. But they set the tone of the book and the land well. We are new here but not new to D&D so Elminster's eyes are a perfect substitute for our own. 

The maps look great and should be compatible with the clear hex grid from the Forgotten Realms set. 

A much more pleasurable work than when I first read it way back in the early 1990s. The whole "Ffolk" thing with the two "f"s bugged me, but I got over it. You could build an entire campaign and never leave these islands. Which is not what I am going to do since there is so much more out there.

Sinéad's Perspective

So, I am going to look at the people and places of this product through the eyes of my bard Sinéad. Much like Greenwood does with Elminster, she will be the eyes and ears in which I see the Realms. But I am not going to give you long-winded journal entries. That's Ed's and Elminster's thing. 

Choosing the Moonshaes as my first product and choosing the Moonshaes as the home of Sinéad makes a lot of sense together. These lands feel familiar to me. I have read hundreds of tales of Celts and Celtic heroes and monsters. Nearly as many tales of the Norse and Vikings. Tons on the Rise, Fall, and Rise again of the very particular British form of British Paganism.  I have never been here, but I know it well. Much like Sinéad, I am leaving this place. Maybe it is too early, but certainly, I will have to come back here. 

Final Thoughts

I am not sure if it was planned or not, but this does feel like a perfect place to start your adventures in the Forgotten Realms. By today's standards, the book is a bit light on the crunchy game stuff. No new spells really or specialized sub-classes. But that is fine; the fluff more than makes up for it all. 

Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Review: The Last Sabbath RPG

The Last Sabbath RPG
 It's Halloween, and of course, I am always looking to add more spooky games to my collection. If they are witch-themed, then all the better.  Today, I am reviewing the Last Sabbath RPG.  I featured the Kickstarter last year and received my books this past summer.  It is a gorgeous piece of work, but is it a good RPG? Let's find out.

Last Sabbath RPG

Design by Atropo Kelevra and Valentino Sergi. Art and illustrations by Loputyn (Jessica Cioffi). The game was based on Loputyn's artistic vision. Paperback, saddle stitched book. Black & white (with red foil covers). 48 pages.

This is the English translation of the original Italian RPG. 

Last Sabbath is a Masterless, Journalling RPG for 1 to 7 players. Masterless in that no one player is the game master and journalling since the players will write down what their characters (all witches) will do in each scene.

Now, I am not overly familiar with playing Journalling RPGs, but I know what they are in concept. 

In this game, the players all play new witches who have gathered together in a Coven. Why? Well, that is what everyone will find out together. I say up yo seven people since that seems to work well with the structure of the game, but 4 might be more wieldy. It can also be done as a solo RPG experience.

The game offers many aids to move the players (and the characters) along. If this is the Coven's first time playing or this is a solo effort, then the authors suggest using the Scene Prompts instead of the divination techniques. That is a good idea, but the divination techniques add a bit of randomness to the game that I quite like.  So, at this point, what is required of the players are these rules, notebooks to journal in, a d6, and maybe some divination tools. More on those later. While a fancy journal would be a nice touch here, a regular notebook is also good. Since you will be sacrificing memories here as part of game play it is somewhat cathartic to write them down and then tear out the page.

The game setting is whatever you want it to be. That and the nature of the witches involved are entirely up to the players. 

Safety tools are recommended because this game encourages you to push the boundaries. It is all part of the idea that magic is both a gift and a curse. Bad things are going to happen to your character. 

Last Sabbath RPG

Game Play

The game is divided into Seven Scenes. The Call, Initiation, Danger, Investigation, Revelation, Threat, and Epilogue.  Each scene is then divided into 3, 5, or 7 turns (players' choice). When all players have done their Turn, you move on to the next one.

At the end of every scene, one of the Records (what the player wrote down) becomes a Memory. Memories can be sacrificed for Power to fuel their magic. But removing the wrong memory can cause a witch to forget why she is part of the coven. 

Turns are covered with some examples of a 3-round game plane for a Scene. 

Guidelines for play follow. Witches can ask one question of a fellow witch once per turn or answer a question on their turn. If a Power is used, then the affected witch must respond to that power on their turn. 

Power

Without magic, the characters are just people sitting in a circle. And while that would be a fine game, not one I would review here. Power is what makes witches witches.  Power comes in the forms of a Charm, Spell, or an Incantation, each with great effects and greater costs. Some incantations, for example, can cost the witch her life. So yeah, power comes at a cost. Some examples of powers are given, including origin and types. But the details are left to the players to figure out. 

