Archive for RPG Review

[RPG Review] Savage Worlds & Deadlands: Noir

Posted in RPG Review with tags , , , , , , , on December 14, 2013 by Casey Hutton

Before I delve too deep into Deadlands: Noir, I wanted to bring up the topic of Pinnacle Entertainment’s Savage Worlds generic setting/ruleset.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

I have had the Savage Worlds core rules in my possession for quite some time, as it was given to me as a gift along with their Realm of Cthulhu release. I had flipped through it, and found myself slightly confused. Not because the rules themselves are that confusing, but because they were rather simple. Savage Worlds is a ruleset that can literally be used in just about any setting you can imagine, from horror to science fiction to fantasy. Each setting they themselves have released adds a few tweaks to the rules to add some flavor, but in general, with one book you can run any form of RPG setting you have in mind.

Personally, I have played in or ran sessions using these rules that involve superheroes (which, with their Super Powers Companion, makes things rather dynamic and open) and adventures in the Weird West (in the form of their Deadlands: Reloaded campaign setting). All of which, once a basic understanding of the rules had been had, were great sessions. Adults as well as younger players can have fun while not getting bogged down with overly complicated rules. Each session is, essentially, what the Game Master makes of it. Honestly, you can be as simple, rules light as you want or you can tweak things to make them as dice-heavy as the gaming group likes.

Some rules can be flaky, as is the case with the card-based initiative…but even that can be bypassed if you truly do not care for it (they have a dice-based alternative). I was even in that boat, before I delved into Deadlands. What’s more wild west than drawing an ace of spades of a joker? After that, I was in love with it. After being exposed to this method of random initiative in other formats, I had no problems using it in my own Superheroes sessions and it didn’t detract from the feeling at all. In fact, the gaming group seems to love it. That, combined with their Action Deck, the group had a blast and a little something else up their sleeve for when they needed it.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

Photo Courtesy of Pinnacle Entertainment.

This brings me to one of the company’s more recent releases, their Deadlands: Noir setting. Originally, I caught wind of this release as a Kickstarter sometime last year. I’ve always been a sucker for that noir, or pulp, feel in just about anything, whether movies and television, or books and comics. So, after watching their action comics based around the setting I was hooked and waited rather impatiently for when the title was actually released. However, like everything, it was lost in the shuffle due to life and work. But, this holiday season I was doing some digging for gifts and ran across it once more, this time in hardcopy. I ordered it for myself, and read through it from cover to cover the same day. It brings Deadlands and the setting’s lore into the 1930s. New Orleans in the 1930s, to be exact (although locales are expanded on in the Companion release). Same dark, Weird History flavor but instead of horses and dusty western adventure it adds seedy alleyways and private detectives into the mix.

From a fluff standpoint, I feel Pinnacle did a great job in updating their lore and keeping things congruent with other Deadlands releases. They added some edges and hinderances more fitting to the era, and even adapted finances to reflect the impact of the great depression. The core book itself adds little in the way of rules themselves. Instead, it’s all about setting up the table for a bumped up timeline.

Thrilled that I had finally gotten into my hands the long awaited title release, I hopped on over to Pinnacle’s website and dug around on their store. Although there are several PDF releases (which is the norm it seems these days), I still feel that the title is heavily supported. A handful of adventures have already been released, as well as a couple noir-based dime novels. As an added bonus, if the Game Master plans on running anything within the confines of Deadlands: Noir‘s concept of 1935’s New Orleans, you have the added support of several map packs based in and around it.

All-in-all, a worthwhile purchase. If you’re already a fan of Deadlands, which has been around for quite some time, or pulp…or really, just into anything new with a solid grasp on their vision and feel, pick up this title.

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[RPG Review] Victoriana RPG 2nd Edition Core Rulebook

Posted in RPG Review with tags , on October 17, 2012 by Casey Hutton

I love the idea of steampunk in the Victorian era. And with Cubicle 7, they bring the goods to the table with their Victoriana RPG. The fluff found in their releases is enough to make me ecstatic. The authors behind the line really know how to hook their audience and offer literary inserts that makes you feel like you’re reading an actual novella, rather than being nose-deep in a rules book.

Victoriana RPG 2nd Edition Core RulebookTheir Victoriana RPG 2nd Edition Core Rulebook is no exception. Opening with a chapter involving an exorcism in the their version of London, England. Anyone that knows me know I move on to the next thing quickly. I’m distracted by shiny things. It’s a problem. But, because of that, it takes a lot for me to be “I love this!” And, this product in particular, I can say that very thing. Whether or not I’ll every actually play the setting using their own rules (more on that later), I don’t know. But, I do know that this is a book that any gaming should have on their shelves, if for no other reason than the fluff alone!

The world they have created is simply marvelous! They essentially mirrored history of our own, with some slight fudging of times and dates to fit their own timeline. They use legit historical figures and events and make then their own, using their own characters. They make sure to through in enough steam and magic to make anyone with a hint of appreciation for fantasy-based RPGs to swoon over.

The first thing I felt when I picked this up and read through it’s pages was it’s a mid 1800’s version of Shadowrun. Humans, elves, dwarves, etc. all living side-by-side in a magical world of steam-powered machinery and supernatural critters. There have been other companies and other systems that have attempted to delve into this realm of storytelling, and I don’t feel they have done it quite so well as Cubicle 7.

