Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Kickstarters: Mermaid Adventures and Kaiser's Gate

Hey guys...I just wanted to toss a couple of newsbits out there.

My friends Eloy Lasanta and Mike Lafferty have each written a couple of books that are up on Kickstarter right now. First up: Mermaid Adventures by Third Eye Games.

MERMAID ADVENTURES

Mermaid Adventures is geared towards bringing kids into role-playing, a notable digression from Third Eye Games' normal works. There are four races of Merfolk - Fishfolk (classic mermaids), Eelfolk (slippery pranksters), Octofolk (who are apparently quite magical) and Sharkfolk (the big bruisers). As the image shows, this isn't all undersea tea parties. Eloy has been revealing details of the system over at the Kickstarter page, so pop on over and check it out. The Kickstarter is a little less than halfway to the goal with 24 days left to go, and some perfectly good reward levels: The PDF is $10, the print is $20, you can get a t-shirt at $45 and so on. Eloy says on the Kickstarter page that he's gearing the game for anyone from ages 8 to adult.

KAISER'S GATE

This one is actually already funded, though you have time (32 days) to jump on board and help push it to its stretch goals. Co-written by Mike Lafferty and published by Battlefield Press, Kaiser's Gate is a Weird Wars-ish World War I setting for Savage Worlds, in which the Tunguska event has re-awoken magic in the world. Just a few blurbs from the Kickstarter page:

* Sorcerers of the German Imperial Army - fueled by the magic of red dragons - bulldoze Allied defenses and push deep into France.
* Heroic griffin riders of the French Air Service fight to free their nation from the daily terror of zeppelin bombing raids
* British golems squads fight alongside tanks to turn the tide of battle against the Central Powers
* In the darkest days of the war, in desperation, the Kaiser makes a Faustian bargain that unleashes an invasion of legions of creatures from Faerie onto the European continent.


$10 gets you a PDF (or ePub or Mobi), $25 gets you a physical book, and some bonus art opportunities are available. The Kickstarter is less than $50 away from unlocking a soundtrack as well! I actually have a copy of the manuscript in hand, and a full review will be coming shortly, so stay tuned for that!

Tommy's Take on Servants of Gaius


On two previous occasions, Bedrock Games has produced a concept that would be a hard-sell to me, but did really, really well (talking about Crime Network and Terror Network...I was good with Horror Show from the start). Well, they have another "hard sell" for me: Servants of Gaius, an alternate history RPG set during Caligula's rule in Rome. (If it's not set in the old west, I tend to have trouble with alternate history games).

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Currently available in PDF from Bedrock Games through Avalon Games, Servants of Gaius is a lean 117 page book. The basic pitch is that the PCs are agents of Caligula, waging a covert war against the armies of the Roman God Neptune. That actually sounds pretty cool, I'm just more of an "Ancient Greek" kinda guy and not an "Ancient Rome" kinda guy. Powered by the Network System, the core engine behind Crime Network, Terror Network and Horror Show, Servants of Gaius places its own unique tweaks on the system.

Character creation involves selecting a Social Class, which has three classifications for free Romans (from Senator to Plebian), as well as Peregrinus (non-Romans) and Slaves. Each have their own unique effects on character creation, including penalties (Senators tend to make a lot of enemies, for instance). Ancestry also matters, as do Titles. PCs also have a stat called Auctoritas, which measures their power and influence. 

Characters are defined by their skills (divided into six categories, one made Primary by your Occupation, and thus gaining more points). Skills are ranked from 0 to 3 and determine your d10 die pool. For a more extensive discussion as to how the system works, see the previous Network System game reviews.

Allies are present here as in other Network games, though tweaked: Every relationship is Client-Patron, and your benefits from your Ally are determined by your specific role in the relationship. Vices, from Crime Network, make a very fitting appearance here as well. Servants of Gaius also has Combat Techniques, like Wrestling (Outside), giving you a bonus for moving (but not charging) while attacking, Medium Melee (Momentum) which gives you a bonus if you wounded your opponent on the last attack and Heavy Melee (Set Up) which gives you an attack bonus if you lost initiative. Very simple but well executed.

The Gear chapter introduces the Roman currencies (with the common metal names if you choose), as well as an income list for the occupations. In addition to weapons and armor, this chapter also includes Hazards and Poisons, as well as things such as ships. A good chapter covering all its bases.