Divination 

This just gives us a brief idea on how they are to be used. Details are given later with the various types of divination tools.

The Scenes

Half-way through the book we reach the Scenes, or how the game progresses. Anything can happen in a scene including the death of a witch. Players should not worry about that since they can introduce a new witch in the next scene.   Each scene is given some guidelines in the form of leading questions and some prompts. For example, for Scene 1: The Call, one of the prompts is "A call for help is heard in your mind" (paraphrasing). Witches can choose or they can roll a d6. 

All the scenes are handled in similar fashions, with Scene 7: Epilogue as the adventure conclusion. 

Divination Tools

This section covers various divination tools which are broken down by tool with examples for each scene. These include Tarot, Rune stones, Mikado, and Tea Leaves.

Tarot is likely going to be the goto, but there is a certain charm to the Tea Leaves, especially if you have plenty of tea on hand while playing.

Last Sabbath - Grimoire

by Atropo Kelevra and Valentino Sergi. Black & white art with red. 36 pages.

This is a Kickstarter add on for the Last Sabbath RPG. It has additional thematic prompts for the LAst Sabbath RPG. At first I was curious why it was not added to main RPG. But reading through I see why, the prompts are great but should be used sparingly since they could force the game into a direction not set by the players. They are perfect when the players might want some advice on what to do nest, or even for a second play through.

The art of this book is not from Loputyn, though it is good in its own right.

Last Sabbath RPG

Thoughts on this Game

My experience with games like this are a little limited. But this looks like fun and would work great in the hands of the right group. I see this as a good way to spend a rainy afternoon with some like mind friends over pots of hot tea. Save the Dr. Pepper and Doritos for D&D night. This is for orange zest scones and black tea. 

If you are the type that wants really crunchy rules, then I would say this not the game for you. But I recommend you at least check out something like it. 

Thoughts on the Art

The art is striking, evocative and perfect for the feel of this game. This is expected since the game grew out of the artistic vision of Loputyn (Jessica Cioffi). The art might be considered risqué to American audiences, but for European ones, I am sure this is just slightly above comic book fare. 

Art of Last Sabbath

Use as a Session 0

Back when I first talked about this game, I mentioned it as a possible Session 0 for my War of the Witch Queens. I am more convinced about that than ever. 

In fact, I can see this game being interspersed with War of the Witch Queens adventures. Since the overall arc of that campaign is to discover who murdered the High Queen of Witches. 

Tea with the Witch Queens by Brian Brinlee
Tea with the Witch Queens by Brian Brinlee

I have some major NPCs (all posted with stats) that enter into the tale/campaign. For my play test of this I took them and put them all through a couple of scenes of this game to figure out what their motivations will be. It was quite fun, to be honest.

I can also see it working as a Session 0 for a NIGHT SHIFT game consisting mostly of witches. 

While I have the Smith-Waite Tarot deck pictured above, the perfect deck for this will be released next month: the Loputyn Oracle. It is published by Llewellyn Publications, pretty much THE publisher for all things mystical and witchy. Though it only has 32 cards, it should be fine for this game to be sure.

There is a lot of things I can use this game for, and I am looking forward to trying them all.  Now. time to put the kettle on.

Links

Where to buy

Creative Team

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Review: SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide, Cthulhu Sourcebook

 Continuing my exploration of Bloat Games' modern horror/monster hunting RPG, SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide. Today I cover Part 2 of the two books, the Cthulhu Sourcebook.

What Shadows Hide Cthulhu Sourcebook
SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide: Cthulhu Sourcebook

220 pages. Black & White cover and interior art.
$9.99 PDF

A while back I once said, rather snarkily, that a game can get instant sales by slapping some Cthulhu on it. One the surface this could look like that, but it doesn't do that at all. 

Also, I compared What Shadows Hide to the classic RPG Chill. So the logical comparison here is this is Bloat Games' version of Call of Cthulhu. But it is not quite that either.

What is this game supplement? Easy. Remember the first season of True Detective? It was a great detective show with a cult and some crazy guy talking about Carcosa. Turns out it was all just normal, though very evil, human agents. 

Well, what if Carcosa had been real in True Detective? What if those human agents/cultists interacted with real Elder Gods from beyond reality?

That is what this game is.

