Archive for the ‘Review’ Category


Review – Shadowrun: Hack & Slash

5 January, 2023

Shadowrun Hack & SlashShadowrun: Hack & Slash is a sourcebook, specifically a “Core Matrix Rulebook” for the Sixth World Edition of Shadowrun covering, well, the Matrix and computer system in general as well as how to mess with them. It contains much useful information and the Matrix and those who use it and some of those who try and defend it from hackers. Players of hackers and, especially, technomancers will want this book and GM should have it on their to acquire at some point list as well.

Shadowrun: Hack & Slash, is the Core Matrix Rulebook for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, providing a look at the wonderful world of computers, telecommunications and hacking, as well as the more mystical parts of the Matrix for technomancers and their friends.

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Review – The Sea in World History: Exploration, Travel, and Trade, Vol 1

28 September, 2022

The BookFinally finished The Sea in World History: Exploration, Travel, and Trade, Vol 1 (Ancient Egypt through the First Global Age), Stephen K. Stein, Editor.  it was well worth the effort to go through but one of the great things is that the information is divided into easy section:

Each section covers a discrete historical period and starts off with a good-sized overview of what was happening in that period of history as regards to sea travel, trade, and maritime technology.  Then there are lots of small sections by experts on narrowly focused subjects such as specific ship types, famous navigators, particular regions, and so on.

So you can just dip into the book, pull out the information you need for what you are working on and move on.  Or you can read sections and pull out things that inspire you for world-building.

Such as: the Orang Laut or “sea people” who used to live in family groups aboard longboats in the ocean off Burma and Thailand, where they made their living as fisherfolk and gather other resources from the sea (including pearls) and trade.  They were also often involved in piracy and sometimes worked for local states providing naval forces and acting as coast guards.  While they still exist as a cultural group their lives as travelers of the seas were destroyed by the rise of the nation-states who forced them to settle ashore.  Still what an interesting model for a society to encounter.

Highly recommended for people who like to use the real world as a model for their game worlds.  The only downside is the book is an academic work and thus exceedingly expensive but hopefully your local University library has a copy (which is how I got the copy that I read).

Notes: Some thoughts I had along the way to the review here.


Supporting a Friend – Western Gothic RPG

23 June, 2022

So, my friend and part of my local gaming group, Benjamin Ainsworth, has finally released the RPG he has been working on for years, WESTERN GOTHIC, A Player’s Guide to the Weird West.

Back in the before times, we did some playtesting on this with Ben GMing it, it was fun, played pretty well and had an interesting and unique (from my experience) card-based system for task resolution.  Though I do not know if it has changed significantly since then, I am sure any changes have only been improvements.

As Ben says, “So sit down at a table with your pardners, ante up a few bits, and try your hand at bein’ a desperado. There’s enough scribblin’ and scrawlin’ in here to fill 140 pages and change. With that much ground to cover, best to gitty up and go.”

Note: The drivethruRPG link is an affiliate link and if you purchase through it, this journal will receive a small sliver of the money.


Along the Way to a Review – The Sea in World History: Exploration, Travel, and Trade, Vol 1

16 June, 2022

To adventure!So, I visited the University of Georgia’s Science Library and on their shelves of new arrivals was The Sea in World History: Exploration, Travel, and Trade, Vol 1 (Ancient Egypt through the First Global Age), Stephen K. Stein, Editor.  How could I not check that out?  And, as an aside, it was really cool to borrow a physical book from a library, it seems like forever since I last did that.

Full review once I have finished the book, but here are a few ideas for adventures, or even campaigns, pulled from the book so far:

Restoring Maritime Power– Ancient Egypt was briefly a major maritime player in the Eastern Mediterranean, we think, but then fell into internal conflict and when they emerged they had a lot to catch up on.  So, campaign idea, land recovering from civil strife, now trying to restore trade, the player characters are the crew (or at least the officers) of a ship sent to explore, trade, and rebuild the nation’s place on the maritime stage.  Lots of chances for exploration, adventure, trade, and even politics (if your group likes such things)!

Voyage to Punt- The Egyptians traded with the people further South in Africa, an area they referred to as “Punt” which covered modern Eritrea, maybe Somalia, and sometimes Yemen, probably.   The area was reached by the Red Sea, which meant that wood, supplies and people had to travel over the desert to the coastal strip, construct the ships, sail down to trade and then make it back, dismantle the ships and drag it all back to the Nile valley.  They cut caves and storage slips into the side of the coast and some supplies were probably left there between trips.  Obviously, such a major undertaking could only be financed by the Pharoah and were almost certainly partly done purely for prestige.  But what an adventure!  Besides the obvious challenges of getting the ships together, there is the danger of the travel itself, having to negotiate with the people you are hoping to trade with and then the trip back.    You could easily add political intrigue and even sabotage to the problems faced on the expedition.

Defending the Thalassocracy–  Thalassocracy (“Rule of the Sea”) is the name given to the time when the Minoan civilization was dominant in the Aegean Sea, their ships sailing and trading near and far.  It is said that their King Minos used his navy to sweep the Aegean free of pirates.  The player character could be assigned to a ship on anti-piracy patrols, but in a fantastic world, they would also have to chase off sea monsters and other supernatural problems.  And have to deal with merchants and traders, local and foreign, and possibly agents of other polities.  It would be easy to adapt this sort of idea into the Sea of Stars with the player characters members of the Imperial Navy tasked with routing out pirates and creatures dangerous to trade while not offending the local factions in the area they were assigned to.

