Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Tommy's Take on Midnight Second Edition

I’m not a big Dungeons & Dragons fan. Don’t pretend to be. That said, I like a lot ABOUT Dungeons & Dragons, and one of my favorite things from the D&D 3/.5 era is the Midnight campaign setting by Fantasy Flight Games.
I wish I had a larger version of this,
because it is epic. 
WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: First and foremost, Midnight is – to the best of my knowledge – out of print, though the PDF is still available at RPGNow. Midnight is a desperate, dark fantasy campaign setting commonly described as “Lord of the Rings if Sauron won and corrupted the Fellowship”. This review is of the physical copy of the book, rather than the PDF as I commonly review, and the book is written with the D&D 3.5 system in mind. I have ran it with 3.5, and am planning on resuming that campaign, though we will be switching to Savage Worlds.

The book is absolutely gorgeous, with the cover depicting Izrador’s (the Big Bad of the setting) Night Kings, four fallen heroes who are now his most powerful and vile generals. As was common for FFG at the time, the first 30 pages or so are full color setting material, before diving into the rules. The full color section tells the story of Aryth, how Izrador was cast out by the Gods and how the act of doing so trapped him on Aryth and cut the Gods off from the planet, as well as how the people of Aryth repelled his forces not once, but twice…only to be betrayed by their greatest heroes the third time. Now the good and decent people of Aryth are fighting for their very survival…the humans largely betrayed by their leaders, the dwarves cut off in their caverns and the elves waging a final, desperate war as their forests burn.

The tome is divided into three Books, the first being Adventures in Midnight, essentially serving as rules the player’s need. Midnight makes some key changes to the d20 rules, which are detailed here. For one, every PC has a Heroic Path, a destiny that grants them abilities to fight Izrador’s forces. Some of these include Beast (the hero is reverting to a primal state, gaining bestial senses and the ability to rip his enemies apart with his bare hands), Charismatic (the hero is a beacon of leadership, using his words to sway allies…and sometimes enemies), Giantblooded (the blood of giants run through the hero’s veins, making them larger than normal, and they can learn to use this size to their advantage), Painless (while the hero can still take damage, they shrug off nonlethal damage, and can even learn to channel the pain of attacks suffered back at his enemies), Pureblood (a very Aragorn-like Path, being master adventurer’s descended from kings) and Tactician (generals with a knack for finding the most effective means of victory).

The Class list gets altered, with Barbarians, Fighters and Rogues existing largely unaltered, though Fighters do gain a Warrior’s Way at 4th level, with options like Adapter (the Fighter gains more skill points to give him more options), Improviser (anything that’s handy), Leader of Men (extra Feats to help lead) and Survivor (providing bonus feats designed to keep the Fighter alive). There is a single spellcasting class (Channeler), and the magic system is not Vancian here, with Channelers instead channeling spell energy to cast their spells. There are three “Traditions”, which serve to distinguish one Channeler from another. The Monk-like Defender and Ranger-like Wildlander round out the class options.

The racial selection is also a tad different here, with three human options: Dorns (Highland warriors), Sarcosans (nomadic horsemen) and Erenlanders (thhe more “common” humans). Dwarves are divided into Clan Dwarves and Kurgan (surface dwellers). Elves are split into Caransil (the wood elves), Danisil (savage jungle elves), Erunsil (snow elves) and Miransil (sea elves). Gnomes rule the rivers, often openly serving Izrador while secretly helping resistance fighters. Halflings have had their society crushed, with many becoming nomads while the rest try to cling to a farming lifestyle. Orcs, Izrador’s favorite warriors, are also a playable option, as a few occasionally break from the monolithic evil and join the side of good. In another twist, there are halfbreeds, but humans cannot breed with other races. Instead, we get Dwarrow (from Gnomes and Dwarves), Dworgs (Orcs and Dwarves, and yes, they are commonly products of rape) and Elflings (Elves and Halflings).

Prestige Classes include some familiar classes like Druid and Wizard, as well as more Midnight-specific options like Avenging Knives (assassins operating against Izrador), Bane of Legates (those dedicated to fighting his priests), Smugglers and Haunted Ones (conduits for the dead).

New Feats are provided, like Friendly Agent (which lets you spot potential allies, as well as hide your own allegiance from Izrador’s Agents), Drive It Deep (allowing you to boost the damage of small weapons), Orc-Slayer and Whispering Awareness (allowing you to hear the whispers of the woods).

