RPG Review: Gods of the Fall by Monte Cook Games

Gods-of-the-Fall-CoverIt’s time for an RPG review! Trying to get back into the swing of things, while fulfilling two Kickstarters, planning three more, and handling regular life.

I feel busy. But this week was a good week. I received fulfillment rewards for 5 Kickstarters in the last month, and I’m slowly working my way through them for review.

First up, Gods of the Fall by Monte Cook Games. Gods of the Fall is the first book in the new line of settings for MCG’s Cypher System, a generic ruleset identical to the one that powers the wildly successful Numenera and The Strange games.

Gods of the Fall was a Kickstarter reward, and the game does require the generic ruleset in the Cypher System Rulebook to play the game (think along the lines of the new White Wolf World of Darkess/Chronicles of Darkness line of games).

Players take on the role of adventures who discover they have a divine spark, 40 years after Heaven fell and crashed through the Earth, killing all the Gods. It’s a post-divine, post-apocalyptic fantasy game.


1.) Size and Production Quality.

A nice 188 page hardcover, full color book. Like all MCG productions, the book is a mixture of gloss and matte on the cover, and feels sturdy and durable. It feels solid, and fits nicely along the rest of the MCG games on the shelf. It’s a little thin for $45 USD, but RPG pricing is a hard line to nail down, and I certainly don’t feel like my money was wasted.

8/10


2.) Art

This might be the single most beautiful RPG book I’ve ever owned. Every piece of art in the game is brimming with beauty, evocation and talent. Seriously. I just flipped through the book looking at what might be the most amazing fantasy art I’ve ever seen compiled in a single RPG rulebook.

The graphic design is the normal MCG layout (sidebars with page references and tips, multi-colored chapters), and it holds and contains the art and words in a truly stunning manner.  Can’t rave enough.

It frankly reminds me of the beautiful 4th Edition Legend of the Five Rings books.

11/10


3.) Content / Rules

Ok. So. The Cypher system seems to be a bit polarizing. I haven’t made up my mind about the ruleset in a final decision.

It’s the usual “I’m a _adjective_ _noun_ who _verbs_” but with the addition of a new type, called a domain, that adds on the the end of the Character descriptor and says “and is the _God of _________”.

Ok, that works, and it’s a solid way to get into that. I approve fully, and as always, I like the “adj/noun/verb” char-gen set up. The Domain powers are pretty slick, and there’s wonderfully generic so you can let your imagination run wild. Domains can be as specific as you want, from “God of Winter” to “God of the Morning Frost” to “The Snowflake God of the North” and mechanically the same ruleset will completely cover all the aspects.

The rules for Divine Shifts are a simple variation of the superhero rules in the Cypher corebook (makes sense, and fits), and here’s where the game gets awesome.

You have to complete legendary labors (a la Hercules), fulfill a 7 part prophecy (which is excellent written), gain servants, and help restore the (or create a new) kingdom of Heaven with some semblance of Glory.

It’s amazing. The list of legendary deeds the setting has prebuilt is extensive. Aside for my (admittedly undecided) reservations about the ruleset, this whole section is great game design, evocative setting integration, and exceptionally well dome.

9/10


4.) Game Master Section

The GM section here is designed to be appended to the GM section in the corebook, so it’s a little sparse. It talks about how to run an “epic” game and deal with questions of divinity, god-hood, and integrating some of the fiddly bits of the Cypher System into Gods of the Fall.

7/10


5.) Pre-made Adventure

There’s one here, designed to get you started on your path to Godhood. It’s pretty fun, but as always, all pre-mades suffer from a need to cram all the little bits you need to learn about the game into this book. Wasn’t for me, something with a little more epic (like the GM section advises) around the pre-made would have felt better.

7/10


Total Score: 42/50

That’s a pretty high score, and it reflects my impressions of the game. I am exceptionally impressed and glad I got in on this. I’m already planning a full campaign and how I’d run that, and my head is full of cool visuals, ideas, and plot threads.

This game is awesome. Full stop.

Monthly One-Off Recap! The One Ring from Cubicle 7!

NEW-TOR-packshotEvery month, I or a guest GM, run a “one-off” for any one who wants to come.

It’s always a pre-determined game, set several months in advance, and we use it to teach, learn or try games, we’d not play normally, either due to interest, trepidation or others. It’s sort of a time we cut loose, just play an RPG, and enjoy company with out the structure or stricture of a full campaign (which we love, but a break is nice).

I’ve been heads down on my Kickstarter for my science fiction RPG: Tiny Frontiers, so it was nice to step away and take a break for an evening.


This month, we played The One Ring from Cubicle 7. No one but me had played or read the books before, so we had 5 players new to the RPG, one of which is not a Tolkien fan, and one of which only really knows Tolkien through the movies.

I’ll explain: the reason I chose TOR was two-fold. First off, Lord of the Rings is my all-time favorite book series (as a series). I love the films, the associated media, the books, and all things.

Secondly, I selfishly just wanted to play it again (having only ever done a one-off).

So we sat down, and I provided everyone with pregenerated characters I pulled from the C7 website.

I ran through the rules, the dice, how Hope, Shadow, Fatigue and Endurance worked, and did my best to explain the combat rules before we did any combat.

We started with a pretty iconic style of adventure, Gandalf giving a hobbit a quest to recover a piece of treasure that was driving an Orc Warlord made due to it’s Dragon-Curse. The Dwarves of the Misty Mountain would have gone in force to recover the lost goblet of King Gamlin the Fat, and Gandalf wanted the land to remain settled after the Battle of Five Armies.

