Monday, January 30, 2012

VIP Wrestling: "Legendary" Rock Vargas and "Walking Tall" Floyd Rogers

A while back I reviewed the Wild World Wrestling game, and being a wrestling fan, decided to add some stuff to it, namely some write-ups for a promotion (although, if you feel so inclined, you can certainly use these guys on your own).

VIP Wrestling is a small promotion largely controlled by "The Legendary" Rock Vargas, leader of the VIP Elite. Vargas is a wily veteran who isn't afraid to use any tactic to get ahead, often using his influence and resources to stack the odds against his opponents before the match, and using brutal foreign objects like "The Spike" over the course of the match. This is incredibly frustrating to many observers, because Vargas is a savvy, intelligent wrestler who probably doesn't need to resort to these vile tactics in most cases. Still, better safe than sorry, he supposes.

Vargas is often joined by his brash, arrogant protege "Bad Boy" Jimmy Lee and their brutal muscle "The Juggernaut" Leonidas Contreras. The VIP Elite often compete in six man and handicap matches, and Vargas is known to use Contreras and Lee as his "gatekeepers" when foes come after him. Vargas' attitude that he, and he alone, determines what comprises the "Elite" of pro wrestling has a way of turning off the fans as well as other wrestlers...when they're not trying to impress him.

Vargas often ensures that referees look the other way when he's driving "The Spike" into his opponent's head (or other body part), which infuriates the fans. He often uses the Rocksault to soften up the opponent, in which he grabs the top rope and flips over them onto the opponent with a rolling senton, generally completing the roll up to his feet. He prefers to finish matches with THE BIG FINISH, however, a flying sunset flip off the top rope, and a holdover from his younger, crowd favorite days.

Name: "Legendary" Rock Vargas
Height: 5'10"
Weight: 219 lbs
Weight Mod: 0
Attitude: Heel
Level: 11
Star Power:

Ath: +2
Brw: 0
Flr: +4
Ins: +3
Pow: 0

Athletics +2
Deception +5
 Athletic Moves +5
 Brawling Moves
 Flair Moves +5
 Power Moves
 Technical Moves
 Specialty Match (Cage Match): +5
 Tag Team
Performance +4
Presence +2
Special Talent

Gimmick Enhancements
Attribute Improvement (3)
Close Call
(TB) Finisher
Heat Machine
Leverage: Athleticism
(TB) MF/Athletic
MF/Improvised Weapons
(TB) MF/Instinct
Maneuver Training (5)
Resources (3)
Ring Sense (Instinct)
Signature Move (2)
Stacking the Deck (2)
Training Background


Signature Move
Rocksault (Athletic): Damage D6 (-1), +1 Damage Die (-2) Exertion (+1), Requires Prone Target (+1), Signature Move (+2), Stunning Self if Missed (+1). Total Modifier: +2

The Spike (Improvised Weapon Keyed to Flair): Damage (2)d6 (-1), Extra Die of Damage (-2), Illegal (+1), Signature Move (+2). Total Modifier: 0

The Big Finish (Athletic): Damage (2)d6 (-1), Exertion (+3), Finisher Name (+1), Immediate Pin Attempt on Knockdown (-1), Knockdown (-1), Requires Lifting (+1), Stunning Self if Missed (+1). Total Modifier: +3

Vargas' biggest and baddest enemy is the hard-nosed, no-nonsense common man known as "Walkin' Tall" Floyd Rogers. Rogers, a burly, blond haired badass who takes no prisoners vows to each and every one of his opponents that he will "Walk tall and stomp a mudhole in your ass." Rogers, who has very few friends, is known to carry a big ax handle to the ring and has lost more than one match because he decided to tee off on his opponents. He's not a flashy performer by any stretch, but he riles the crowd up by entering the arena through the general admission entrance, ax handle held high, slapping hands as he goes.

Rogers has learned a trick or two from Vargas over the years, and has gotten better and better at misdirecting the referee so he can hit a HARD LINE DRIVE on his opponent with the ax handle. More and more, he's come to rely on his Stand and Deliver Spinebuster to inflict serious damage on his opponents, and to sometimes even score the pin.

Rogers is a big, strong guy who can take a beating, but he's also pretty one dimensional and he has a tendency to get a little overconfident, knowing the amount of punishment that he can take.

Name: "Walkin' Tall" Floyd Rogers
Height: 5'11"
Weight: 260 lbs
Weight Mod: +2
Attitude: Face
Level: 10
Star Power:

Ath: -1
Brw: +3
Flr: +1
Ins: +1
Pow: +2

Athletics +3
Deception +2
 Athletic Moves
 Brawling Moves +5
 Flair Moves
 Power Moves +5
 Technical Moves
 Roster +2
 Specialty Match:
 Tag Team
Perception +2
Performance +2
Presence +2
Special Talent

Gimmick Enhancements
Amazing Recuperative Power
Attribute Enhancement (3)
Catch Phrase ("I'm gonna walk tall and stomp a mudhole in your ass!")
Hardcore (2)
High Pain Threshold (3)
MF/Improvised Weapons
Monster Comeback
No Sell (3)
Potent Strike (Brawler)
Ring Rage
Signature Move
Spectacular Entrance


Signature Move
Stand and Deliver (Spinebuster): Modifiers: 3d6 damage (-5), immediate pin attempt (–1), prone self (+1), requires lifting (+1), Signature Move (+2)
Total Modifier: -2

Hard Line Drive (Improvised Weapon Keyed to Brawn): Modifiers: 3d8 damage (–6), exertion: 4 Fatigue (+2), Finisher Name (+1), illegal: automatic DQ (+2), knockdown (–1), stunning (-2).
Total Modifier: -4

Sunday, January 29, 2012

The SAGA of Spider-Man Episode 1: Tag-Team Part 1

This is session 1 of the new Marvel SAGA game I'm running for my son, featuring a teenaged Spider-Man (in the black, alien suit). This is his first go with Marvel SAGA (and our first game in a long time), but it's all good, because I practically know the system inside and out. The Spider-Man we're using is a slightly modified "rookie" version. We're playing fast and loose with continuity, building it as we go.