The combat chapter makes it a point to also include abstracted mass combat rules (which is fine, since the focus is meant to be on intrigue, but it is still a very smart addition), as well as simplified rules for chariot racing and gladiator combat for when PCs are just watching on (or gambling) and not actually participating. A similar subsystem (complete with bribery rules) is provided for senatorial debates.

The GM chapter offers advice on history and choosing varying levels of faithfulness to it, from hewing exactly to events to letting the players change everything. A big list of stock Roman archetypes is included (The Arrogant Patrician, The Cunning Matron, The Lusty Daughter, The Unworthy Heir and so on), as well as a big reference list of books, TV shows and movies you should watch to get the feel.

The Servants organization gets a chapter to itself, breaking down its basic structure as well as its common missions (from assassination to exploration). An NPC chapter follows, starting with Caligula and working through other important figures of the time.

The Minions of Neptune are the primary adversaries, and the most interesting aspect is that it is never explicitly spelled out as to whether Neptune is even real. The GM is handed the cult, with a variety of explanations for their activity (Neptune IS behind it, a really powerful mortal is behind it, Something Else Entirely is behind it, Caligula is insane and it has infected the PCs or, even, the PCs are the Minions!). I love the ambiguity in the presentation, and the fact that it is all left in the GM's hands no matter what.

A bestiary follows which includes not only stock NPC stats, but a number of appropriate Greco-Roman mythological beasts like cyclopes, centaurs, and the chimera. The rest of the pantheon follows, with not only a paragraph describing them, but an ability that they are likely to use if they intervene in human affairs (like Jupiter's lightning bolt or Mars instilling fear) with a note that the Gods can and should have more abilities at their disposal.

A timeline/overview/history lesson for Caligula's Rome is provided...and the author has said that there was even more stuff that was cut out. Bedrock Games tends to do their research on this sort of thing and it shows.

A character sheet rounds out the book.

WHAT WORKS: The way the Minions of Neptune are presented sells the book. You are given the Minions, their tactics and relevant stat blocks...and then a list of options for who and what they actually are and what they are doing, even including options like "They are time travelers come back to interfere in events". They could have been presented as a straight adversary serving Neptune, but the author blew the whole thing wide open instead.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The biggest gripe I have is some of the interior art, especially the NPC portraits, just did not feel up to par for a commercial RPG release. I'm also a bigger fan of Greeks over Romans, but what are you gonna do?

CONCLUSION: The Network System is about the only heavily skill based system that I like, so that's a plus, and like Terror Network and Crime Network before it (as opposed to Horror Show), it hits on a game type that ISN'T being heavily served right now. Combined with all the crazy options built into the game by dialing the supernatural up and down, as well as whatever route you choose to go with for The Minions of Neptune and you are left with an impressive piece of work. If only Caligula had been Greek instead, I would have been thrilled. 

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Me, Savage Mojo and This Blog


So, effective yesterday or so, I came to terms with Savage Mojo to become their Social Media Manager. Essentially, I will becoming their public face, especially in the realm of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, game forums, that sort of thing). As many of you know, a while back I began a working relationship with them as their "Savage Campaign Guru", at which point I ceased things like doing reviews of Savage Mojo products (due to conflict of interest - even if I hadn't worked on the products in question).

I feel very positive about this step (especially as the sole working parent in the household, with my wife becoming a stay at home mom about a year ago), and I look forward to helping Savage Mojo grow into its rightful place, in my view, among the game publisher's pantheon.

What does that mean for this blog? Honestly, not much. Yeah, I'll talk more about Savage Mojo, but any time I have new projects coming out, you're going to hear about it (I mean, I'm going to beat you all to death with Hellrazer until you jump on the bandwagon, and I'm VERY pumped about the expected releases by Daring Entertainment this year). I'm still going to review games because, well, I love roleplaying games...I love playing them, I love reading them, I love informing people about them, and I do my level best to inform you of them without an agenda (at least until Tommy's Top Six rolls around every year).

I am very, very excited about the turns my life has taken, professionally and personally, over the last couple of years, and I look forward to sharing many more positive developments with you in the months to come. To that end, if you need to reach me for anything Savage Mojo related, drop me a line at community@savagemojo.com.