This book gives us some new classes for What Shadows Hide. Archeologist, Priest of the Darkness, Priest of the Light, Priest of the Mother, Priest of the Old Ones, Priest of the Protean Path, Priest of the Void, Psion, Warlock, and my favorite, Witch. Some of these we have seen before, but that is fine, not everyone will start with the same book or buy everything in their line (you should, but I see why you might not).

There are new spells, new skills, curses, and psychic powers.

Why put these into this book? It keeps these more powerful classes out of the hands of the Players and squarely in the Game Master's hands. 

We also get a bit about Cosmos Cats (fun!).

The bulk of this book is dedicated to the monsters the characters will encounter and the cults they will likely have to deal with. There is even a good section on creating your own cults.

This book has more utility than just "Book 2" of What Shadows Hide. This book can be easily used with other Bloat Games' RPGs like We Die Young or Vigilante City. There is also enough here for anyone who wants to add some cults to their Fantasy OSR games.

There is even an index.

Both books make for a great game, and a worthy addition to the Bloat Game catalog and the Survive This!! line.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Review: SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide

 I want to spend some time with one of the newer RPGs in Bloat Games' line of SURVIVE THIS!!  Today I want to look at their modern monster-hunting horror game What Shadows Hide.

SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide

I say "newer," but these have been around for a bit.  There are two books in the line, the Core Rules and the Cthulhu Sourcebook. For the purposes of this review I am considering both the PDF and Print versions of these books. There are at this time no Print On Demand versions, I bought these from Bloat Games at Gary Con in 2022.

What Shadows Hide
SURVIVE THIS!! What Shadows Hide: The Roleplaying Game

250 pages. Black & White cover and interior art. 
$9.99 PDF.

If you have followed any of my reviews of the various Bloat Game offerings then you will know that I am a big fan of their games and the SURVIVE THIS!! system that powers their games. Like the previous games (in particular Dark Places & Demogornons and We Die Young) this is a horror game. Though the feel to this one is a bit different. This is not the 1980s or 1990s anymore, this is a game with real stakes, real horrors and people dedicated to fighting them.

Up front, if you have played or own any of the other SURVIVE THIS!! games then a lot here will feel familiar. The rules sections are largely the same as are the rules for creating characters, combat, and some of the monsters.  This time the authors address this and mention this is done for maximum compatibility between the game lines. You can take classes from any SURVIVE THIS!! game and use them here and visa-versa. 

The joy of this game though is what it brings that is new. And there is plenty of that.

The game largely follows a similar path to that first taken by the Chill RPG. You have professionals working in various areas of the government (or other places) and they interact with an organization known as C.A.R.E., Conservers of the Ancient Realm of Earth. Think of them like BPRD, SCP, or even good old SAVE. Many characters will be involved with C.A.R.E., but you don't have to do that in your games (CARE-less?), the point is there is a connected group that does it's best to fight back against the monsters of the night.

Character Creation

Characters can have a Race, Occupation, and a Class. Races include Dimensional Forsaken (Angels and Demons), Doppelgangers, Fairies,  Ghosts,  Ghouls, Greys, Half Mer-men, Humans, Jari-Ka (Mummies), Negator, Reptilians, Vampires, and Were-beasts.  This moves it a little further afield from Chill and into World of Darkness territory. 

Occupations have a random table with how much they make each year.

Classes include Academic, Arcane Thief, C.A.R.E. Field Agent, Exorcist, Medium, Monster Hunter, Mystic, Necromancer, Occultist, Paranormal Investigator, and Void Master. Some of these are from other books, but pay attention to the details as some do feel different.

Character creation follows the same process as other SURVIVE THIS!! games and by extension most Old-School games. Attributes are covered which include the standard six, plus the "Survive" attribute common to all SURVIVE THIS!! games.  

Like the other games in this family, Hit Points start with a 2d6 and increase by 1d6 per level, regardless of class or race.  Combat can be pretty deadly in these games for people used to the hardiness of even Old-School D&D characters.

Character creation, spells (rune tattoos), skills, and Equipment cover the first 140 pages of the book, so a little more than half. 

Rules

Here we get our rules for playing the What Shadows Hide game.   We get an overview of game terms, which is nice really. Rules for Curses, Exorcisms, and Madness are covered. Similar to the rules found in We Die Young. It looks to me like they could be backported to DP&D rather easily. 

There is a fair number of combat rules.  Likely this has come about from the authors' experiences with their other game Vigilante City. 