Our tale opens with a restless Peter Parker studying for a Math test before deciding (at the urging of the symbiote), to head out into the night for a patrol. While looking for trouble, Spider-Man overhears police sirens and swings down to get close enough to listen in to the chatter on the police radio, overhearing that Shocker and another unidentified villain were in the midst of robbing a bank and became embroiled in an encounter with another superhuman. Spider-Man thinks it over and calculates a quicker route to the bank, beating the police by a good five minutes.

As he slips into the bank, he overhears Shocker and his partner talking about "never seein' a hero have a heart attack before". Spider-Man causes a diversion, drawing Shocker nearby, then rips a brick out of a wall with his webs and knocks Shocker out cold. Spider-Man is spotted sneaking up on Slyde, Shocker's partner, and immediately cracks "Why do they call you Slyde? Because you like to slide on the playground?" which was pretty groan-worthy and right up Spider-Man's alley. Slyde was unshaken and bolted for the door, Spider-Man's webs slipping right off of him and his Lightning Speed allowing him to get away. As Spider-Man started to give chase, the hero having a heart attack - pro wrestler/superhero D-Man - asked him to stay. Spider-Man stayed with him a few moments and D-Man - remembering Spider-Man did some wrestling a while back - asked him if we wanted to be tag team partners in Unlimited Class Wrestling Federation. Spider-Man agreed, then slipped out of the bank as the police arrived.

Returning home, Peter tried to cram for his test, despite the urging of the symbiote. The next day, he struggled to stay awake in the classroom, spacing out and then coming to only to see Mary Jane tapping her foot in front of him. MJ asked him if he wanted the good news or the bad news, to which he replied "Uh...both?" The Good News? Flash Thompson didn't get the lowest grade on the test. The Bad News? Peter Parker FELL ASLEEP in class! Mr. Simmons, Parker's teacher, was quite ticked. Peter, annoyed, bolted out of the building and left the school grounds, looking for Slyde.

Spider-Man had luck tracking Slyde down, finding out that he was working with a new partner - Spot. Spidey went looking for D-Man, asking him to help him take the villainous duo down but D-Man - fearing another episode like against Slyde and Shocker - said no, and asked Spider-Man if he would be back in time for their wrestling show that night. Spider-Man reassured him that he would be, then went after Spot and Slyde. Not playing around this time, Spidey went right after Slyde, trying to KO him, but Slyde managed to dodge. Spot attempted a sneak attack by punching through a portal, but Spider-Man knew it was coming. He tried to tackle Slyde - who was making a break for it - but Slyde slipped free and bolted out the door. Spider-Man, enraged, lashed out with the symbiote suit and knocked Spot through a wall...and realized he had hurt bystanders as well. Spider-Man, shaken, tore away from the building and the city...finally coming to later that evening as the symbiote was bringing him home. Exhausted and upset, he collapsed on his bed and flicked on the TV...hearing the news that Slyde was still at large, and the D-Man had been beaten into a coma on live TV by Crusher Hogan and Bonesaw McGraw after his supposed partner Spider-Man failed to attend. Spider-Man, saddened and angry, flicked off the TV.

Next Time: Slyde is still on the loose! D-Man is hurt, and Crusher Hogan and Bonesaw McGraw are bragging about it! Peter has to tell Aunt May that he got an F because he fell asleep in class!

NOTES: We used a lot of "Do you want to do this, or do you want to do this?" when approaching what Spider-Man could do at a given time. SAGA is also NOT a heavily structured system, so it was real easy to wing it if he wanted to do something out of the ordinary (which he did a time or two). He also seems to have a real interest in playing Peter Parker as well as Spider-Man, which is encouraging. I should also note that this is his first time playing with a character sheet in hand (I color coded it before we played), and he did a nice job of keeping track of all his skills and abilities and using them in play (being a Spider-Man fan helps). I have a thing for using really odd characters in Marvel SAGA games, so D-Man, Slyde and Spot showing up is about par for the course for me. Incidentally, the D-Man/wrestling hook was SUPPOSED to be the main story in this "episode", but the Slyde thing is quickly taking on a life of its own. We are planning on playing again, possibly as soon as this weekend.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Comics You Should Read: Skullkickers

Comic books are one of those areas where you can truly vote with your wallet, making your voice heard and keeping titles alive. Part of the purpose of this new series of articles on the blog is to focus on those comics that may be in danger that you should totally be buying, although I will not be limiting it *entirely* to comics that are "endangered". These are not necessarily an attempt at objective reviews, just me sharing with you comics that I enjoy, and that I would like to see others enjoy.

Now...Comics You Should Read!

First up...Skullkickers!

Skullkickers, published by Image Comics, is a tongue in cheek fantasy romp by Jim Zubkavich, Edwin Huang and the occasional fill-ins (on both art and writing), following a pair of nameless adventuring mercenaries (you can call them Baldy and Shorty) as they fight monsters and evil, mostly for money.

The book balances action and comedy very deftly, with Baldy and Shorty cracking wise while also being incredibly badass. The art tends to be somewhat exaggerated, just short of cartoony, and the sound effects are often very literal "Stab! Punch! (and one of my personal favorites) Vegetation!" Shorty is a brutal dwarven warrior while Baldy is a gun-weilding human (the gun is magical, and most people tend to quickly forget he owns it), providing plenty of action even in the face of comedy.

Over the course of the series thus far, the heroes have dealt with a Necromancer, a giant demon, pissed-off faerie treehuggers, werewolves...they've even became heroes (as well as wanted men). Robin Laws even pitched in on issue 4 with D&D4e stats for Baldy and Shorty (with all the serial numbers filed off, of course).