Spellcasting is handled by channeling energy and casting the spells needed, rather than preparing spells beforehand. Using magic (even magic items) is dangerous…because the Legates have hunting companions called Astiraxes which sniff out magic and lead the Legates to the users.

Of course, living under the bootheel of Izrador, weapons and armor are also restricted, and being elven or dwarven is an automatic death sentence.

Book Two: The World of Midnight dives heavily into the setting itself, describing each region, its people and providing plot hooks. For instance, in the Great Forest, Dire animals are actually allies of the Elves, because they are intelligent enough to know that the Elves share their home, as well as their desire to protect it. Stuff like this is all over the book, like how the Danisil are fairly occupied with dealing with honest to goodness demons in the jungles while their kin are fighting the forces of an evil God.

Book Three is essentially the GM’s section. It covers the Northern Marches, the rarely-explored area where the Orcs make their home, under the rule of Izrador. Don’t want to give this info to the players up front. Again, plot hooks abound, like the Followers of the White Mother, who realize that they are nothing but cannon fodder, and are slowly spreading their word to other Orcs. This section also lays out an overview of the final plans of crushing the dwarves and the elves, who are cut off from one another, with no human aid coming.

We also learn about the Black Mirrors, which drain magic into Izrador, so long as blood sacrifices are provided to it. The four Night Kings are also profiled, describing who they were, how they fell and who they are now. A Legate NPC class is provided, with variations like Witch Takers, Soldier Legates and the Sisterhood of Tender Mercies.

Power Nexuses, places around Aryth with great power than can be tapped into, and Covenant Items (magic items that unlock new powers as their owners become more experienced) are described here as well. Midnight eschews the “arsenal of magic items” approach in favor of generally only doling out a single item or two that scales with the character, to compliment their Heroic Path.

Magic is heavily limited, with healing magic at a premium, and resurrection impossible, due to the limits of magic and the nature of the world (no dead can move on, with all deceased coming back as some form of undead unless properly disposed of).

A bestiary is provided, featuring the Astirax (mentioned earlier), a couple of dragons (Midnight definitely treats dragons as special, named creatures and not just monster entries), as well as suggestions on the kinds of creatures from the standard monster manuals that are likely to appear on Aryth.

Given that this is the second edition of the book and some supplements were available at the time of the release, Fantasy Flight Games took it upon themselves to tackle essays on various adventure types, tying these suggestions into the various supplements.

An introductory adventure is provided, as well as a series of random encounter charts for each section of the world, and some sample enemy NPC templates.

WHAT WORKS: The production values are amazing. The flavor text is generally short but evocative, and the art almost universally compliments the feel of the setting. A ton of information is provided (it is a 400 page book), giving ample material to run the setting out of the one book (or so I assume…I do own the whole game line). A lot of effort has gone into making the world oppressive. In many ways, Midnight is more horrific than classic horror settings like Ravenloft. Also, there is no metaplot. The game line never really advances the timeline, so the setting is truly yours to do with as you will.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: I would kill for a version of the book that isn’t written for d20, though I do have a great Savage Worlds conversion downloaded. I don’t necessarily need more supplements, but the line being available via print on demand or something would be great. The setting is written with the assumption that the heroes will always fail, though with no true metaplot being present, that can be worked around.

CONCLUSION: Midnight, along with the Art Haus Ravenloft, is the best thing to come out of the d20 era for me, regardless of how I feel about the game system. I’m eager to give the Savage Worlds conversion a go, and I’ll report back on how that goes here on the blog. I went out of my way to ensure that I purchased the entire Midnight collection in print (I even own the first edition and Against the Shadow, both of which were largely folded into Second Edition), and I’m glad I did. And while I will run the setting harsh, the outcome will ultimately be very much in the hands of the PCs, not myself or the designers’.

Birthday Blog Giveaway - Let's Try This Again

Okay, folks...I have contacted my sponsors for the Birthday Blog Giveaway, and told them that since I lost most of the entrants in a hard drive crash but I'm back up and running now, I want to extend the contest.

To that end, I need all entrants to PLEASE resubmit their entries to tommybrownell(a)gmail(dot)com so that I can award great prizes to my wonderful readers.