We also get rules for XP & Leveling Up and Critical tables.

The Setting of What Shadows Hide

This is the real treat of the book. What makes this one different than the others. The world is filled with monsters, aliens, and other threats to well well-being of humankind. It is largely up to the characters (and those like them) to keep the world safe. Here we get into detail about C.A.R.E. and other organizations. We also cover the cults and organizations the characters are most likely to encounter and how to deal with them. 

At the end of the book, there is a section of adventure seeds. There are some monsters here, but they are directly related to the adventures. For more monsters, you will need the second book in this line, the Cthulhu Sourcebook, or grab one of the other Survive This!! books such as the wonderful DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - The Cryptid Manual are an excellent choice. 

There is a bit here that can be found in other Bloat Games' Survive This!! games. But that is fine, because as an author/designer/publisher, you never know what someone's first book is going to be. So I am perfectly happy with seeing the Mystic again for example. Each book/game does add more to the sum total of the Survive This!! experience, so even in a class I know well (hello again Mystic) there is something new and often something a little different.

You can use all the games interchangeably, along with supplements made for the individual lines. 

A quick read through the book at Gary Con 2022 and I knew right away I could use this core book to recreate any Chill or Conspiracy X game I played in. If I wanted to recreate ay Call of Cthulhu game, well for that I would need Book 2 in the series.

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Review: Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game Second Edition

Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game Second Edition
Earlier today, I covered the Starter Set for the new Doctor Who The Roleplaying Game Second Edition. Now I want to cover the full core book.

I will do a full review, but also I want to cast an eye toward the differences in the game from the previous First Editon(s).

Doctor Who: The Roleplaying Game Second Edition

PDFs and Hardcover book. Full color. 256 pages.

PDF is broken down into Core rules, Doctor, Companions, and Pregen charactersheets, and a blank character sheet.

As always, I am considering the PDFs from DriveThruRPG as well as the Core Rules book from my FLGS. 

New Doctor means new trade dress and rules from Cubicle 7. But this time C7 goes the extra step and gives us an all new rule book with new (ish) system. What's inside? Let's have a look.

The layout of the book is very similar to the previous hardcovers, so if you are moving to this game from the First Edition then things will be easy for you to find.

The table of contents is up first and immediately you get the idea that this edition is courting new players. Each chapter for example has a brief sentence describing what it is for starters. 

Chapter One: Let's Get a Shift On

Upfront, just like the previous versions, this book focuses on the then-current Doctor, the 13th, played by Jodie Whitaker and her companions. Though the other Doctors are not forgotten here. 

Doctor Who Second Edition

This is our introduction chapter and it orientates the reader on who the Doctor is, what RPGs are and this one in particular. There is some bits about using the metric system (the USA really needs to get with the rest of the world here) and if you have round, round down. 

We end with an example of play.

If you are coming to this game from either the previous edition or the Starter Set then this chapter is familiar territory. 

Chapter Two: Travellers in the Fourth Dimension

As with previous editions, this is our Character Creation chapter with new rules ahead.  We start with a character concept in the form of "Who are you?" not a backstory but rather an idea of who your character is. There is a discussion about the tone of your game and how do the characters all get along. We get everything from the extended "fam" of the 13th Doctor to the group of UNIT operatives. 

Note: The text here, while similar to previous editions, does not feel "copied and pasted" from other editions/versions. This does read like a new game, albeit one with some familiarity. 

Doctor Who Second Edition

The game starts with your Concept. That is who this character is. So for a companion like Yaz she is a "Probationary Police Officer." Leela would be a "Primitive tribe member."  This helps us figure out what our characters are. 

Next we get to our Focus. From the rulebook: "Where a character’s Concept is ‘who they are’, their Focus is more of ‘what makes them tick?’" That is a good summary. A Focus has a benefit (adds a +1d6) and a flaw, which is just a restriction on what sort of actions you take. Continuing with the Yaz example her Focus could be "The Law" meaning she can get a bonus when acting with authority but maybe she wont want to participate in a little B&E.  Now depending on the intensity of your Focus it could be a +1d6 or +2d6 or even a solid +6 to any roll. 

Experiences cover things the character could have done already. Yaz has some experience with the Law due to her education and she has experience as the daughter of an immigrant family and so on.  Don't have anything in mind? No worries there is a 1d6x1d6 grid to help you find out. Likewise there is one for shared background experiences. This is great since so many of the companions of the Doctor had these shared experiences. Ian and Barbara were both teachers at the same school, Teegan and Nyssa both had family members killed by the Master.