The first story arc involves a noble being assassinated, a necromancer controlling Shorty's foot (it makes sense in context) and a giant demon that rules the dead. Though the story is all pretty much resolved in that one arc, there is foreboding hints that this adventure will definitely come back to haunt them.

The second arc involves the Skullkickers versus the rampaging faerie hippies, as well as the heroes being accused of being assassins, and a thieves guild leader who keeps coming back from the dead (I assume he'll be a recurring character). This arc ends with a scene that shows a lot of promise for the next one.

The third arc, beginning this year, will take the Skullkickers out onto the high seas apparently...and seems likely they'll run across a duo not unlike themselves.

In between the arcs are some short story anthologies by various creators.

For me, the story that really won me over was the back-up story in Skullkickers #0 that seemed like a pointless dialogue sequence between the title characters until the awesome twist at the end. Very much worth reading (and I think #0 is free on Comixology). Probably my only real gripe is the pacing, as two arcs over two years seems a little lite for a story that otherwise feels very fast-paced.

Dragon Age or Lord of the Rings this is not. Skullkickers is an (awesomely) irreverent fantasy yarn that's both funny and full of butt-kicking action. I assume it'll get officially turned into an RPG someday (maybe soon).

You can purchase Skullkickers at (in individual issues or trades), (volume 1 and volume 2), on Comixology and at your local comic book store.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tommy's Take on San Francisco: The Ruins by The Bay

We haven't revisited Interface Zero here on the blog in a while, and they just released San Francisco: The Ruins by the Bay, so it seems to be as good a time as any to go back to it.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: In order to get the most out of this book, you will need the Savage Worlds rulebook (Explorer's or Deluxe should work fine) and the Interface Zero main book. The rest, such as Zeeks and Boston, are entirely optional. San Francisco is only 67 pages and $8.99, which at first seems like an uncomfortable disparity in price versus content, but there is a LOT of text on these pages, both in crunch and in fluff.

This one follows the format of Boston, complete with a running "commentary" by users on the Deep that is both funny and occasionally learning that folks read even less in the future than they do now. While the sideline commentary isn't the main attraction, it does have some helpful insights about the city.

San Francisco has been brutalized by a massive earthquake which has dropped the population to about 12,000...and people from around California ready to move in and get at the remaining natural resources (which are comparatively abundant in SanFran versus other areas). We get a breakdown of each area of the city here, with helpful tidbits like how The Deep isn't accessible all over the city, for instance, and your credits are no good: It's cash and trade only. The neighborhoods are Castro (a counter-culture wilderness full of non-humans), Chinatown (yeah, THE Chinatown, now in the grip of the Ascended Dragon Tong), Daly City (which is where Hybrids tend to congregate), Mission (which is almost a theological stronghold, not surprisingly), Pacific Heights (which includes Alcatraz), Portrero Island (home of toxic water and brutal scavengers), Presidio (the military base, now ran by the Cascadia Expeditionary Force), Richmond (another hotbed of gang activity), Sunset and the Western Addition.

All of the factions in SanFran are also covered, like the Angels of Mercy (who are anything but), the Daly City Hybrids and The Flood (who are information brokers).

New character creation options include some new Edges (like using a Sword-Whip or being a feral throwback) and a Hindrance (basically a nanite infection), as well as a pair of new Hybrid options (rat-men and bull-men). A couple of new occupations round out the character creation options. Not nearly as robust of a selection as we usually see from IZ books, but you gotta let off the gas at some point.

More equipment is added, catalog style, wiith my personal favorites being the Sword-Whip (or Swhip) and the Wasteland Chopper, which is a motorcycle with a front-mounted machine gun.

City Trappings, which were introduced in Boston, are expanded further here, with trappings like Brown Outs, Humans/Hybrids Only and Kingpin (where there is a powerful force at the top of the food chain in the area), which allow you to mechanically differentiate the neighborhoods. It was a nice touch in Boston and a nice touch here.

There is also an extensive set of Salvaging rules and tables, with the potential for catastrophe (like setting off a booby trap or finding a wild animal).

There are no Savage Tales, but there are several plot seeds which have a "Offer/Complication" set-up to them. They include a brutal fight club at the Cow Palace, a war over water, and a communications outage (with notes on just how the PCs can get involved, and how things can flip on them).

Lastly, the book includes a slew of NPCs, mostly generic stats for each gang followed by stat blocks for their leaders. Again, pay special attention to the sideline commentary for extra insight into the gangs and their leaders.

WHAT WORKS: Once again, Gun Metal Games packs a lot of info into a small book, with some nice crunch (I like both Hybrid options, as well as the expanded City Trappings and the Salvaging rules). The art is lovely, probably my favorite art yet in the IZ line, and there's always something cool in their equipment sections. A couple of relevant sidebars are reprinted from earlier books, not taking up too much space and ensuring that this is usable with just the Savage Worlds rules and IZ setting book.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I like the layout, other than it seemed to be too bright and clean. I also would have preferred the Hybrid packages with the other character creation stuff. Just would have been handier. For some reason, San Francisco just didn't grip me, but I think it's more of a "I'm a middle of the country guy"...I'm kind of intrigued with what we might see when IZ covers a section closer to home for me.

CONCLUSION: A worthy product for the crunch alone, and some of the best art I've seen in the IZ line yet. I doubt I'd ever intentionally set a game in San Francisco, but I'm just not a California guy (I tend to avoid the same region in Deadlands as well). Even if you're like me, however, you'll find stuff that you can use elsewhere in your IZ games without having to try too hard. Also, pay attention to the sidebar conversations: They're not just filler. Not my favorite book in the Interface Zero line, but still a great product.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Tommy's Take on Eureka: 501 Adventure Plots to Inspire Game Masters

Most everyone needs a little inspiration from time to time, and GMs are no exception. The folks at are aware of this, and devised Eureka!