And now, the prizes:
One (1) Little Fears Nightmare Edition PDF Bundle (Little Fears Nightmare Edition Corebook, Little Fears Among the Missing, Campfire Tales #1).
One (1) PDF copy of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.
One (1) PDF copy of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.
One (1) PDF copy of Marvel Heroic Civil War Premium Edition (includes the Civil War Event and Marvel Heroic rules).
One (1) PDF copy of The Mutant Epoch AND one (1) print copy of The Mutant Epoch (awarded together).
One (1) PDF copy of Reclamation.
One (1) PDF copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition.
One (1) PDF copy of tremulus, to be awarded upon the commercial release of the book.
One (1) PDF bundle of Fabled Environment Cyberpunk Locations Maps Set.
One (1) PDF bundle of Fabled Environment Cyberpunk Locations Maps Set.
One (1) PDF bundle of Fabled Environment Cyberpunk Locations Maps Set.

That is eleven big prizes from seven great publishers, helping me say THANK YOU to each and every one of you for reading this blog!

To enter, simply send me an e-mail to tommybrownell(a)gmail(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 February 14th, 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).

Monday, January 28, 2013

Please Allow Me To Re-Introduce Myself

I just swiped this from Timothy Brannan's The Other Side blog, because it seems like the perfect time to reintroduce myself to my readers.


My name is Tommy Brownell, the guy behind The Most Unread Blog on the Internet. Ever. I got my start in in RPGs back in the 8th grade, when I bought the Uncanny X-Men Campaign Set for the Marvel Superheroes Advanced game, having no idea what I was actually buying. A year later, one of my Freshman classmates had a set of AD&D 2nd Edition rulebooks that I borrowed and eagerly learned, becoming the Dungeon Master for our group.

I have played many RPGs since then, and read and reviewed even more, falling in love with RPGs like All Flesh Must Be Eaten, Deadlands, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (and sister game Angel), Marvel SAGA (which I maintain is the best supers RPG ever made) and, most famously, Savage Worlds.

I got my start reviewing RPGs several years ago on, when I reviewed Don't Rest Your Head and Vs. Monsters for Horror Week. Eventually, I started doing more reviews and this blog came along about three years ago.

While I had done some work for Eden Studios (for comp copies), this blog did also lead into work for Savage Mojo (as a creative consultant and, for a time, Social Media Manager), Daring Entertainment (as an editor), Third Eye Games (savaging some API monsters and helping massage the Savage Worlds rules) and Basic Action Games (some editing).

Even better, thanks to this blog I have been exposed to much wider variety of RPGs, and I like to think that I have helped many of those RPGs become exposed to a much wider audience.

I am also a comic book writer, doing most of my work for Equinox Comics, where I write The Chronicles of Rachel Strand (drawn by my amazing partner in crime, Johnnie Johnson).

I recently suffered a horrific hard drive crash (as documented on this blog), and am now picking up the pieces with a new PC and the loss of a LOT of work and e-mails.

So, I hope you have enjoyed the blog to this point, I hope I have helped you find a new game or two that you love, and I hope that you stick around to see what happens next.


Back So Soon?

About four days ago, I sadly announced the death of the blog.

The outpouring was, in a word, amazing.

I had people offering to mail me computers, people offering to donate money to buy me a new computer, and I had people tell me many wonderful things about this blog, and how important it is to them that it keeps going.

As of today, it looks like it will.

I have a new computer, and it is nearly set up as I need it. Not quite there, but almost there. That means the blog will continue in some capacity.

I am a little behind on review material, however. I did have some products downloaded that I intended to review, but I lost a great many of the RPGNow reviewer codes I had amassed to review. If you are a publisher and you are looking for reviews, drop me a line at

I aim to contact the seven publishers that offered prize support for the Birthday Blog Giveaway, and ask them if they mind me extending the contest deadline in the hopes that everyone that previously entered will re-enter so I can finish the Birthday Blog Giveaway properly. I hope that becomes a reality.

Most of my digital RPG collection was amassed via RPGNow and is replaceable. A few pieces were not, gained from direct e-mails from publishers, or playtest files that are no longer available. I had made massive updates to the Marvel SAGA roster files that had not been shared with anyone in ages, and are now completely lost. As well, every one of my game session notes that wasn't posted on this blog were also lost. That is quite disheartening. A TON of e-mails are gone, too, but I've now synced my ISP e-mail with my Gmail to hopefully prevent this from happening again.