Once you have these then we get into your point buy Attributes. This is largely the same as the previous edition (and most point-buy games). These are still Awareness, Coordination, Ingenuity, Presence, Resolve, and Strength. Skills are also largely the same with 12 skills. Previous combat-related skills have been merged into the Conflict skill. There is a new "Intuition" skill now.  

Distinctions are also new and these largely replace the Traits of the previous version. These are mostly things like "Time Lord" or "Cyberman" or "Sontaran." Taking these usually result in fewer Story Points. Humans get 12, a Sontaran might get 8, and an experienced Time Lord also 8.

Fill in some more background information, set your home Tech Level and you are ready to go. Once you play a bit you will collect experience points.  The end of this chapter covers spending experience points. 

Chapter Three: Sorting Out Fair Play Throughout the Universe

This chapter covers running a game. The basic rule is still pretty much the same.

ATTRIBUTE + SKILL + TWO SIX-SIDED DICE = RESULT

(try to match or beat the Difficulty of the task)

So now Distinctions can alter these rolls, but the basic gameplay is still the same. This includes the Success and Failure levels associated with the rolls. 

This also covers spending (and regaining) Story Points.

Plenty of examples are given on how the rules manifest in game play but really this is one of those games where the rules seamlessly move into the background while you are playing. 

One such example of this are contested rolls and the example is combat. Again, Doctor Who is not a "kill all the monsters and take their stuff" sort of game, but every so often there will be creatures that want you dead.  

Along with this some weapons are detailed along with other equipment and vehicles. 

Special care is given to gadgets which are now less regulated by the rules. Essentially they do what they need to do.  

Chapter Four: A Big Ball of Timey-Wimey Stuff

This covers the basic of traveling in Time and Space with some details about how the TARDIS works and so on. There are other means mentioned, but the TARDIS is our state-of-the-art means. TARDISes in the game are built a lot like characters are. This was always part of the rules, but it is more front and center in this edition. 

This chapter also covers the various issues with Time Travel. 

Doctor Who Second Edition

Chapter Five: Hold Tight and Pretend It’s a Plan

This is our Gamemaster section. It covers how to run a game. From designing your first group of travelers to the big wide universe they live in. It covers how to set up a game and a series of adventures (a campaign). This material is very similar to previous editions. This is expected since the advice in those editions was great and spot on, no need to over do it or redo it. 

This also covers dealing more and more with the companions lives and families. Companions took a more central role in the story of the Doctor with the updated series. Their job is not so much to scream, get captured, and ask "what is it Doctor?" Now they drive key elements of the story and the adventures. 

Chapter Six: A Brief History of Space and Time

This covers the setting of the Doctor Who RPG which is at present all of Time and Space. So yeah fairly inclusive of everything. Special attention is paid to the Doctor's favorite planet, Earth. Which is good since that is the one the authors also know the most about. 

This chapter covers a few monsters/creatures/aliens for you to encounter and more background on Time Lords and Gallifreyans. Attention is given here to the Master in all their incarnations. 

We get details on the "big ones" of course, Daleks, Cybermen, Sontarans, Silurians, and Ice Warriors. Good mix of both Classic Who beasties and NuWho ones. 

Doctor Who Second Edition


Appendix: Remember All the People You Used to Be

This covers converting your Doctor Who 1st Edition Characters over to the new Second Edition. Not a difficult process at all really. About the same as moving from say any edition to Call of Cthulhu to another. Less complicated than moving from 1st Edition AD&D to 2nd Ed AD&D to be sure.

We also get character sheets for the 13th Doctor, Graham, Yasmin "Yaz", and Ryan. There is a blank sheet, and a good Index.

Doctor Who Second Edition

Who is this Game For?

If you are new to RPGs and are a fan of Doctor Who then this is the game for you.

If you are not new to RPGs but new to Doctor Who then this game is also good. But that is not the real question is it.

Should I Switch/Upgrade?

If you have the First Edition Doctor Who RPG, any version, and you really love it I would say stick with that. Reading 2nd Edition books with a First Edition mindset is not difficult ad I pointed out with the Doctor Who Sourcebooks

If you want to keep up with all the Doctor Who books, then yeah, this is a fine edition of the rules.