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: This one's not very misleading, as it is a big book of plots for GMs to use as inspiration. Weighing in at 314 pages and a price tag of $16.95 in PDF format (although you can get it in a bundle with the Masks NPC book), it seems a tad pricey for a PDF at first, but it is a weighty product, and if you purchase the print product and contact Engine Publishing (by e-mailing martin (at) enginepublishing (dot) com) with the proof of purchase, they'll hook you up with the PDF for free.

The PDF comes with a printer friendly version as well as the full version, and is fully bookmarked and searchable, as well as haviing four different indexes, separated by genre, tag, title and author. In fact, hyperlinks are all over the book, allowing you to jump around at a moment's notice. The plots (167 each) are divided into fantasy, sci-fi and horror, and are further defined thematically, based off of the George Polti book 36 Dramatic Situations.

What's more, the book doesn't just give you 501 plots, but sections on how to expand them from plot to adventure, including suggestions on other genres and sub-genres (like sci-fi dividing into space opera as well as cyberpunk) that may suit a plot as well as the original. There are even tips on how to re-use a plot without making it obvious to your players what you have done. As you may have guessed, the book is entirely system-free, so you need not worry about a lot of space being taken up by stats that may not be usable by you.

The entries average about five paragraphs apiece, so there's not a bunch of hand waving. I could probably pick a plot seed and run it in Savage Worlds with very little prep time.

Some of my favorite fantasy plots in the book include being asked to help a powerful creature die, forcing you to fend off those that would kill it to take its power, one in which the PCs are being stalked by a demonic horde cutting a swath of terror in its wake and an old witch attempting to hire the PCs from...something...that is coming for her.

The sci-fi missions take a different approach, of course, with gems like the hardware and the software in a space station coming to a profound...disagreement...and the PCs being stuck in the middle. Another plot seed involves the PCs in pursuit of a vessel with a powerful weapon on it that has been captured by a rebel faction and the PCs are the only ones close enough to intercept them...only to discover that a loved one (relative or former flame) are aboard the ship. A similar seed involves the PCs being thrust into combat with a rebel faction who has recruited, among others, one of the PCs' loved ones (that one is practically a stock plot in Civil War era westerns).

In the horror section, we get a twist on the zombie apocalypse, taking place on an island overran by the dead the oceans have taken over the years, with the PCs pinned in by a supernatural force holding them to dry land. Another involves a bizarre, life-sized chess match that seems like it could be tweaked nicely for Ravenloft (as the examples for the chess pieces given are a tad too contemporary for Ravenloft). One of the oddest ones I saw is a slasher, to a "T". Complete with the PCs taking on stereotypical roles, being shuffled off in seclusion to be attacked and so on. That one was kinda disappointing because I kept expecting a twist on the formula, not playing it straight. A particularly great one involves the PCs' mentor becoming a twisted killer for staring so long into the abyss. Imagine a Slayer having to kill their Watcher not because they find out he was Evil All Along, but because years of fighting the battle eventually became too much for his soul. Imagine if it happened to coincide with her 18th birthday and the Cruciamentum?

WHAT WORKS: Utility is the watchword here. I didn't even scratch the surface of the plot seeds available in this book, and that's not getting into the twists, genre shifts and so on that you can apply to every plot seed in the book. The genre index breaks it down by sub-genre as well, so it's not just three big lists of horror, fantasy and sci-fi, but Grim and Gritty Fantasy, Gothic Horror, Supers, Western, etc. The hyper-linking throughout the PDF makes it incredibly user friendly above and beyond the searchability and book marking.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: While digital books are gaining more and more ground, Eureka does seem priced above the sweet spot that I have unscientifically found the average PDF purchaser to have...especially for an art-lite, black and white book. However, with the "free PDF" deal, the biggest strike against this book is practically a non-issue. Sure, you will find a few plots that don't do anything for you, but there are plenty, plenty more plots for you to play with.

CONCLUSION: And in this case, art-lite is a huge boon to the book as it is CRAMMED FULL of material, and it is completely system-free, so it's not just a great addition for one of your RPGs, but for EVERY RPG. Unless you just never, ever get stuck for ideas, then this is practically a must-buy for any GM.

Friday, January 20, 2012

BAMF!, Fiasco and Tommy's Top Six

Wednesday night, I was on Mike Lafferty's BAMF Podcast, where we talked Fiasco (specifically the Fiasco Companion) with Jason Morningstar of Bully Pulpit Games, as well as Tommy's Top Six. In fact, we set up a Fiasco game in a couple of weeks, which will be my first time gaming on Skype.

Look for a review of Fiasco sometime after the game.

Also, Mike has indicated that he would like to have me back about once a month, so look for more Tommy on the BAMF Podcast!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Tommy's Take on Average Joes

Bedrock Games has done a nice job with Terror Network in the past, covering multiple facets of terrorism, but their newest supplement takes an interesting approach: Normal folks versus terrorists.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Average Joes is a 77 page PDF, available on RPGNow for $4.99. It is a combination sourcebook/module, placing - er - average joes in the War on Terror. The PDF is bookmarked and searchable, and lacks a really flashy layout, though it does pack a lot of information per page.

Compared to Terror Network agents, Average Joes are at a pretty big disadvantage, lacking skill points, resources, contacts...heck, most of them won't even have weapons, at least at first. What they DO get are Civilian Careers and an Attachment, which can be as much of a hindrance as a help. Interesting shift in dynamic.

The scenarios chapter notes that most of the time, an Average Joe will be wrapped up in terrorist situations against their will, and are likely in way over their heads. However, a couple of rules tips are provided to tweak it more cinematically, so you can play "Average Joes Save The Day" and not "Average Joes Get Lucky And Call The Cops". A number of scenarios are presented, with the first being my favorite: A rock band's airbus is mistaken for Air Force One and the band (the PCs) must stop these terrorists before they kill again. Over the top, cheesy fun, yes? There are also a couple of campaign ideas, such as the PCs going all vigilante in their area.