All of my comic work was lost, but I am piecing much of it back together via e-mails with my collaborators. There is work that will need to be redone, but I think I can get my projects back on track.

I thank you all for the kind and generous comments and offers when the announcement went out. Fact is, I have had an awful year, and this was one more kick to the teeth I didn't need. I had no idea when I would get another PC, and I sure didn't expect it to be this soon, but I've had some good friends and some good fortune come through for me in the middle of the frustration and setbacks. I wasn't trying to be dramatic...just didn't want to leave anyone hanging if I disappeared for weeks or months at a time, especially with the giveaway in full swing.

The blog will live on...and I will never doubt its readership again.

If you wish to support the blog, the absolute best way you can do so is via purchases using my RPGNow affiliate links, which in turn gives me store credit that I can then use to purchase more RPG products that I can review.

Thank you for reading. Thank you for the wonderful offers and the kind words (like the ones Timothy Brannan offered over at his blog).

I'm back...and with any luck, I'm not going away for a very long time.

Keep reading, and I'll keep writing.


Thursday, January 24, 2013

The End?

It looks like the hard drive is completely shot, meaning I lost the majority of the entrants into the contest, as well as everything else.

My apologies to everyone that entered, as well as the sponsors, but I don't see a way to proceed fairly, especially since I have no computer, and I have discovered that I hate typing more than a few sentences on my tablet.

As it stands, this blog is - for all intents and purposes - dead. Maybe it will rise again, but I no longer have reliable means to maintain it, nor do I have the material to continue it. I have no plans to take it down, but this is pretty much it from here on out.

My apologies to the contest entrants, the sponsors and any publisher I had a promise to review for. Believe me, this is killing me far more than it is you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Dead in the Water

I figure many of you are waiting on contest results.

So am I.

Last Thursday, without warning, I seemingly suffered a hard drive failure. This has left me without a computer, as well as my entire PDF RPG collection and basically everything I was working on, as well as a means to work on it.

I am dead in the water.

I don't even have access to my email account, because it is an ISP account that downloads locally to my PC, so every entry up to last Thursday is presumably locked away on my computer.

With any luck, I can salvage some things (hopefully most things), but I have no reliable time table for this.

Believe me, I am more frustrated than any of you are.

The blog, and my writing, are in limbo until a) I determine the extent of the loss and b) I have a working PC again.

For the time being, please contact me via Facebook or tommybrownell(a)gmail(dot)com.

Thank you for your understanding.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Tommy's Take on Achtung! Cthulhu - Zero Point Pt. 1: Three Kings

Achtung! Cthulhu is a new setting for multiple systems, including Savage Worlds, Trail of Cthulhu and Call of Cthulhu. This review, and likely all future reviews, will focus entirely on the Savage Worlds versions. Achtung! Cthulhu is a melding of Mythos and World War II, and Three Kings is the first part of the first campaign for the setting, called Zero Point.



WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: For maximum effect, you will need Realms of Cthulhu by Reality Blurs and a copy of the Savage Worlds rules. The PDF, by Modiphius, is $9.99 for 42 pages (a print compilation is promised when the campaign is complete), kicking off the wartime campaign. The book is very nice, having a layout that evokes an “old book” feel, with notes attached to the pages and handwritten bits in the margins.

The adventure is set in Czechoslovakia in 1939, and the PCs are assumed to be special operatives being dropped into the region to link up with the leaders of the underground resistance movement known as The Three Kings.

The book is split into Episodes, with the first featuring multiple options for getting the PCs into the region. The first option assumes the British Special Ops backstory and has the team parachuting in. A second option has the team slipping into the country as spies, while yet a third option is presented with the PCs being academics at the University of Prague, hearing rumblings of unnatural things occurring at Castle Karlstein.

Episode 2 provides us with a very nice map of the region, and hinges on the PCs making contact with the resistance. The PCs also gain the opportunity to pick up some rumors that hint at the true nature of the adventure here. Two sidebars are provided here, on regarding the efforts of the resistance agent known as Codename ANGEL, and the second covering the horrifying options if a PC is captured: Suicide by cyanide, or torture at the hands of the Nazis.

Episode 3 gives the PCs the chance to meet up not only with the Three Kings, but also Codename ANGEL, where the PCs can join Codename ANGEL’s rescue mission.