Stay tuned later this week for my review of Bedrock Games' alternate history RPG Servants of Gaius, but first, take a peek at the new Suzerain promo video we uploaded this weekend and swing by RPGNow right now and use the code WhenIrishDiceAreRollin to get 20% off of Caladon Falls until April 10th!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Tommy's Take on Leverage: Hitters, Hackers & Thieves



And now to complete the Leverage trifecta with Hitters, Hackers & Thieves, the second Leverage expansion book.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: A companion book to Grifters & Masterminds, Hitters, Hackers & Thieves expands on the other three roles of a Leverage crew, and the cover indicates this by showing Hardison (Hacker) on the cover with Parker (Thief) and Eliot (Hitter) reflected in his sunglasses. This is a review of the 128 page PDF version, available on RPGNow for $12.99. Full color, all the bells and whistles, that sort of thing...the aesthetics are up to the usual Margaret Weis Productions standards. The book leads off with an amusing, in character note from Wil Wheaton as "Cha0s", not unlike Mark Sheppard's note as Sterling in Grifters & Masterminds.

This book is organized a lot like the last, with an extra role section and minus a GM section. Hackers are up first, and while I never really got a particular "voice" from the Grifters & Masterminds sections, the Hacker 101 definitely has a "Hardison" vibe to it. We get a history of hacking (all the way back to 1822) and notable milestones in Hacking, like Operation Sundevil in the 90s and the rise of Anonymous. New Hacker Talents include The Cake is a Lie (giving you a bonus die for creating fake media), Do, or Do Not, There Is No Try (which lets you frontload an attempt at success, but run a greater risk of Complications) and I Read About That Once on the Internet (allowing you to use your Hacker die for something not Hacker related). Uses for Hacker with each Attribute is included, like Agility (executing something at a precise time) and even Strength (Hacking when restrained). A dozen Hackers are included, from a street thug to an ex-nun to an MMA fighter and a beefcake guy that steals people's identities to pay for his exploits! The Master Class section delves into using Hacker in gameplay, introducing things like Exploits (a wager with the Fixer - if you win, you get a free Asset, if you lose, they hit you with a Complication). Other mechanics are included, like Covering Your Tracks. The book even describes how Hackers can use things like car tires treads and Legos! Social Engineering details how Hacker can be used alongside Grifter (or in place of it, in an emergency).

The Hitter section is all about beating the crap out of people...not killing them, mind you...but beating them to a pulp. This turns into an awesome code of honor/set of rules about not killing, not using guns, divide and conquer, etc. Just a really enjoyable piece of writing.  Again, we get a sidebar on using Hacker with the various Attributes, like Intelligence for a Martial Arts Instructor, Alertness to find a weak spot and Willpower to keep going when you want to collapse. New Hitter Talents include Fighting Styles (Barroom Brawling, Fencing, and even Pro Wrestling, as well as a catch-all "I'm really badass" style), Weapon Training (Swinging Weapons, Thrusting Weapons, Frightening Weapon, etc), and other Talents like Ke-mo Sah-bee (in which your awesomeness attracts a follower), Location, Location, Location (scoring a free Asset from your surroundings), or Walking Arsenal (allowing you to pick up Weapon Training talents out of the blue for the remainder of the Job). A Dozen Hitters includes the obvious (cops, commandos, pro wrestlers and MMA fighters) as well as the less obvious (abuse survivors and wrongly incarcerated accountants). The Master Class opens up new possibilities, like using guns (complete with new Talents, including crowd control stuff), a system for winning fights without ever throwing a punch, and even mass combat (or Mob Fights).

Last, we get the Thief section. This follows the pattern of the other sections, with a look at the psychology of a thief before touching on some famous thieves. New Talents include Consolation Prize (in which you lose a fight but swipe something from the guy that beat you), Losing a Tail (ditching the folks trying to follow you) and Takes One To Know One (helps you spot another Thief). We also get a sidebar for using Attributes with Thief, like Strength (forcing open locks), Agility (...most things you'll be doing) and Willpower (working your way through a meticulous security system without slipping up). A Dozen Thieves includes a car thief, an ex secret agent, a magician's assistant and a forensics expert. The Master Class starts off covering thieves' tools, like telescopes, hand drills, lock picks and even beef jerky (for guard dogs, duh). Another section covers designing security systems for locations, hitting a checklist of common features before encouraging the use of Distinctions to give each one personality. Four sample locations are included in detail, from a survivalist compound to The Steranko from the Leverage episode The Inside Job. The Thief section ends with a list of cool things to steal, with both the "Why" and the "Why Not", from Nazi paintings to nuclear codes.