I do so love the Bedrock Games adventures, in large part because of the flexibility they provide. This book does include an adventure, in which a group of eco-terrorists take over a mall while the PCs are there shopping. We get a complete terrorist organization with backstory and bankrolling figure, eco-terrorists known as the Sacred Heart of the Earth. The adventure is a Timeline adventure, with the PCs having the ability to move about the mall and disrupt the actions of the terrorists. The terrorists are on a schedule, too, so the PCs have just over two hours in which to stay alive. The map of the mall shows the likely locations of the terrorists, and a random roll table is provided to set the locations of the PCs at the time of the attack. A good chunk of the map is dedicated to the Areas of Interest and how things might change in a given location (like a terrorist being encountered at Bo's Booze Barn completely plastered). There is also a gun store, in case the PCs hope to even the odds (and you know they do).

The endgame is in the hands of the PCs, even if the Swat Team invades the mall (their success or failure is set up, inadvertantly or not, by the PCs). The wrap-up is open ended as well, being used as a springboard for future adventures, leading to the terrorists seeking revenge, your preference.

The final chapter is a listing of NPCs, from generic stats for the terrorists, to hostages, to the leadership of the organization and local police, as well as specific hostages. Everyone gets a character sheet, bio and relevant notes, like tweaking one of the hostages to either make her a damsel in distress or a brave woman standing up to threats.

WHAT WORKS: A great idea for Terror Network, putting normal schmoes up against the terrorists...and Bedrock Games should be commended again, for showing that terrorism comes in multiple forms. As usual, the adventure is well done, setting up a situation that will play out eepending on the PCs actions.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The layout isn't anything splashy (but then, the price is only $5) and playing an Average Joe alongside standard Terror Network characters isn't terribly balanced.

CONCLUSION: Another great expansion of the Terror Network series, hitting on normal folks having to stand up to terror themselves. A slew of campaign and scenario examples are there to help you out, as well as a fine full-fledged adventure. There are even a couple of option to tweak it to a more cineamtic style, for that Die Hard feel. Is it a complete blow-away, MUST HAVE product? No...but it is a swell, well-written spin on Terror Network without only minor gripes on my end.

Monday, January 16, 2012

And The Winners Are...

I move quickly. We have 55 entrants this year and a ton of blog traffic!

The winners of the Birthday Blog giveaway are:

Ned-Patrick Leffingwell - Ghostories Expanded
Jack McCrary - Realms of Cthulhu
Devin Curtis - Savage Suzerain
Marc Gacy - Savage Worlds Horror Companion
Bif Hammer - Sword Noir (print)
Robert Rosenthal - Complete Sword Noir PDF Bundle
Robert Slaughter - Complete Sword Noir PDF Bundle
Josh Bazin - Tough Justice

Congratulations, folks, and thanks again to Precis Intermedia Games, Reality Blurs, Savage Mojo, Pinnacle Entertainment, Swords Edge Publishing and Postmortem Studios for providing these great prizes!

Enjoy your games, guys!


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Tommy's Take on Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook

I'll confess, I have no experience with the Lone Wolf game books...though I think I have heard of I don't really have any preconceived notions about the Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook. I did read a lot of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure type books, including a fantasy series called Wizards, Warriors & You, but not Lone Wolf. With that out of the way, let's dig in.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The Lone Wolf Multiplayer Gamebook by Mongoose is pretty light for a corebook, only coming in at 112 pages and costs $11.99 at RPGnow. Aside from the cover, it is in black and white, with thumbnails but no bookmarks.

The intro definitely takes the approach that this is a beginner's RPG. That is, not necessarily a KID'S RPG, but very much geared towards first time gamers. It does a nice job of contrasting with video games and the single player books by pointing out that there are generally much fewer limitations in a pen and paper RPG.

Every character in the game is a Kai Lord, who are monk-like servants of the God Kai. The system is pretty simple, with characters statistically defined by their Combat Skill and Endurance, as well as their Disciplines. In fact, the default assumption is that you won't even use dice, instead closing your eyes and touching a number grid with the eraser end of the pencil in order to determine a random number, although the book does wisely mention that you can use dice instead, rolling a d10 and counting it from 0-9.

Combat skill is a random number with 10 added to it, while Endurance is a random number with 20 added to it. You also get five Disciplines, from choices such as Hunting, Healing, Weaponskill and even Mind Blast. There is even a random chart to determine your name, with possibilities such as Wise Dancer and True Helm.

Combat's pretty straight forward stuff. You compare your Combat Skill plus Bonuses to the enemy's, and get a Combat Ratio (which can be positive or negative depending on the spread). Then you roll on the Combat Results table and cross reference the result with your ratio to determine how many Endurance (if any) that each side lost. In extreme cases, one side or the other can be killed instantly. There are modifiers, such as Ganging Up (which can provide cumulative bonuses) and fighting without weapons.

Interestingly, there are ten ranks to the Kai Lords, and you start at Rank 5, gaining a new rank upon successful completion of a quest. Each time you go up a Rank, you add a new Discipline.

The Adventuring chapter covers all of the likely extra rules, like darkness, falling, poison and etc., so the game - despite being so lite thus far - covers that ground, too.

There is also a Tactics section, with the most useful part being a paragraph each on the various Disciplines and ways they can be used (as well as important points such as reminding the GM you have Sixth Sense). It also suggests that the party spreads out the Disciplines so that they aren't crippled if they lose a member.

The GMing section is pretty basic stuff, but given the entire "Beginner's" approach in this book, that's pretty forgiveable.

The bestiary is interesting, as creatures and adversaries (much like PCs) are defined by Combat Skill and Endurance, presented here as a likely range for each creature. Some, like bandits, are given their point range, a description and done. Others, like Doomwolves, have special rules attached to them, like "see in the dark". Others, like Vordaks, even have access to the Mindblast Discipline themselves.

The history of the world begins with creation and runs through present day, when a new leader of the Dark Lords has emerged, and the Kai Lords must venture forth to save the world.