All of this makes me think of what Ken Hite always says “Start with Earth.”

Notes: Final review here.

Photo from NOVA on PBS and used without permission.


Review – Shadowrun: Sixth World Companion

23 May, 2022

Shadowrun: Sixth World Companion, Shadowrun: Sixth World Companionis a long-awaited book, with the rules for alternate character building systems, meta variants and infected characters, optional and clarified rules, changelings, new qualities and more. It is a needed book but it could have been better with some odd missteps along the way. Even more so than most core books, Games Masters will probably want this just for the optional rules, which address many of the concerns that people have had with the new edition of the rules and players will want it for the wealth of new character options.

Shadowrun: Sixth World Companion is a core character book. It is designed to provide new general options for character building and development. Note this is a long review and you can just take the summary above or if you feel you are interested in my detailed critique, read on.

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Review – Shadowrun: Shadow Stock – Lofwyr’s Legions

19 April, 2022

Shadowrun: Shadow Stock – Lofwyr’s Legions is a book of NPCs and introduces the drake, part dragons, Lofwyr's Legionsas an optional metatype. It is interesting and useful for a GM. But the drake write up has some very serious balance issues that should make any GM reluctant to allow them for player characters without considerable revision.

Shadowrun: Shadow Stock – Lofwyr’s Legions is one of the Shadow Stock pdfs for Shadowrun, providing both interesting non-player characters and new character options, in this case NPCs associated with the dragon Lofwyr, his corporation Saeder-Krupp and rules for drakes, part dragons.

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Review – Shadowrun: Emerald City

28 March, 2022

SR-ECShadowrun: Emerald City is a setting book for the Sixth World Edition of Shadowrun covering that most Shadowrun of all cities, Seattle. If you are running a Seattle-based campaign, obviously this book is going to be extremely useful while not indispensable but close. For non-seattle-based campaigns, it is a fun read and gives you some information of things that will have rippling effects on the rest of the Sixth World. However, the lack of district maps and an index do badly compromise its usability during a game.

Shadowrun: Emerald City is the Setting Book for Shadowrun’s hometown, the Metroplex of Seattle. Designed to link into the new city edition of the core and providing a detailed look at the city and its situation following the city’s declaration of independence.

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Review – Shadowrun: Double Clutch

24 February, 2022

SR-DCShadowrun: Double Clutch is a sourcebook, specifically a “Core Rigger Rulebook” for the Sixth World Edition of Shadowrun covering vehicles and more things that can be done with them. This book is an essential addition to a GM’s collection for seeing the state of play for vehicles in the Sixth World and the rules for chases and repairing and modifying vehicles. Obviously, anyone playing a rigger or other vehicle specialist will want access to this book but GM should be careful about letting people go crazy with vehicle modifications.

Shadowrun: Double Clutch, is the Core Rigger Rulebook for Shadowrun, Sixth World Edition, providing a look at the current state of play for vehicle and drone technologies along with expanded rules for piloting vehicles and using drones.

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Review – Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World

9 February, 2022

FPotAWIn Forgotten Peoples of the Ancient World, Philip Matyszak looks at forty ancient civilizations that are mostly forgotten in the modern world. While ranging from Northern Europe to India, most of them were in the Middle and Near East, the cradle of civilizations.

This book is popular history and there is nothing wrong with that, each culture receives just a brief overview usually with some of the interesting events or important historical contributions highlighted. Each section ends with a “future echoes” piece showing how something from that civilization is still with us today, though some of them seem quite a stretch. But an enjoyable, if light, read.

Looking at the book as a resource for world builders, both in fiction and games, it is an excellent source, giving you just enough information about a group to know if you want to delve more deeply into their culture for your purposes. It also teaches an important lesson, cultures are not static monoliths, unchanging over time but are in constant flux as they interact with their environment and, more importantly, their neighboring cultures. As much as a culture might think it remains the same (and promote that idea), people, ideas and technologies arrive and cause changes all the time. It may not be the constant flurry of new ideas and technology that swirl around us today, but things were continually changing even in the most apparently static cultures of the past and this is good to keep in mind when trying to build cultures for fiction and games.

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Short Reviews – Archetypes, Backgrounds and New Races for D&D 5E from Cat Tale Press

31 July, 2021

CatTalePressLogoCat Tale Press has been producing support materials for Dungeons & Dragons, 5E, much of which is Pay What You Want.  These reviews look at eight of them, six providing new archetypes, one new backgrounds and the last, new races.  They are good but could be better, so suggestions for things to improve are included.

Starting with the archetypes which are mostly four pages: cover, one page of description and two of OGL.  In all cases they could have used more context for the archetype such as suggestions for where they might fir into a game world and what sort of culture would inspire them.  Also, and this is very common for such materials, is a lack of support material such as a new spell, magic item, place or even a legend to inspire adventure would make them some much more interesting and easier to fit into a campaign.

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