Finally, the book ends with The Tech Job, which is actually three hi-tech job outlines that can easily be used in play (since Leverage Jobs should probably never be anything more than an outline anyway).

WHAT WORKS: The Hitter section may be my favorite section written for the Leverage RPG, possibly my favorite section ever appearing in an MWP book and just a great read. Your mileage may vary, but I loved it. I also love the addition of the ready made compounds and the security system mechanics, a very useful set of additions to the game mechanics.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I wasn't feeling the whole "psychology of a thief" thing, which is weird, because Parker's not my least favorite Leverage Crew member (that would be Sophie...and I still like her). In fact, from a Role standpoint Hacker and Thief would probably be most least favorite of the five.

CONCLUSION: I was reaching for complaints. I applaud the work the MWP crew has done with Leverage, starting with a strong core book and then two supplemental books that are not essential but dramatically expand the five roles in the game. As with Grifters & Masterminds, if you like the Leverage RPG, there is no real reason not to buy the supplemental books, at least in PDF. A great RPG treatment for one of my favorite shows.

Mythic GM Emulator, Marvel SAGA and Captain America


Tonight I decided to try out the Mythic GM Emulator (with a swell web version here, though you need a copy of the book still to really use it) and I figured the best way to do that would be with a system I knew like the back of my hand: Marvel SAGA. Soooo...I grabbed my cards and books, decided I would play as Captain America, set the opening scene as Cap holding court over The Avengers and went to work:

Standard game. Regular fate chart rules.




--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New scene

Chaos roll: 2
INTERRUPT SCENE: Ambiguous event -- NPC negative -- Attract/Dispute


Captain America is PLANNING on taking care of Official Avengers Business when a huge dispute breaks out regarding the increased presence of Baron Zemo on the world stage. The Avengers and their affiliates are growing increasingly split over whether Zemo is too dangerous to leave on the loose or whether he is ultimately a well-meaning anti-hero.

Is Hawkeye for taking down Zemo?


Odds: 16/80/97
Result: 44 -- Yes
RANDOM EVENT: NPC negative -- Proceedings/Masses

Not only is Hawkeye ready to lead the charge against the former member of the Thunderbolts, he has already released another grand-standing statement "outing" Zemo, urging people to pressure Captain America into calling The Avengers, The New Avengers, The Thunderbolts and whoever into action, bringing Zemo down.

Captain America is apprehensive about this, remembering Zemo's actions in Civil War and how convincing he was, trying to prove that he was a changed man.

Is Hawkeye winning the argument with the Avengers?
Odds: 17/85/98
Result: 38 -- Yes

Cap, thanks to an astonishing amount of Willpower (combined with a big Trump and some Edge cards), convinces The Avengers to stand down on his word...but quickly decides that he needs to find Zemo for himself and determine for sure if Zemo needs to be taken down or if his new leaf is sincere.

Is Hawkeye going to hunt Baron Zemo on his own?
Odds: 17/85/98
Result: 44 -- Yes
RANDOM EVENT: PC negative -- Proceedings/Attention

Hawkeye, disgruntled at Captain America's reaction, storms out of the Avengers mansion and addresses the growing audience of reporters, pointing out that he believes it is in the world's best interests that Baron Zemo be dealt with...but that The Avengers are refusing to aid him at the order of Captain America...and that if Zemo strikes again, all eyes should be on Cap and Cap alone.

He completes the speech with a hidden camera recording from the Avengers meeting of Captain America pleading with The Avengers to stand down as he vouches for Zemo.



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New scene

Chaos roll: 4
INTERRUPT SCENE: NPC positive -- NPC action -- Stop/undefined



-- Chaos increased --

A VERY public assault on the Congressional building in Washington DC by Flag-Smasher and a group of hired minions is interrupted by the first arrival on the scene: Baron Zemo!