A nice two page map accompanies the gazetteer, which breaks down the four regions in admirable detail, listing rules, cities, populations, resources, currency and allies, as well as relevant game notes.

Finally, an introductory adventure is included. It takes the Kai Lords from the monastery and out into the world, and is a pretty well done adventure. Various points take into account the available Disciplines, such as characters with Sixth Sense having a chance to spot a sneak attack coming, and there are multiple action sequences, including a rooftop chase and not just combat scenes. In what seems to be a growing rarity, the final fight does not assume PC success or failure, even providing flavor text describing the death of a given PC should they fail. A refreshing change of pace, really.

Lastly, the book has an "Action Chart", which amounts to a character sheet, the Combat Results table and random numbers chart.

WHAT WORKS: A surprising amount of ground covered in the rules for such a simple system. The statting of creatures is simple enough that converting one's favorite monsters should be very easy. It would seem to be a very effective, rules-lite starter RPG, with a nice adventure that covers a lot of ground.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The Kai Lords are perhaps too limiting, being the only character option and being so "Lawful Good". The system may be entirely too simple, especially for experienced role-players. Kai Lords only having 10 ranks and starting at rank 5 doesn't bode well for long term play.

CONCLUSION: I believe Lone Wolf could make an effective starter RPG, as it does cover most of the basics and allows you to build from there. One of the cool parts about such a lite system is flexibility, which seems to ring true in this case as well. While I doubt I could get a lot of play out of the game, it seems to be a very solid game for breaking a new player in.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Hellrazer: Living in Shadows (SAGA/BASH/ICONS)

Here ya go, folks...

Game stats for Rachel Strand, half-vampire hero of HELLRAZER: THE CHRONICLES OF RACHEL STRAND and Tonton Macoute, her first adversary.

Special thanks to Greg Kerner for putting these guys to character sheets. I compiled the PDFs, so if anything got jacked up, you can totally blame me.

Hellrazer BASH version

Hellrazer ICONS version

Hellrazer Marvel SAGA version

Thursday, January 5, 2012

The Honorable Mentions

After compiling Tommy's Top Six, I did have a few other books that I felt needed special mention, so I'm going to do that here.

In alphabetical order:

Agents of Oblivion by Reality Blurs: This horror-espionage mash-up gives you the tools to run almost anything from James Bond to the X-Files to Men in Black. You can even amp it up further, making the PCs mutant super agents. It even meshes easily with Realms of Cthulhu for as much, or as little, crossover as you like.

WHY IT DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP SIX: Timing. If I had reviewed this in a separate year than Realms of Cthulhu, this would almost certainly have made it into the Top Six, but I have a "one book per publisher" limit that I impose on the Top Six, and at the end of the day, I feel Realms just brings more to the table.

Caladon Falls by Savage Mojo: Caladon Falls is a fantasy setting/campaign for Suzerain, taking a grittier and more warlike approach than you typically see from fantasy games. In fact, it is largely Band of Brothers meets Lord of the Rings, and it's a very impressive campaign that takes full advantage of the Savage Worlds strengths, namely the ease in PCs commanding NPCs and the Mass Combat rules.

WHY IT DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP SIX: Timing. Fact is, I had to choose between this and Savage Suzerain and as great as THIS book is, THAT book lays all the framework for the awesome twist on Savage Worlds that is Suzerain.

Hellfrost by Triple Ace Games: One of the coolest (no pun intended) fantasy settings that I was very much "late to the party" for, Hellfrost is a dark fantasy setting for Savage Worlds in a world that is freezing quickly. With some great setting rules and a gorgeous bestiary, Hellfrost won me over nearly as soon as I sprang for my copies.

WHY IT DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP SIX: Notice that I said "Hellfrost", which isn't a single book, but three books: The Hellfrost Player's Guide, The Hellfrost Gazetteer and the Hellfrost Bestiary. Honestly, I came very close to nominating both the Player's Guide (because the bulk of the setting is right there) and the Bestiary (because I love monster books, and this is a very well done monster book), but I ultimately split the difference and went with the Top Six that you saw on January 1st.

Horror Show by Bedrock Games: Bedrock Games impressed me with Terror Network and Crime Network, their anti-terrorism and mafia RPGs, neither being subject matter I'm particularly enthusiastic about. In 2011 they took their skill based system and applied it to cinematic horror, in a combination that probably shouldn't have worked as well as it did. In fact, Horror Show wound up being a very pleasant surprise for me, a well-researched horror RPG with a tested system and a lot of love behind it.

WHY IT DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP SIX: The biggest reason is that it is essentially a horror toolkit, and there are horror toolkits out there. It came THISCLOSE to making the Top Six, but I ultimately decided that Ghostories had the more unique hook that would sway someone into trying it even if they already had a go-to horror game, whereas Horror Show seems less likely to sway someone who is already pleased with their horror options.

Part-Time Gods by Third Eye Games: The third corebook by Third Eye Games covers all new territory for the small, but impressive, company: Playing Gods. Sure, this isn't unheard of in RPGs, at all. Where this one is unique from those is that the Gods are still bound to their mortal lives, and have to strike a balance between being Gods and being humans. Utilizing a simplified version of the Dynamic Gaming System to bring the over the top powers of the Gods to life, Part-Time Gods is a worthy addition to the Apocalypse Prevention Inc. and Wu Xing line-ups.

WHY IT DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP SIX: Part-Time Gods was a HUGE success on Kickstarter, which led to a few top tier donors making it into the back of the book as characters. The "vanity buy-ins" just kind of annoy me. I'd prefer the page count being used for things I'll actually use...but I did only pay cover for the book, while they shelled out more. The other thing was that, for maybe the first time, I read an RPG that has multiple PC "factions" (Theologies in this game) and not one of them really GRABBED me. I can usually find a clan, tribe, group, whatever that "speaks" to me, but not this time. Kinda left me feeling like the White Wolf-esque clan approach worked against the game instead of for it this time.

