Sunday, January 1, 2012

Tommy's Top Six of 2011 and Birthday Blog Giveaway

Last year's Tommy's Top Six and Birthday Blog Giveaway was a pretty good idea and a pretty big success, so I decided pretty early on to revisit it again this year. I am keeping the same criteria this year for last year's selections, which are as follows: 1) Only one title from each company could be eligible. Spread the love around and all that. This year, it was much easier to do that than last year. 2) I'm not concerned with when the book was released, only when I reviewed it, which had to be between December 17th last year to December 17th this year.

Also, like last year, I have some "runner-ups" or "honorable mentions"...a seperate blog post will detail those.

Oh, hey...and this is my 300th blog post! Yay!

Why You Should Buy It: Ghostories is a really misleading title, as this is pretty much an all-purpose horror game. Using the genreDiversion system, Ghostories has everything you need to play, and is also compatible with other genreDiversion games (like Mean Streets), while including conversion charts for PIG acquisitions like Bloodshadows. That's a LOT of play that you can get out of this one book. As noted, it goes above and beyond just ghost stories, providing demons, liches, shapeshifters and trolls, and then some. In addition to being able to play normal humans, the book opens things up to a number of powers, like Sorcery, Revelations (visions), Binding Lore (binding spirits), Unholy Arts (which summons Phantoms, who are reallly demons, and that's Bad), and much, much more. In addition, the book crams in nine adventures and around twenty plot seeds, so there should be very little question as to what you "do" with it. On top of that, it includes 21 ready made characters. I'm a fan of games that are a little lite while still having crunch, and the cool, atmospheric modifiers for the supernatural powers in this game qualify (like casting spells on Samhain, for instance), and the powers in the game are a fun, unique mix that help characters stand out from each other without making the game about essentially horror superheroes. I had picked up the original version of Ghostories before but really kind of overlooked it, but a side by side comparison of that one and this are wildly different. Ghostories is a meaty, 128 book with a low-powered, horror feel, and I would gladly use it in place of games like, say WitchCraft. In fact, for my next pure horror game (not the ass-kicking, monster-hunting type ala Angel or Rippers), I would look to Ghostories first before I would anything else (even Savage Worlds), and that's about the best compliment I can give. And it is worth noting that Ghostories HAS rules mods that make it a little more cinematic, but there are other games that can do that better. Stick with the low-end, investigative horror and Ghostories should shine.

Buy the PDF at RPGNow or the print version at

Why You Should Buy It: The idea that Savage Worlds is only good for high-octane, pulp adventure got completely kicked in the teeth by Realms of Cthulhu. Filtering the Cthulhu Mythos through the Savage Worlds lens, Lovecraft's legendary mind-bending tales managed to impose their demented will on the Savage Worlds game system. Now, Realms of Cthulhu doesn't fundamentally alter Savage just provides you additional rules to fundamentally alter Savage Worlds with. For instance, Pulpy and Gritty damage as well as Physical and Mental damage. Setting rules that can make Savage Worlds MUCH harsher than most folks seem to think it is. It does up the complexity level of Savage Worlds, but only a bit, and it grows organically out of existing mechanics. The bestiary is an extensive one that covers most known Lovecraftian beasties, and it's full of random charts with which to generate random entities and corrupted people. It also has conversion notes for Call of Cthulhu by Chaosium, in case you want to use CoC materials with Realms. Magic gets twisted sideways and overhauled to fall in line with the Cthulhu mythos, and the production values are as good as any Savage Worlds book on the market. The options, setting rules and random generators in Realms of Cthulhu make this an amazing addition to any Savage Worlds library.

Buy the PDF at RPGNow or the print version at

Why You Should Buy It: Obviously, I'm a pretty big fan of Savage Worlds. Like Realms of Cthulhu, Savage Suzerain kind of plays with the way you look at Savage Worlds. Whereas RoC takes it to harder and grittier levels than the core, Savage Suzerain expands it far beyond what most people consider to be the "upper limits" of the system. Savage Suzerain is a world-hoppping Savage Setting that actually encompasses multiple Savage Settings and dials the awesome up to 11 by making the PCs capable of ascending into Demigods, a rank beyond Legendary. The settings thus far have included fantasy warfare (Caladon Falls), Space Empires (Dogs of Hades), cyberpunk vampire apocalypses (Shanghai Vampocalypse), pulpy Depression-era investigation (Noir Knights) and much more to come. Any of the above books (especially Caladon Falls, a thing of beauty and awesome) could have qualified, but I have a One Book Per Company rule, and this is the one that expands those options to begin with and makes the rest of them possible. This is the book that lays the groundwork, providing a slew of new Edges and explaining just how Pulse Paths (which replace Arcane Backgrounds) work. Pulse starts off with basic effects, mimicking the powers from the savage Worlds rules, but eventually scales up to reality-altering (at least temporarily) levels. The Savage Tales and Plot Point campaign in Savage Suzerain is also one of the most effective I've seen at hitting all the thematic bullet points while still leaving the setting wide open at the end. I love Savage Worlds just as it is, but I love those Savage Settings that blow the whole thing wide open, like Realms and Savage Suzerain. Oh, and it has my favorite Hindrance ever: Optimist.