Is Flag-Smasher actually working for Zemo?
Odds: 18/90/99
Result: 25 -- Yes

Does Captain America beat Hawkeye to the scene?
Odds: 11/55/92
Result: 59 -- No

Hawkeye arrives on the scene in mid-fight, shooting a smoke arrow into the middle of the combat, disrupting Zemo and Flag-Smasher's battle.

Hawkeye draws down on Zemo...does Zemo surrender?
Odds: 11/55/92
Result: 55 -- EXCEPTIONAL NO
RANDOM EVENT: Remote event -- Spy/Legal matters

Zemo retaliates, firing a ray gun at Hawkeye, sending him scattering as Captain America arrives on the scene. Cap immediately receives a call from Black Widow, informing him that a SHIELD raid on an AIM installation in upstate New York has gone smoother than planned: Because Zemo had apparently disabled their security and sabotaged their operations, leaving them sitting ducks for SHIELD.

Captain America's shield takes Flag-Smasher out of the equation immediately.

Meanwhile, Zemo and Hawkeye trade barbs and shots at one another, neither one getting ahead.

Captain America is yelling at Hawkeye to stand down while bouncing his shield off of two of Flag-Smasher's thugs, telling Hawkeye that Zemo has been cutting a swath across the countryside, taking down bad guys. Hawkeye grimaces as he sees a thug sneaking up behind Zemo...and unleashes an arrow, trapping the thug (due to the Change of Heart Event on the Narrator's Card).

Zemo makes an impassioned plea to Hawkeye to listen to Captain America, telling him how he used the Moonstones to restore Captain America's destroyed WWII footlocker during Civil War, agreeing to turn himself over to the proper authorities, only if Captain America and Hawkeye will speak up for the good that he has done in recent months. Almost to Zemo's surprise...both men agreed! (Narrator Draw to determine Hawkeye's reaction and Captain America making a Willpower vs Manipulation test...which Zemo actually won).


-- Chaos decreased --



--------------------------------------------------------------------------------
New scene

Chaos roll: 8


Cut ahead to the Grand Jury testimony, in which Captain America recounts Zemo's actions during Civil War, and times in the past in which he doubted Zemo's redemption, but Zemo is seemingly standing firm. Hawkeye reluctantly admits that maybe he has been wrong, noting that Zemo wouldn't be the first villain to redeem himself, with Hawkeye himself on that list. Zemo publicly disowns his family and their history of petty cruelty, noting that he has been inspired not only by the likes of Hawkeye, but of his other former Thunderbolts, like Songbird, who have redeemed themselves.

Even Tony Stark testifies on Zemo's behalf, noted a time in which he went undercover and infiltrated the Thunderbolts, finding them to be legitimately working to save the world, and how he was able to entrust certain operations to Zemo in the Civil War. The arguments of Captain America, Hawkeye, Tony Stark and Zemo prove persuasive to the grand jury, and when the transcripts are released, the public is moved to give Zemo another opportunity to prove himself now that a spotlight has been shown on all of his actions. (Difficulty reduced in this matter due to the Public Accolades Event Card).

Zemo accepts a probationary role under the watchful eye of The Avengers. Yes...Baron Zemo is one of Earth's Mightiest Heroes...but is he legitimately reformed?


Odds: 13/65/94
Result: 71 -- No


-------------------------------------
Nice cliffhanger, huh?


So...impressions: The Mythic GM Emulator is an odd duck, but not BAD. Unlike a normal RPG, it felt less like I was roleplaying and more like I was telling a story...Hawkeye, Zemo or Cap could have each been my character easily enough.


That said, the twists and turns were easy enough to navigate, and there were a few points where I pushed past the "rules" of the emulator and just went with things that sounded interesting and made sense.

Obviously, especially with that cliffhanger, this whole thing is shaping up to look HORRIBLE for Captain America...I mean, Hawkeye questions his authority, makes him look soft (at BEST) and then reluctantly goes along with him...only for us to find out that Zemo (who was bankrolling Flag-Smasher into taking a fall in order to make him look good) is really just pulling another dirty trick.