Smallville High School Yearbook by Margaret Weis Productions: A fantastic resource for not only refocusing your Smallville games for a high school setting, but a great snapshot of "TV American High School". In fact, if you have the extra money and are running any kind of game set in modern American high school and need a refresher on things, I'd recommend picking it up.

WHY IT DIDN'T MAKE THE TOP SIX: In this case, I think the focus was specialized enough that if it were a complete game (like Tough Justice), I would have given it a nod. I couldn't quite do that given that it's a very specific (though well written) sourcebook for another game. Fantastic book, limited in scope, but incredibly useful for that scope.

Tommy's Take on Wu Xing: Land of Seed and Blossom

Anyone who has read this blog a long time knows that I dig Wu Xing by Third Eye Games quite a bit. This is especially impressive, since I don't really go for the whole martial arts/anime type stuff. Wu Xing has had two big hits, though, the corebook and The Firebrands, but now it's time to see how its first regional sourcebook - Lands of Seed and Blossom - fares.

WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The Land of Seed and Blossom is the first regional sourcebook for Wu Xing and clocks in at $9.99 in PDF format for 109 pages, while the print version sets you back $19.99. The cover is another great piece of work, showing a pair of ninja in battle (or sparring). I own the softcover and the PDF, but this review is primarily working off of the PDF version (referencing is just faster that way).

The book opens with some flavor fiction, in which a member of the Phantom Voices meets with a member of the Grasping Shadows in hopes of gaining support for the Land of Seed and Blossom to overthrow Imperial Rule. It does not end incredibly well, due to the Empire stumbling upon the meeting, but does a good job of illustrating the politics at play.

Next, we get a history and overview of the Land of Seed and Blossom, showing how the seven clans from this land spawned from the Seven Catastrophes (which included plague, pestilence and even a mini-zombie apocalypse), hinting that the Uprising may be the Eighth Catastrophe, which would presumably spawn a new clan. Given Third Eye Games' notoriously hands off policy on metaplot, I'm not sure how that would work. This chapter also notes important facts (ninja from this land are longer lived), and disturbing truths (the Imperial occupation is starting to have its effect on the people, warping their mindset).

Seven clans are detailed as well. The Bamboo Alchemists are the clan that the Bamboo Herbalists from the corebook split off from, and they are incredibly long lived. The Crystal Bearers are believed to be the first ninja clan, and are pushing for The Land of Seed and Blossom to throw off the shackles of oppression. The Grim Creepers fended off a blight of bugs and are now host to insects...and barely human. The Phantom Voices attempt to calm the Restless Dead. The Sisterhood of the Blood are the most peaceful of the seven clans. The Splendid Chameleons are shapeshifters and guardians of the wild. Finally, Yakubyo's Pox are murdering warmongers in skull faced paint.

Coincidentally (or not) the Land of Seed and Blossom is divided into seven provinces, each largely ruled by one of the Clans. It is said that the first Immortal set foot in the Horoki Province - not surprisingly, The Crystal Bearers hold sway here. The Sisterhood of Blood rule the Kokuso Chitai Province, where they work to hold a peaceful balance between The Crystal Bearers and Yakubyo's Pox. Yuuki, capital of the Land of Seed and Blossom, sits in the heart of the Hanei Province, where Yakubyo's Pox can ensure its safety. The Shinde Shizukana Province houses The Phantom Voices, whose villages resemble graveyards as much as anything. The Bamboo Alchemists lay hidden in the Midori Province. The Toguchi Privince, home of the Grim Creepers, appears wild and overran. The Mejireta Tsuri Province, where the Splendid Chameleons dwell, is also a wild territory, but with lusher, greener grass, clearer water and so on. The Land of Seed and Blossom also holds the Untamed Wilds...which hides its secrets at its heart.

The cool mechanical stuff comes next. For instance, instead of the Elemental natures, each ninja has a Birthstone that affects their temperment depending on the amount of chi they have: Diamond, Emerald, Onyx, Opal and Ruby. A new Passion is also added in Martyr. The sole new Gift is related to the Caste system in this kingdom, from Gatherer to Family Bearer to Hunter to Adventurer to Advisor to Chief. A pair of Drawbacks are present, one in which your ninja has contracted a blood disease and the other in which they never received a birthstone.

We get new Fighting Styles. Frog (which has a few leaping tricks), Rhino (think charging and thick skin), Sloth (think before you act) and Spider (which likes to focus on multiple attacks).

We also get new Wushu: The Way of Denied Repose can fend of the point of raising the dead - including the user - at the higher ends of the spectrum! Way of the Hive Body is as creepy as it sounds, starting with using bugs as messengers, developing into using them as eyes, and even transforming into a swarm. Way of Molded Bodies allows you to use your bones as weapons, stretch and make servants of your flesh, switch genders and even perfectly clone yourself! The Way of Shards seems pretty basic...until the ninja uncaps the limits of their power and taps into a strength akin to the Immortals. The way of Unending Blight is used to unleash disease on all around.

Bats, boars and frogs are added as Celestial animals.

Though the Blossom Ninjas are hostile towards the Lotus Coalition Ninja, the adventure in the back of the book is designed specifically to bridge that gap. It's a short adventure, designed soley to connect the two sets of ninjas and can be used as a mixed group (as it seems to be intended) or for Lotus Ninjas (entering the Land of Seed and Blossom for the first time) or Blossom Ninjas (escorting Lotus Ninjas into the Land of Seed and Blossom).

The book does include an index, as well as a hint at the next Wu Xing Book: Truth and Lies (focusing on the Strands of Fate and the Will of Iron).

WHAT WORKS: Crazy cool new powers, which is kind of the Wu Xing specialty, and a group of unique clans, who have a whole game mechanic that somewhat sets them apart from the Lotus ninjas (the Birthstones). The writing has great flow, as the Province descriptions move seamlessly from one clan to the next. The book is full of plot seeds that can be picked up on and developed. I nearly complained about how the new clans were kind of useless with the old clans, due to hostilities, but that was resolved nicely with the adventure.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: I'm a sucker for a good bestiary, and Wu Xing doesn't have one. Oni are still vaguely defined, and one art piece has ninja fighting off carnivorous plants, which are kind of outside the purview of the setting thus far. Shouldn't be too hard to swipe monsters from Part-Time Gods or API, but what if folks don't HAVE those games?