The trade-off between Traits (1st Ed) and Distinctions (2nd Ed) is largely one of taste. Traits are little crunchier and Distinctions require more buy-in from the Players and Gamemaster. 

Honestly, I can see a game where Traits and Distinctions can co-exist and can be played in the same game. Traits are just a bit more codified.

The book itself is gorgeous with plenty of color photos from the show (and even some black & white ones) and while the 13th Doctor and her "fam" are predominate, all Doctors are represented here at least once. 

For me? Well, let's build some characters and see if I can get what I want.

Monday, May 29, 2023

Review: The Doctor Who Sourcebooks

Not content just to give us a great game and material we can use to make our own adventures, Cubicle 7 took a huge leap and gave us guides and sourcebooks for all Thirteen of the major versions of the Doctor that have aired since 1963.

Doctor Who Sourcebooks


The spines feature the same trade-dress as the 50th Anniversary hardcover.  So you see they look nice all in row like this.

Doctor Who Sourcebooks

The covers feature the Doctor with some of his (and her) enemies from their run.  The Thirteenth Doctor is not pictured, played by Jodie Whittaker, only because it has not hit the stores yet. I will review the PDF here.

The logo on the cover of the first 11 is from the Jon Pertwee era (1970-1973) and for the 8th Doctor's movie in 1986.  Peter Capaldi's 12th Doctor uses the logo from Jodie's 13th Doctor era, and Jodie's 13th Doctor book uses the "new" logo which is the reuse of the old Tom Baker logo.

For this review, I am going to consider all the hardcover books I have, doctors 1 to 12, and the PDFs, Doctors 1 - 13.

All books differ in length but all have similar content. Each book begins with an introduction to that Doctor's era and some of the special things about it. For example, in the 3rd Doctor book we get a lot about his exile on Earth. Each book is filled with photos from that Doctor's time period, so a lot of black and white for the First and Second Doctor and of course ideas for adventures throughout.

If that is all it was, well, you need one book for that, and this is not what makes these books special.

Each book details every adventure that Doctor had on screen. While it is written from the point of view of the RPG (and this RPG in particular), the details are such that each one of these books is fascinating reading all on their own. This is great since so many of the early adventures/episodes are now lost and the old Target novelizations go for a king's ransom.

Also, each book details all the Doctor's companions and provides stats for them, the Doctor in question and most, if not all, the creatures they encounter.  Not since the Time Lord game of the 1990s have we had such a full accounting of all the companions.  I have not compared them outright but some companions here do fare better in terms of stats than their Time Lord counterparts. 

First Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who - The First Doctor Sourcebook

160 pages. Black & White photos. William Hartnell as the Doctor.

The original, you might say! This book is a treasure. There are so many of the First Doctor's stories I have never seen, and some I have only caught in novel or audiobook form. Getting a full reading of them all here is worth the book's price alone.  Getting RPG material is just a bonus.

Speaking of which there are plenty of stats for various adversaries here, as well as new gadgets, new Traits (both Good and Bad) and plenty of game seeds. 

Inside the pictures of the First Doctor are all William Hartnell. The spine though features Richard Hurndall in his turn as the First Doctor during the 20th Anniversary special The Five Doctors. 

Second Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Second Doctor Sourcebook

160 pages. Black & White photos. Patrick Troughton as the Doctor

Like the First Doctor book this one features a lot of black & white photos (because that was what we had then).  The stats for the Doctor and the TARDIS are updated, as are any stats from returning villains like the Daleks and the new Cybermen. 

There are new Traits (Good and Bad) and more story/episode/adventure seeds as well. If anything the Second Doctor travels more in Space as well as Time, so seeing humanity out among the stars is a great treat.

Likewise, this one features stats for companions and creatures encountered, and the best part is a full detail of the Second Doctor's adventures. If anything, I have seen less of his stories than I have of the First.

The 3rd Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Third Doctor Sourcebook

160 pages. Color photos. Jon Pertwee as the Doctor

This covers the time the Doctor was exiled on Earth and working with UNIT. We get stats for all his companions, the Brigadier, Liz Shaw, Jo Grant, Sgt. Benton, Capt. Yates and of course Sarah Jane Smith.  We also get details on the Doctor's disabled TARDIS. One would think lacking the ability to travel in time and space would be dull, but some of the greatest enemies of the Doctor has ever had. Including the proper introduction to the Master, the greatest enemy the Doctor has ever known. 