This was the least action-packed SAGA adventure I have ever "ran"...but part of that is because Captain America is a BEAST with his Edge of 4, Hand Size of 6 and +15 Shield. I may well have to give it another go, with this system or another one, just to see how it shakes out. So far, I definitely wouldn't replace a regular gaming group with it, but it has potential to be a fun diversion.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Tommy's Take on Leverage: Grifters & Masterminds



I thought pretty highly of Leverage, as you may recall. After a bit of a wait, now we get the completion of the Leverage line: Grifters & Masterminds and Hitters, Hackers & Thieves. First up...Grifters & Masterminds.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The PDF is $12.99 and a lean 105 pages, full color, photos, all that. What the book essentially IS is a How-To for Grifters and Masterminds (as well as some more options and advice for Fixers, or GMs). For the fans, the book features a Foreword by Marak Sheppard (in character as Jim Sterling).

Up first is Grifting 101, beginning with the three things a con can be based on (Greed, Social Compliance and Distraction & Misdirection), with explanations of each before diving into the psychology of the Grifter. The book then dives into grifting around the world (like how Russia doesn't have a ton of money, and a LOT of it runs through the Russian Mafia). A slew of new Grifter talents is introduced as well, like Cast of Thousands (which lets you draw a crowd that you use as a prop in your con), Faux Expert (essentially BSing people into thinking you know more than you do) and Old Friend (leading a mark into thinking they used to know you). There is even a sidebar on how the Attributes each apply to a given type of action for a Grifter (like Strength for Intimidation).

A dozen Grifters are also provided, for use as characters or NPCs. They include a retired legend, a fraudulent psychic and a "ghost" (an "everyman" whose main feature is just how unremarkable he is - he's even named John Smith. How utterly forgettable).

From there, the book delves deeper into the operations of a Grifter, from setting up short scams to laying out long cons to a step by step guide for seducing a Mark and how it mechanically benefits you to succeed. Finally, a list of identities are provided, each broken down into Who You Are, What You Can Do, What You Need and How You Play It, like playing a cop in order to get stop and search a Mark, or the important keys to passing oneself off as Royalty.

From there, the book moves into Masterminds...the brains behind the operations.

This section gives a broad overview of the Mastermind's job (which is pretty much the planning, the leading and the accounting for everything that will go on) followed by an examination of Masterminds throughout history, from Shaka Zulu to Alexander the Great to Harriet Tubman. New Talents include Brainstorm (which allows anyone you're talking to to add anyone else you're talking to's Intelligence die), Chess Master (allowing you to turn a Complication into an Asset) and Think On Your Feet (a desperation move when crap completely falls apart). As with Grifting, there is a sidebar on how each Attribute applies to the Mastermind die, like using Awareness to pick up a concealed weakness, or Willpower to assert control over a chaotic situation.

A dozen Masterminds are included, from a coach (complete with whistle) to a general, to a reporter.

Next up, the book tackles the actual planning of a Job...including advice on how to utilize your team members to their fullest abilities, how to screw up the Mark's plans and - yes - what to do when everything goes south. This section ends with a cheat sheet on scribbling a plan together quickly and even recommends an option for allowing the Mastermind to witness (and help prepare elements of) the rough sketch of the Job (with the understanding that there will almost always be curve balls). On one hand, this is sure to not sit well with "traditional" players, but on the other, it does make sense in context of the character's role.

Lastly, we get the Fixer's section. This starts off with a bunch of GM advice, some of which you have read before, and some of which is Leverage specific. For instance, it tackles Complications, with a few suggestions to keep in mind (like, say, the Client winds up dead in the middle of the Job, the Mark is connected to MUCH more powerful people than expected or your Hitter has developed a death wish and is recklessly endangering the Job). Additionally, a handful of ready made Plot Twists are provided, like the Mark is actually a mole for the CIA or FBI, or the Client is actually planning to wipe out the Crew as soon as they are done with The Mark.

The chapter then goes into approaching Leverage with a "season" structure (nothing new in RPGs, and pretty common when the source material is a TV show), such as advice on linking elements of the jobs in order to build to a satisfying finale (like taking down a Mark who has been a thorn in the Crew's side throughout the season).

A sidebar covers new roles (like Reporter and Wheelman) while a few paragraphs are devoted to using the Leverage system in completely different settings (including a breakdown of the roles of Robin Hood and his Merry Men and how to tweak the Hacker role in a fantasy setting). Finally, advice is given for playing as ACTUAL bad guys, as well as playing entirely without a Fixer.