Buy the PDF at RPGNow or the print version at

Why You Should Buy It: The Companion series is designed to help you expand Savage Worlds in your chosen genre. Similar to the old PDF-only Toolkits, the Companions provide new rules, Edges, Hindrances and so forth. Two of my favorite books from that line were the Horror GM's Toolkit and the Horror Bestiary....both of which did a LOT to inspire the material for this book. Obviously, horror is nothing new to Savage Worlds, what with one of the earliest settings being Rippers, to say nothing of the Deadlands connection. Even Necessary Evil had a bit of a horror element to it. The Horror Companion does a fantastic job of taking the earlier toolkit and bestiary and bringing them in line with Savage Worlds Deluxe edition. There are a number of horror specific tweaks, like Doubting Thomas becoming a Major Hindrance, but my single favorite part is the addition of Monster PCs, from vampires to werewolves to angels to demons. There are also great new powers and Arcane Items. If you're planning on running any sort of horror game for Savage Worlds, you would do well to pick this up...and even if you're not, and you like having monsters around, there are plenty of options to choose from. While I can't quite call it indespensible, I'd say it's pretty close, as a lot of this stuff is pretty easy to adapt to any Savage Worlds campaign that isn't "normal" (Deadlands Blessed totally need Consecrate Ground).

Buy the PDF at RPGNow.

Why You Should Buy It: This unassuming tome is a complete rulebook, drawing from multiple sources for inspiration, including Savage Worlds and FATE. The different pieces make the game feel familiar if you've played some of the games that inspire it, but it's very much it's own game and not just a bolted on mish-mash. The human-centric setting is a bit different for fantasy games, and magic is thematically perfect, inflicting higher penalties for your successes rather than your failures, corrupting you over time. Some of the neater aspects are how character advancement/development are tied directly to the game mechanics: Critical failures allowing you the option of improving Traits or Qualities while Critical Successes allow you to add Stunts tied to your Qualities. The Qualities are all of a "Player Defines Them" variety, which is nothing new, but Sword Noir does a very effective job of guiding the players through creation by tying Qualities to various aspects of character generation. Sword Noir is a very unique game, created from some very familiar parts, that works better than it probably should.

Pick it up in PDF or in a print at RPGNow.

Why You Should Buy It: Easily the oddest selection on the list, Tough Justice is a historical farce RPG designed to emulate a very bloody period of England. Meant to be played as an adversarial RPG, it is one of my favorite approaches to PC vs PC games, because the PCs are on opposing legal teams, rather than actually having to do battle with each other (though that's not completely ruled out). I'm a sucker for courtrooom dramas, and that sort of thing is often abstracted down to a couple of die, EVERYTHING impacts the outcome of the case, from pre-trial actions to witness tampering to closing statements to the jury. Most importantly, the game has an extensive list of examples to walk you through every step of the case, from arrest to execution (if applicable). You don't even have to worry about getting stumped with the creation of cases and defendants, as there are large, random charts for that. In fact, it is even possible for PCs to wind up standing trial, if you broke too many laws in their pursuit of justice. Easily the most unique game on this list, Tough Justice isn't just different to be different, it is a well-written game based off a tested system, providing one of the most unique experiences I can think of. You don't want another fantasy heartbreaker or Star Wars clone? Then pick up Tough Justice and support something truly different from the norm. Bonus points if you base characters off of the cast of Boston Legal.

Pick it up in PDF at RPGNow or in print at Lulu.

And with that out of the way, now let's get to what you really came for: Free stuff.

Today marks the second anniversary of The Most Unread Blog on the Internet. well as my 300th blog post. Last year, we had a very successful Birthday Blog Giveaway, and this year, we will do the same!

Thanks to the generosity of the above publishers, I am pleased to announce the following prizes:

- A PDF copy of Ghostories Expanded.
- A PDF copy of Realms of Cthulhu.
- A PDF copy of Savage Suzerain.
- A PDF copy of the Savage Worlds Horror Companion.
- One (1) print copy of SWord Noir, and two (2) Complete Sword Noir PDF Bundles, including Sword Noir and two adventures. (Print copy and bundles awarded separately).
- A PDF copy of Tough Justice.

Eight great prizes, including a print copy!

To enter, simply send me an e-mail to tommyb(a)sstelco(dot)com, with the subject (minus the quotes) "Happy Birthday Blog", listing your order of preference for the prize. Once I have closed entries by 11:59 PM Central Time on January 15th, I will use a randomizer to determine the winners...#1 gets their first choice, #2 gets their first available choice (their first choice if it wasn't taken, second if it was, and so on).

Thank you once again for continuing to read the blog. Thank you to the publishers for their generous donations for the Blog's Birthday. As the New Year begins, I have made some tweaks to the blog, placing the Savage Worlds Characters Are All The Same articles linked off the front page, and I have also added an Amazon aStore as one more avenue with which you can support the blog if you so choose.

Up next, I'll discuss a handful of products that almost...but didn't quite...hit the Top Six mark and why.

Thank you, have a Happy New Year, and good luck in the contest!