There are some tips on running UNIT based games, all the great vehicles that Pertwee seemed to love (and if the rumor is true was terrible at driving), and more.  There are tips to running adventures in the Third Doctor area and of course, the guide to all the Third Doctor's episodes.

The 4th Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Fourth Doctor Sourcebook

256 pages. Color photos. Tom Baker as the Doctor

This book is much larger than the previous Doctor Who source books, and with good reason. Tom Baker was the Doctor for nearly seven years, twice as long as any previous Doctor and longer than actor after him (so far).

Here we get some of the Doctor's greatest tales of the classical series and also some great enemies. For companions, we get Sarah Jane Smith, Harry Sullivan, Leela, K-9 and both Romanas. Even a bit on Adric, Nyssa, and Teegan. I do like that Romana I and II each get full-sized Time Lord sheets and not the half-sheets of the other companions. 

The episode synopses are a joy to read. Takes me back the 80s and watching Doctor Who on KETC Channel 9 out of St. Louis. Having the RPG stats of all these creatures is also quite a joy. This includes the introduction of Davros, the creator of the Daleks, and the White and Black Guardians.

There is even a special appendix for the "lost" episode of "Shada."

The 6th Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Fifth Doctor Sourcebook

160 pages. Color photos. Peter Davidson as the Doctor

The 80s began with a new Doctor, a new title sequence and a new direction for the Doctor (and the show) under the helm of John Nathan-Turner. The 6th Doctor Sourcebook has us all covered. 

Again we have all the Doctor's Companions, Adric, Nyssa, and Teegan, and later on Turlogh, Kamleion, and Peri. Updates to the Doctor's sheet and the TARDIS. 

Again we get the episodes from the Fifth Doctor's adventures including all his adversaries. We get the Anothony Ainely Master (introduced at the end of the Tom Baker era) and quite a lot more. 

The 6th Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Sixth Doctor Sourcebook

160 pages. Color photos. Colin Baker as the Doctor

Controversial at the time (and he didn't even get his own title sequence, just a modified version of the 5th Doctor's) the Sixth Doctor was more 80s than the Fifth Doctor was. 

In addition to all of the things we expect to see here, updated stats for the Doctor and his TARDIS, companions (Peri and Mel), episode guide and adversaries, we get a lot of detail on the season-long arc "The Trial of a Time Lord."  We used to joke that the CGI (primitive by today's standards, but amazing then) was so expensive that it blew sfx budget for the whole season. What it lacked in visual splash it made up for in storytelling. This was an arc worthy of the new series and the authors here choose not to waste it.

This one also sees the introduction of the Rani, another deadly renegade Time Lady.

The Seventh Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Seventh Doctor Sourcebook

160 pages. Color photos. Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor

I like Sylvester McCoy's Doctor and in him, you can see all the elements of the later Doctor Who series beginning. There is a darkness about the Doctor and that begins to show through now. Obviously, this book takes advantage of that. 

We get companions Mel and Ace, the only two he had. Sabalom Glitz is included as a companion, which is fine by me, better than the status the Timelord RPG gave him.  But lets be honest here, you buy this book for Ace, one of the best companions ever.

Like the other books there are new Traits (both Good and Bad), new equipment (Nitro-9!) and the ever-present episode guide. I loved reading these since the Seven Doctor was on TV while I was in college. The cable stations did not carry it but the TV my brother (who was living with me then) wired up in the basement with an antenna did. These are some of my favorite episodes and seeing them all here again was quite a treat.

The 8th Doctor sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Eighth Doctor Sourcebook

192 pages. Color photos. Paul McGann as the Doctor

Paul McGann only got a single movie, and an American made one no less. He did get appear in a short many years later, The Night of the Doctor, which brought him back into the continuity a little bit better. So why is his book larger than Doctors who had years?

Simple. This one also has a full-length campaign featuring the 8th Doctor.

This book is also a great place for ideas on how to fix various "continuity" issues. Is the Doctor half-human? Who are his companions Charley, C’rizz, Lucie, Tamsin, and Molly? There is quite a lot here really and it makes me want to have some adventures featuring the 8th Doctor.

The 9th Doctor Sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Ninth Doctor Sourcebook

160 pages. Color photos. Christopher Eccleston as the Doctor

Sadly, the wonderful Fantastic Ninth Doctor only go one season and really just one full-time companion, though Captain Jack Harkness did travel with them for the last half. 