The single-most downside to this is their rules system. Not horrid in it’s own right. It is dice pool (which I personally hate in any setting). For run-of-the-mill playing, their version isn’t so bad…it even made me take a look at why I actually don’t like dice pool systems. Where things start to get bogged down is in combat. Here, the rolls and black dice rolls and counter rolls…it all adds up and until a group gets accustomed with the rules can slow things down to a near stand-still. But, with determination and a little grit, if you can make it through a few sessions using the rules system, it’ll be well worth it as the mechanics begin to smooth themselves out.

Rating: 7/10 Gingered Digits.

[RPG Review] Pathfinder RPG Game Mastery Guide and GM Screen

Posted in RPG Review with tags , , , on October 16, 2012 by Casey Hutton

There isn’t enough that can be said about Paizo‘s Pathfinder Roleplaying Game. They have a ton of support of the game with more releases of supplements than I can shake a stick at. So, from time to time, you’re going to see a posting of a book, module…or really anything I find interesting concerning the gaming line.

Now, I am a completionist. By this, I mean usually, once I invest money into something, I have to have it all. So, when it comes to gaming systems I tend to invest in the “core” books, whether I’ll ever use them or not. Most often that includes the main rulebook, the GM’s guide and a monstrous manual. Most of the time, I really only flip through the core rulebook and only give a slight glance over the rest. GM’s guides are usually filled with crap and to be honest, there’s really no such thing as a guide on how to run a game. Those books are usually $40 advice columns that follow up with page after page of treasure and encounter charts. And, if the game is never run, which usually happens with me, there’s no need to even crack the cover of a monstrous manual.

Pathfinder RPG Game Mastery GuideHowever, Pathfinder’s Game Mastery Guide is amazingly done. Yes, it has the “What If?” sections and how to deal with certain player stereotypes like any other. But, it’s a valuable resource, in my opinion, for anyone wanting to create their own setting rather than just using canon. I bought the Game Mastery Guide with the specific intentions of reading the World Creators section…but, I found myself reading the book from the beginning to it’s end.

The authors go to serious extent in giving tidbits on world building. From how you should start map-wise (whether you want to start small and move out, or start big and move in), to towns and how to make them feel legit, to even the types of people and societies there are in your world. I’ve never actually encountered a GM’s guide that goes to quite the same depth as this.

Naturally, it also has every other table you could possibly conceive that isn’t in the Core Rulebook located towards the end as well. No GM’s guide would be complete without them. But, they do so with a little panache to make you feel like you got your moneys worth…which, honestly, is very hard to do in today’s RPG market.

Rating: 10/10 Gingered Digits.

Pathfinder RPG GM ScreenNo game would be complete without, of course, the GM Screen.

Pathfinder is no different. Their version has chart after valuable chart literally shoe-horned onto the back. No fluff. Not giant spaces of white or artistic filler here. You need a chart? You got it. This is worth the $14.99 (or less) in the simple fact alone most every important chart you might need to GM is found here. It’ll save valuable time in the long run, which means more time gaming and less time looking up what you need to make that encounter run smoothly or player’s roll to take only a few seconds to figure out the outcome.

The artwork on the front is so-so. No stunning panoramic view of the majestic mountains. No fire-breathing dragons. Not bloody war against the goblins. It’s simply their named characters found throughout their rulebooks standing side-by-side, shoulder to shoulder, staring down the player’s before you. Most of these characters are apart of their comic line as well, which is a nice tie-in for Paizo in keep things linked together.

All in all, artwork aside (and to be honest, since you as a GM don’t look at the front, who cares?), it’s an amazing resource if you plan on running anything using the Pathfinder system.

Rating: 8/10 Gingered Digits.

[RPG Review] Pathfinder RPG Core Rulebook

Posted in RPG Review with tags , on October 9, 2012 by Casey Hutton

Pathfinder Roleplaying Game Core RulebookCall me crazy. Call me behind the times. But whatever I am…I’ve finally seen the light! It’s been years in the making, but I think I’ve finally found a system again I’m in love with.

Stuck on an Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Second Edition (think TSR, not Wizards of the Coast) mindset, I’ve been reluctant to hop onto anything new. Now, don’t get me wrong, I get distracted by new things in shiny packaging, but as far as my diet of Dungeons and Dragons goes, I haven’t adapted well to the newer generation of table-top gamers.

I hated 3rd edition, 3.5 and even 4th edition versions of Dungeons and Dragons. Part of that mindset came from the fact that, between myself and the gaming group I regularly play with, we own most, if not all, products relating to AD&D 2nd edition. So, in the last 12ish years, nothing really outstanding has caused us to move forward. Individually, we’ve purchased books here and there. Personally, I’ve invested in all the editions by buying the core rulebooks as well as a handful of other supplemental releases that happen to fit my gaming style.

Finally, after years and years of debating, I have invested in the Pathfinder Roleplaying Game’s “Core Rulebook” by Paizo Publishing, Inc. And, it’s honestly the best financial investment in any RP system I’ve made to date. Within it’s pages is a plethora of gaming goodness. A lot of the problems I have had while perusing D&D 3.5 have been fixed. The system has been taken down to its core and worked from the ground up to make a sound and flowing gaming experience!

Rating: 10/10 Gingered Digits.