CONCLUSION: I still love Wu Xing for all its crazy, over the top stuff like turning into bug swarms and transforming your bones into weapons. A very worthy collection of material for Wu Xing and a very promising start to the regional sourcebook series. In fact, I would say the adventure is the most *useful* adventure included in a Third Eye Games book because of how simply and effectively it ties the Lands of Seed and Blossom to the Lotus Coalition. Strong recommendation for Wu Xing fans.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tommy's Take on Smoke & Mirrors, Teen Force 5 and The Globalist


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: The first in a new set of ICONS products (Mutants & Masterminds version also available) by Vigilance Press, Smoke & Mirrors features a pair of supernatural villains for your ICONS game. Written by Jack Norris and featuring art by Jack Dawsey, and only 99 cents in PDF format, Smoke & Mirrors is only ten pages, (closer to six when you remove covers and OGL information), but that's still more than enough to detail a pair of characters. Smoke and Mirrors are lesbian lovers and vicious murderers, and each have unique twists: Smoke is a ghost who can touch things in the real world, while Mirrors is perpetually invisible, and can only be seen in mirrors. Smoke is a spirit of vengeance who has a hard time keeping her rage focused entirely on those who deserve it, while Mirrors is a psychotic killer who murders on behalf of The Unseen Gods.

WHAT WORKS: Each villain has some unique twists, and have backstories open enough that they could be used in a variety of settings. A few general plot seeds are included, in case you just really have no idea how to use them. Also, the PDF includes printable stand-ups of Smoke and Mirrors, if that's your preference.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: One plot seed includes a sidebar for using the Oktobermen from Due Vigilance #1, a Mutants & Masterminds supplement that hasn't seen an ICONS release yet. Smoke's powers indicate that she can become "hard to see", but I'm not sure how that's reflected mechanically, unless it's meant to be part of the Blinding stunt off of her Mental Attack power.

CONCLUSION: Strong art by James Dawsey combined with interesting writing by Jack Norris and an "impulse purchase" price point make this a winner, unless you only like to use ICONS for "animated series" type games, then these two are going to be a tad too dark for that sort of thing. Impressive product.


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Teen Force 5 is a PDF release by Vigilance Press and Xion Studios for ICONS set in the WatchGuard universe, featuring five heroes (Teen Force 5) and five villains (Dark Faction). Each character is given an extensive bio (Marvel Handbook style, almost to a "T"), stat block, character portrait and printable standee. The PDF is 26 pages (including cover, OGL information, standees and so on), and costs $10.99, which admittedly, makes it stand out like a sore thumb among the rest of the Vigilance catalogue. Teen Force 5 is Bluechip (who reminds me a bit of Triatholon from Avengers, except his enhanced Traits are boosted and not always "on"), Jupiter (the female "brick" of the team"), Soundwave (a DJ with sonic/auditory powers), Tempest (a moody weather controller) and Vignette (a Goth mind controller). Dark Faction consists of Braindamage (a Telekinetic with ADHD), Bulldog (the team's brick), HardKnox (son of a luchador, with Osmium Steel Knuckles bearing "Hard" and "Knox" on them), Vespa (scientist turned thief in powered armor) and Zero (who can "halt molecular motion", making him REALLY hard to hit if he's aware of the attack).

WHAT WORKS: Zero is one of the better power concepts I've seen in a while. HardKnox having his name printed backwards on his Knuckles threw me at first, until I realized this way they would leave a "Hard Knox" impression on anything he hit. Standees are always great. The artist on Jupiter does a nice job of drawing her as an attractive woman with muscles, and not just a regular comic book female who happens to be super strong.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: The only background information for the setting is buried in the backstories of the characters, leaving references to things like Summit City and the MHx-trait chromosome pretty meaningless for someone picking this book up (and it is the only Watchguard release for ICONS thus far). Bluechip's bio is (mostly) written in past tense, for no reason that is ever explained. Superhero mind controllers are always really awkward to pull off. The price point versus the content just does not hold up well to other Vigilance releases.

CONCLUSION: At a lower price point, I would have a higher opinion of this product. None of the characters really stand out as anything I haven't seen before, but they also aren't noticeable rip-offs or homages of existing characters, either. Not usable as a starting point for the WatchGuard universe, but certainly mineable for your own games (I'd especially swipe challenge right there).


WHAT YOU SHOULD KNOW: Ah, the Wargames series. GI Joe meets superheroes in ICONS. The Globalist is a Cobra Commander looking chap who is head of an organization called UNITY, which basically seeks to become a big enough of a terrorist threat that the rest of the world joins forces against it, breaking down the barriers between nations and forging a one world government. Kinda like what Ozymandius wanted to do in Watchmen, except The Globalist is putting himself in the line of fire. The PDF is only $1 and includes The Globalist's backstory (with a fantastic twist), his stat block and stats for his Peacekeepers.

WHAT WORKS: The Globalist has a CRAZY secret in his backstory that is almost impossible to just guess, and makes him and his Peacekeepers MUCH more dangerous than you would think. He's also a villain of a radically different philosophy than General Venom, providing a "balanced outlook" to the crazies of the Wargames universe.

WHAT DOESN'T WORK: Oh, the backstory twist may be TOO much for some people. Not in an offensive way, just an oddball way. I, personally, think it's great. Yes, I'm reaching for "complaints" here.

CONCLUSION: I love the Wargames series by Vigilance Press, and this entry continues to impress me with a unique villain who pays homage (in appearance) to another classic Cobra Commander look (mirror face instead of hood), but with a unique backstory and approach all his own.

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!