WHAT WORKS: The sheer amount of detail on the mindset and process of the Mastermind (especially) and the Grifter is very helpful. The "Dozen Grifters" and "Dozen Masterminds" is also useful for giving some ideas on how to make characters of those roles who aren't just Sophie or Nate renamed. The alternate settings sections was also fun, and basically any ideas on how to NOT just be playing the Leverage crew renamed is always welcome.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: A lot of the GM advice is nothing special that you haven't seen before. I'm also not quite convinced that the Masterminding the Rules section successfully provides that mechanical bridge for Masterminds that some folks feel was missing compared to Hackers, Hitters, Grifters and Thieves.

CONCLUSION: An unessential but incredibly useful book for Leverage. It doesn't dramatically change anything from the core rules, but it does provide some very useful tidbits on Grifters and Masterminds, both as PCs and NPCs. Basically, if you really like the Leverage game and either want some more options or are struggling with the Roles at all, it's well worth it. And don't complain about the extra books: There was a time when each role (including Fixer) would have been padded out into its own book.

Tommy's Take on Hacking 2.0, IZ GM Screen and Oktobermen


INTERFACE ZERO: HACKING 2.0

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: This mini PDF requires Savage Worlds and Interface Zero for maximum use, as it is an overhaul of the hacking rules from Interface Zero. The PDF has a short intro from Gun Metal Games' David Jarvis, explaining why this document was released (folks having issues with the hacking/virtual world/etc)...IZ 2.0 is coming later this year and will provide both Basic and Advanced Hacking rules. This document is presenting the Basic rules in advance of IZ 2.0's release. Some of the changes on the character creation end is that Hacking gets its own skill, some Edges have been removed (like Programming 101 and Advanced Programming) and new Edges are introduced (Cool Under Pressure lets you ignore penalties when a system goes on Active Alert and Interference makes you harder to hack, for example). There are also three Hacker specific Hindrances, with advice warning the GM to not allow them if a character who isn't REALLY a Hacker is trying to take a Hindrance that won't affect him. Hyper Gloves are also introduced (the first example that comes to mind to me is the FBI Agent from Heavy Rain, but you have seen them in various other media). The system for Hyper Gloves is pretty simple, a basic stat set that can be upgraded. The Gloves determine everything for the Hacker: Armor, Damage, Hacking Bonus and Range and can be set into three modes: Control (in case you need to manipulate a gun turret or an elevator), Edit (for heavy changes to things) and Destruction (when you need to inflict damage). Additionally, Hyper Gloves have additional MODS that can be used to provide extra bonuses. The hacking itself takes up the final few pages: Essentially, it's a normal skill roll in Savage Worlds, with the level of security providing a penalty to the roll and the Hyper Glove and/or Edges providing a bonus. Unlike most skill rolls, however, Hacking is NEVER without risk: Any Hacking roll failure will have consequences (determined on a die roll against the table appropriate to the type of security firewall).

WHAT WORKS: That cover art is awesome. I'm not sure what it has to do with Hacking, but that is probably the single most compelling piece of artwork I have seen on an Interface Zero product. I like the Hyper Gloves a lot. It's a clean, easy to modify system that fits the Savage Worlds vein.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Well, if you're planning on buying IZ 2.0, you might not want to pay for content that's going to be in the eventual release.

CONClUSION: Though designed for Interface Zero, there's not much here that you can't use without it, and it's both inexpensively priced and not a huge document, so if you are running any kind of game in which futuristic hacking would be helpful, it's worth a pick-up. Interface Zero got kicked around (a tad unfairly) for changing "too much" about Savage Worlds, but this is a step back to the feel of SW without sacrificing the unique flavor of IZ.

INTERFACE ZERO GM'S SCREEN

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: GM Screen's as we know them are fading fast. There was a Savage Worlds GM screen a while back that was clear plastic panels that you could slip cardboard panels for the game you were running in. The Interface Zero GM screen is along those lines...a "do it yourself" GM screen. The three art panels consist of some gorgeously thematic art, running a decent range of IZ material, including an android, cyborgs and mercenaries...(and a cyberpunk street samurai looking figure). The three rules panels include the Gritty damage rules, Zeek fatigue and the Hacking 2.0 rules.