Episode 4 is the assault on Castle Karlstein, and it may shock you to discover that it is NOT a standard Nazi operation at work here. Doktor Von Hammerstein is hard at work on an army of supersoldiers, and he’s using the occult to do it. This is played open-ended, with the layout of the castle and its defenses provided, and the approach and attack up to the PCs. And there’s a stunning twist that can make the whole situation worse…and downright nightmarish.

Episode 5 is the (optional) resolution, with the PCs hopefully extracting themselves from the situation. A sidebar also points out the elements from here that are meant to play a larger role in the Zero Point campaign.

Stat blocks are provided for NPCs (two major NPCs are covered in the adventure itself when they first appear), and rules work was credited to Dave Blewer, meaning they should be in capable hands. Four pregenerated PCs are also provided, along with standardized equipment lists.

A second appendix covers rules for Parachuting, guards being on alert, Half-Track vehicles as well as torture and interrogation.

The book ends with some swell handouts you can print and give to your players, plus a blurb for Heroes of the Sea, the second adventure in the series.

WHAT WORKS: The production values look great. The writing on the adventure is loose enough that if the PCs take an alternate approach to something, you aren’t scrambling to figure out how to make it all fit. Some potentially unnerving twists, especially if your PCs aren’t aware it’s a horror adventure.

WHAT DOESN’T WORK: Realms of Cthulhu plus Savage Worlds plus this volume is a steeper than normal buy in. That said, you can get Realms and Three Kings in a bundle for $15, which is a pretty great deal. Having the new rules material printed within the adventures as well as in an appendix seems a tad wasteful.

CONCLUSION: Very promising start to the campaign. I believe this is their first product for Savage Worlds, but they got a Savage Worlds guy that knows his stuff. I would love to run this for a group that’s not aware we’re doing a horror adventure. Being American, I would have also preferred an opening for American Investigators (military or not), but that’s easy enough to remedy. I’m far from a World War II or Mythos enthusiast, but I know what I like, and this is a really nice addition to the Savage Worlds ranks.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Tommy's Take on Leverage Companions 1, 2 & 3

Though the show has ended, the game must go on. Margaret Weis Productions extends their support for Leverage with a new line of microsupplements!

Leverage Companion #1: Too Many Chefs

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: We thought the Leverage RPG line was finished...but Margaret Weis Productions comes firing back with a new set of microsupplements! Leverage, by its concept, is very niche protectiony, with PCs specializing in one of five roles. This supplement, in PDF for $2.99, addresses crews that have more than one of a given role...say two Hackers, two Hitters or two Grifters. Options are provided for the duplicated roles to combine their well as an option for one to swoop in in top of the other and steal their glory. A set of Talents are provided which are designed to build off of these situations, such as a Crew Member who lets themselves get taken captured to give their crewmate an opening. There's even one built around two Masterminds working together. The next session takes it to the extreme: A team consisting entirely one role, and how to diversify your crew of Grifters, Hitters or even Masterminds. An optional rule provides extra drama, having the fallout be worse if someone screws up in their secondary role. Again, new Talents are provided that play into this. Sample crews are provided, giving inspiration for All-Grifter, All-Hacker, All-Hitter, All-Thief and All-Mastermind crews.

WHAT WORKS: Leverage is a great idea if you have five players and they are all happy focusing on separate roles...if not, then you have Too Many Chefs. The options are great, with mechanical support to back up PCs otherwise stepping on each other's toes, rather than making the game more difficult.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Not a lot, here. These aren't situations that'll come up in every game, and this is a low cost extra that'll fill in those gaps for you if it happens.

CONCLUSION: Really good first Companion, starting the series off right. The most potentially frustrating aspect of Leverage is what to do if you have a "non-standard" group...good to see that MWP recognizes that and is here to help.

Leverage Companion #2: Leverage Noir

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Another $2.99 microsupplement, this one walks you back from modern day to the 20s-40s. Changing the time period does have a pretty big effect on your game, for two major reasons: 1) The omnipresent earbuds are no longer present, and 2) the Hacker needs a complete overhaul. New Talents include Hardboiled (you don't scare easily), Enforcer (your reputation now wins you as many fights as your fists do), Wireman (learning to manipulate the phone lines), Sandpapered Fingertips (your sense of touch is infallible), Working Stiff (your Grifter knows how to fit in with the "common" folk), The Name of the Game Isn't Chess - It's Poker (convincing someone you have a bigger advantage than you really do). A list of era specific distinctions are included, as well as a list of terminology. Some reference material is provided, as well as a couple of tips on either playing a Noir episode as a flashback in your ongoing game, or running a full series set in another time.