"You know what they call me in the ancient legends of the Dalek homeworld? The Oncoming Storm." That is who the Ninth Doctor is. This particular book is great because just like the in the series you get the feeling that the Ninth Doctor has been forgotten by the RPG. The first set focused on the Tenth, then the Eleventh. The hardcovers focus on all of the Doctors, with Nine getting lost in the shuffle, and then Twelve and Thirteen. So it is good to see this Doctor again.

This book also handily fixes the old "When did the Doctor work with UNIT" debate. While the FASA Who game moved everything to the 1980s this game takes the route that the Last Great Time War sent ripples of causality in Time and Space. Changing how and when things happened. The Doctor (and the viewers) remember it one way, but the rest of the universe another. Why? Their histories were changed and they never knew it. Some of this is explored with some very detailed history of the various Dalek invasions of Earth. That is how can the Battle of Canary Wharf (10th doctor) be forgotten in the future in Dalek (9th Doctor)? 

We also get some more explanation of human psychic ability here. 

The 10th Doctor sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Tenth Doctor Sourcebook

256 pages. Color photos. David Tennant as the Doctor

If one actor can be given credit for the renewed popularity of Doctor Who then it has to belong to David Tennant in his run as the 10th Doctor, though Matt Smith should get a lot of credit as well. 

This book is a must have for any fan of the Tenth Doctor and/or this particular RPG. Great detail is gone into all the Tenth Doctor's episodes and nearly everyone one and everything he encounters.  We get the various new Traits here, but also new Alien Traits and new Gadget Traits as well.

Honestly quite a lot of detail is given over to all this Doctor's episodes. Rightly so too since these are the episodes that have set the tone for the new series and for this RPG. If you want to know how the Cubicle 7 RPG is to be run, then this is your place to start. After the core books of course.

The 11th Doctor sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Eleventh Doctor Sourcebook

256 pages. Color photos. Matt Smith as the Doctor

Matt Smith's 11th Doctor runs a very, very close second in terms of the popularity of "modern" Doctors. My only personal belief is he was more popular here in the US, but that could just be how I perceive things. 

We get his companions, of course, but in particular, we get Clara and River Song, two of the companions that changed everything for the Doctor. In fact if there is an axiom about the 11th Doctor it is rules are made to be broken. 

Also, we get Rory Williams. What about Rory? Well, when Chuck Norris was a baby, he would ask his mother to make sure Rory Williams wasn't hiding in the closet to get him at night. He waited for Amy for 2000 years. He punched Hitler. He punched the Doctor twice. 

This book gives us more details about the War Doctor and more about what we learned about the Time War during the 11th Doctor's episodes.

The 12th Doctor sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Twelfth Doctor Sourcebook

160 pages. Color photos. Peter Capaldi as the Doctor

The book uses the trade dress of the then-current 13th Doctor with elements of the 12th Doctor and the Sourcebook series.

I liked the 12th Doctor's run. It felt like the stories of the Classical Doctors. The chief advantage of this book are the Doctor's companions, some of the most interesting he has ever had in my opinion. Like Clara, Bill Potts, Ashildr, even Missy (the regenerated Master), and of course River and Nardole.

There is information here on the Post-War Gallifrey and what they do until the end of the Universe. There stats of the Mr. Saxon/Master along with Missy and the First Doctor as he appears in the Doctor Falls.

A lot of great ideas for adventures here.

The 13th Doctor sourcebook
Doctor Who - The Thirteenth Doctor Sourcebook

192 pages. Color photos. Jodie Whittaker as the Doctor

The book uses the trade dress of the new Doctor (14th and 15th, 2023) with elements of the 13th Doctor and the Sourcebook series.  This one is the only one I have in PDF only, with the hardcover due out later this year. 

Confession time. I liked the 13th Doctor. I like Jodie Whittaker as an actress and as the 13th Doctor. I just don't think the scripts were very good.

Maybe even more so than the Twelfth Doctor this Doctor and this book feels like a small reboot.  There are many reasons for this.

Primarily this is a sourcebook for the Second Edition Doctor Who RPG. So there are internal differences from the other books in addition to minor rule changes. 

This book includes stats for the new Master, the Fugitive Doctor (Jo Martin), Teegan, and Ace (in 2021).

Teegan and Ace

There is also an adventure at the very end.

All of these books are absolutely fantastic. Not just in terms of episode guides but also additions to the RPG (both editions). Kudos to Cubicle 7 for these.