WHAT WORKS: Great art, all the relevant IZ setting rules...about what you would want from a GM screen.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: It feels a TAD cluttered...but there's just a metric crap ton of tables on this thing.

CONCLUSION: Unless you hate GM screens, this is a very good pick-up for $3 if you have access to a good printer. Much better deal than the $20 GM screen standard we've seen in the past, especially if you have one of the clear Savage Worlds screens to slide the panels into.

DUE VIGILANCE: OKTOBERMEN

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Oktobermen is "issue 1" in the Due Vigilance line, fitting in the same universe as the Smoke & Mirrors supplement I reviewed back in January. This is the ICONS version of said product, $5.99 for a 19 page PDF filled with a team of supernatural killers and assassins. Oktobermen is more than just a villain book. I mean, it IS a villain book, but it includes a relationship map for the six members of the Oktobermen, complete with a paragraph on each of the six explaining their viewpoints. The book also includes four common sets of tactics employed by the Oktobermen. The bulk of the book is taken up by the character bios and stats for the six members:

Bookbinder - An escapee from a mysterious organization called The Library, Bookbinder is the most reluctant of the Oktobermen, having joined up when Springheel Jack saved her from The Library. The can use magic in some powerful and freaky ways, like trapping people in stories or summoning literary characters to do her bidding.

The Floating Skull - He is not unlike a D&D Demilich, the floating skull of a powerful sorcerer. He can never use the same spell on a given target more than once. Luckily, he knows 666 of them.

Hexenwulf - Hexenwulf is a werewolf, but not of the common type. No, he's a werewolf of the "wearing wolf skins" type. Heavily resistant to magic, so he's usually the lead man in taking out sorcerers.

L'Enfant Terrible - The prototypical Creepy Kid, born with a soul of evil. Often used to take people by surprised...has a "bodyguard" named Mr. Bear who has a VERY disturbing secret.

Sister Sanguine - A creepy (ex)nun who answers to evil fae and gains powers from drinking blood.

Springheel Jack - A half-demon in charge of The Oktobermen, Springheel Jack is on a quest to consume take a number of souls and become a Lord of Hell. There is even a sidebar explaining how to alter his stats if he succeeds.

Also included are four plot seeds (including two related NPCs) and a set of standees fot the Oktobermen.

WHAT WORKS: Some GREAT character concepts here, as well as some nice tidbits hinting at the larger world (like The Library). I also love the amount of detail as to how the villains operate and treat each other, making this more than just a set of stats.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: My only real complaint is the dramatic art shift from the cover to the interior. I don't think either one is inherently better than the other, though the cover seems to fit the source material better, while the latter fits the ICONS feel better.

CONCLUSION: Another fantastic product by Vigilance Press, providing a slew of baddies that are just downright frightening (in power level as well as concept). At one point, this product wasn't going to be released for ICONS, but I'm glad it ultimately was.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

It's My Birthday - Read Hellrazer

Yeah, I'm laying a guilt trip on you all.

Most of you know me as Tommy the RPG Reviewer.

I do wear a few other hats (and adding more all the time)...but the one I am the most passionate about is that of Comic Book Writer.

It is also my birthday.

To that end, I implore you to go read my webcomic. It's free, and I don't think it's horrible (and I think it's getting better all the time). You can also follow it on Facebook.

Two complete stories are up (Living in Shadows and Voodoo), and we've just started the third (the cover and two pages of which I'm posting here).

If you feel so inclined, you can help support my writing by ordering the comics I've been published in as well...

Without further ado - Hellrazer: The Chronicles of Rachel Strand Issue #1.




Saturday, March 3, 2012

The RPGNow GM's Day Sale


A little late to the party, as I meant to post this a couple of days ago, but RPGNow is running their Annual GM's Day Sale, with a crap ton of publishers discounting their items 25% (or more, in the case of Adamant Entertainment).

This is a fantastic opportunity to pick up a number of great titles on sale, like Savage Worlds Deluxe Edition, Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, Wu Xing, Savage Suzerain, Realms of Cthulhu and over 8,000 more titles. In the interest of full disclosure, using links off of this site to buy your products nets me store credit...which I then use to buy products that I turn around and review on this site for your reading enjoyment.

So take advantage of the sale!