WHAT WORKS: A very helpful reworking of Talents, especially necessary for the Hacker. Many of the Talents twist the roles thematically, such as the Hitter becoming a much more violent member than what we normally see from Eliot.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Less useful overall than the first Companion. The GMing section might could have used some beefing up.

CONCLUSION: A good addition to the Companion line, in a very fitting alternate setting. Leverage certainly had some dark moments over the years, so this wouldn't be uncharted territory for the setting, though the darkness was rarely sustained. Highly recomended if you want a darker twist on your Leverage game.

Leverage Companion #3: The Foil

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: This Companion introduces a seventh role, that of The Foil...essentially a PC adversary to the Crew. Unfortunately, they lose me right there with the first rule of being a Foil: You Lose. The rule in the Leverage Writer's Room regarding Jim Sterling, the Leverage crew's biggest foil, is Sterling Never Loses. Anywho, they provide the ten rules of playing a Foil (one of which essentially turns them into an assistant Fixer as well). One page even covers situations where the Foil might be forced to team with the Crew (which happens as well). Foil Talents are provided, like Body Double (meaning you have body doubles on site), I Am The Rogue's Gallery (where you can get in before the Crew's Thief) and Owning the Field, which you can use to prevent a specific Role from being used.  Sterling himself is statted up as a Foil, along with a few other sample ones.

WHAT WORKS: It's a good concept, the recurring nemesis in the Heist game. Providing mechanical support for a Sterling isn't a bad thing, especially as it makes their constant victories slightly less annoying than if it all came at the hands of an NPC.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: First and foremost? The Ur-Example completely violates the first rule of playing a Foil.

CONCLUSION: Sterling never loses. At best, the Leverage crew manages a win-win situation with him. Additionally, playing a Foil would be a bit of a drag, as the Foil is either not going to be in every Job, or it's a series of back and forth PC fights. I certainly applaud Margaret Weis Productions for providing options...I just don't this one really works.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Tommy's Top Six of 2012 and Birthday Blog Giveaway

My blog officially turns three years old today, and has taken on a life of its own. I’m kinda proud of that. It is time for me to name my Top Six of 2012, the six books that stood out the most to me, under the following criteria: 1) I had to have had no involvement in the production of the book. 2) Only one title per publisher. 3) I had to have reviewed the book between the time I made last year’s selections and the beginning of December this year (to give me time to contact the publishers for the Birthday Blog Giveaway). Without further ado, in alphabetical order, the Tommy’s Top Six of 2012:

Why You Should Buy It: I loved the concept of the original Little Fears, with kids taking on the things that go bump in the night…but Jason L. Blair says he’s grown as a designer, and it’s clear to me that he has. This version is mechanically tighter in every way, with lots of cool stuff like Belief, which is generally more powerful, the younger your kid is. Additionally, the line is well supported with a supplement (Among the Missing) as well as microsupplements (Campfire Tales). Some of the background elements from the first version of the game still remain, while others are completely overhauled. Monster creation rules, plot seeds galore…this is one of the two best options I’ve seen for “kids versus monsters”, and it is the only one of the two currently being supported by the publisher. Whether you prefer “Monster Squad” or “Stephen King’s IT”, Little Fears Nightmare Edition has what you need, taking a good concept and backing it up with tighter writing and rules than the original.

Why You Should Buy It: While Marvel Heroic has yet to knock off Marvel SAGA as my supers game of choice, or even my Marvel game of choice, it is going to be easier to find players for than my beloved SAGA, due to the fact that it’s in print and currently supported. Additionally, MWP have taken a licensed RPG and tried to lower the barriers for entry as best they can, with a reduced price point and even multiple entry points, with each of the first books in their Event series having a version that includes the Marvel Heroic rules. The first event series has already been completed this year, covering the events of Civil War, but while you may need a bit more knowledge of the event than is provided in the books, the Event itself is anything other than a paint-by-numbers railroad back through the events of the comics. Indeed, MWP’s Events allow you room to take the framework of the Event and let your players cut loose in it. MWP’s also provided some great freebie releases, including random character generation, as well as supplements that included not only Thor and Hulk, but plot seeds for including them in Civil War. Add in the “Unlockables”, and you get a superhero advancement system that does a better job of emulating comics better than the standard “zero to hero” progression found in most RPGs.

Why You Should Buy It: Random chart after random chart after random chart. In my opinion, it is the best RPG I have seen for insane, gonzo, post-apocalyptic action. The main mutation table is a d1000, for pete’s sake. The rulebook covers most everything you need to get started, even providing alternate apocalypse justifications like zombies or aliens. The game has some fantastic support, with a ton of freebies available at the Outland Arts website, as well as the Excavator Monthly magazine and more. It is just one of the easiest games in the world to roll up characters, roll up random encounters, etc. No planning needed, just dice! A post-apoc game tailor-made for my tastes…I can’t NOT recommend it.

Why You Should Buy It: Very few PostApoc games really “speak” to me, despite how this list may look, but Reclamation did just that with its theme of hope and defiance in the face of a crumbling world. No, it’s not going to be easy to take the world back, but it has to be done. Not only is there hope in the crumbling reality, but the PCs ARE that flame of hope. The five Marks provide more focus than your standard mutation tables, as well as the cool, thematic nastiness of the Sickness overtaking your heroes for using the powers they develop. For a more “heroic” and “focused” PostApoc game, it is hard to go wrong with Reclamation, with the concept and powers combining to give Reclamation that extra “punch” above and beyond the typical PostApoc RPG.

Why You Should Buy It: Savage Worlds is my favorite in-print RPG. Maybe my favorite of all time. In addition, I am a HUGE fan of the Explorer’s Edition format, providing the rules at a low-cost entry point while relying on the supplementary sales. As for the game itself? For me the proof is in the fun. I’ve ran the game over multiple genres and multiple sessions, and as my Necessary Evil game concludes, I’m hard pressed to think of a campaign that has been more epic or more deeply personal. Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition also adds a healthy dose of new material, including new Edges and several options for you to use to tweak your games, making the Savage Worlds rules even more self-contained and versatile than they already were. It is $10 for a system that I have used to run westerns, horror, supers, fantasy and swashbuckling, and later this year we plan to use it to bring some of our favorite D&D settings back to life.  There’s a reason I called the original Explorer’s Edition my best RPG purchase.

Why You Should Buy It: A great game of investigative horror, tremulus introduced me to the Apocalypse Engine games, causing me to also pick up Dungeon World and Monster of the Week. The set-up with the Playbooks having all of the Moves already printed on them made the game incredibly easy for us to pick up, and I have yet to encounter any “Player Facing” oddities like I normally do in such games. Additionally, the Ebon Eaves town creation is a very interesting subsystem, as we did the town creation and dropped into gameplay all in about half an hour, without any prior preparation. Even better, as good as the main rulebook is, the material slated to come is even cooler. The product of a massively successful Kickstarter, tremulus made it to our table shortly after its release, and is very likely to come back very soon.

And now, for the part you all really want to see: The free stuff we have to offer, and the rules for entering the contest.

As with the last two years, we had prizes donated by all six of the selected publishers…but this year, we also had the wonderful people at Fable Environments offer us prize support, making this the biggest giveaway we have ever offered!

And now, the prizes:

-          One (1) Little Fears Nightmare Edition PDF Bundle (Little Fears Nightmare Edition Corebook, Little Fears Among the Missing, Campfire Tales #1).
-          One (1) PDF copy of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.
-          One (1) PDF copy of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.
-          One (1) PDF copy of Marvel Heroic Civil War Premium Edition (includes the Civil War Event and Marvel Heroic rules).
-          One (1) PDF copy of The Mutant Epoch AND one (1) print copy of The Mutant Epoch.
-          One (1) PDF copy of Reclamation.
-          One (1) PDF copy of Savage Worlds Deluxe Explorer’s Edition.
-          One (1) PDF copy of tremulus, to be awarded upon the commercial release of the book.
-          One (1) PDF bundle of Fabled Environment Cyberpunk Locations Maps Set.
-          One (1) PDF bundle of Fabled Environment Cyberpunk Locations Maps Set.
-          One (1) PDF bundle of Fabled Environment Cyberpunk Locations Maps Set.

That is eleven big prizes from seven great publishers, helping me say THANK YOU to each and every one of you for reading this blog!

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 reading this blog, and thank you to the seven publishers for providing prize support for this giveaway! Do yourself a favor and support them, because they all make fantastic games and gaming supplements!

Have a Happy New Year!