We worked through the Journey mechanics and explained how the Travel Map works. We were able to leverage that to great success, with the party encountering harsh rains, that slowed them by several days, but eventually making the trek to Rhosgobel where we used the social encounter rules to have the party gather information at the Inn of the Leaping Trout.

the_one_ring_iconics_wallpaper_by_jonhodgson-d494jc1We had a lot of fun with the introductions, the use of the Riddle and Song skills (which feel very Tolkienian), and learning how fellowship focuses work.

The company eventually traveled off into the deep dark of the Mirkwood where they encountered giant spiders, and the Orc warband of Gathon the Greedy, an orc who survived the Battle of Five Armies, but was driven mad by Dwarven gold he stole.

There was a ferocious battle, and wounds were taken and shed on both sides, but eventually the foul Orc was slain.

The treasure was returned to Gandalf, and all ended well.

We ran out of time, so we didn’t get to leverage or use the Fellowship phase, but overall it was great.


The mechanics and style of the game feel very Tolkienian, and the strength of the game is clearly apparently, as it’s a master-class in building rules around the form and setting of a game.

I loved it, and all the players were complimentary of the mechanics, agreeing that it fit the idea and feeling of Lord of the Rings.

(Highly Biased) Grade:

  • Mechanics: A-
  • Setting: A+
  • Accessibility: A
  • Replayability: A+

I think I might be able to run a TOR campaign shortly! Everyone had a good time, and several people were very complimentary regarding the mechanics and feel of the game.

An excellent success and a winning game.

RPG Review: Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition from Green Ronin

GRR5510e_MutantsAndMastermindsThirdEditionDeluxeHeroesHandbook_1_1024x1024Wow, two RPG reviews in a week. Aren’t you lucky?

I have a soft spot in my RPG heart for Mutants and Masterminds, as both my favorite superhero RPG, and one of my best campaign memories (an online play-by-post) with some of my best friends at the time.

I’ve only tried to run it a handful of times since then, but I still carry very fond memories of it. So I finally took the dive and obtained the 3rd edition corebook, several years after it had already been out.

So here I am, to review Mutants and Masterminds Third Edition!


1.) Size and Production Quality

A 288 page full color hardback book. Regular sized, and expertly laid out, the quality of this book is also very reminiscent of the graphic design/layout of the previous 2e edition I fell in love with. It’s a well made book, and very easy on the eyes to read. The quick references pages at the end are fantastic, and very useful in the heat of game play.

10/10


2.) Art

In my previous review, I complained about art being reused from previous editions, and M&M 3e commits some of the same sins. However, they go out of their way to also include new art, which is fantastic. Some of the new “iconic” heroes, are amazing, and the art that covers them is equally amazing. There’s a few weak points in the art throughout the book, but very few books have gorgeous perfect art all the way through.

8/10


3.) Content/Rules

So. One of the big struggles with M&M 2e was it’s mired beginnings in 3rd edition D&D’s OGL. There was a lot of holdover baggage there, and the game suffered in actual play for it.

I’m pleased to find that 3e doesn’t commit those errors. The design team did a fantastic job of stripping the game down to it’s core and basic play mechanics and rebuilding from there. Multiple tables have been condensed into a single quick reference table. Powers have been streamlined, and problematic powers have been completely redefined into newer versions with better mechanics, or removed completely. There were a few old powers I missed in the new book as their own powers (gravity control, etc), but Green Ronin did the stellar job of publishing a very in-depth and useful conversion guide (here) that will cover your needs and help you find the new equivalent to those old powers.

The changes to abilities, advantages, skills, and effects really bring the game into a simpler design space, while retaining the “complexity” of custom builds that helped to allow a player to truly define what they wanted.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

As always, I normally loathe game master sections. But, Green Ronin knocked it out of the park here, with indepth examples of the more complex rules, detailed analysis of comic book and superhero genre, (in movies, comic, novel or other formats).

I was actually quite impressed. My only real complaint is the lack of easily accessible PDF print outs of some of the charts and tables they want you to use. I understand the lack (buy the GM screen), but as a player who doesn’t like GM screens, I really don’t want to buy one. I’d rather just have a reference sheet I can use as needed.

8/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

Wow. 2 pre-made adventures that are distinct, different, and very well written. As a bonus, there’s a partial 3e update to Freedom City (their old 2e default setting), and their new setting Emerald City (which actually seems really cool).

Well done Green Ronin. Well done.

10/10


Total Score: 46/50

Wow. Not a bad score (actually really high, I think only Pendragon books have beaten this one out). I love this edition, and I’m intending to make time for it after my next campaign wraps up (whenever that is).

A great book, and one I’ll avidly recommend, especially if you love the genre like I do.

Monthly One-Off Recap: Pendragon!

KAP+Pendragon+5.1Every month, I or a guest GM, run a “one-off” for any one who wants to come.

It’s always a pre-determined game, set several months in advance, and we use it to teach, learn or try games, we’d not play normally, either due to interest, trepidation or others. It’s sort of a time we cut loose, just play an RPG, and enjoy company with out the structure or stricture of a full campaign (which we love, but a break is nice).

This month, we played King Arthur Pendragon, the 5.1 edition from Nocturnal Media. Only one of our players had played before, so it was a new experience for the rest of the guests.

I’ll recap: the reason I chose Pendragon was two-fold. First off, Pendragon is my all-time favorite roleplaying game. Bar none. I consider the mechanics, setting, roleplaying, and theme perfectly melded into the perfect game. As an RPG designer, it had more influence on me than any other game. I can’t talk about it enough, or rave about it enough to anyone who will listen (and often those who won’t). kap2

Secondly, due to my constant raving, talking, and musing on Pendragon, several of my players from my various groups who had never tried it, wanted to try it.

So we sat down, and I walked them through the base character creation in the core book. I was using the new Great Pendragon Campaign expansion of 480 – 484 that recently came out with The Book of Uther (review here), and set it in that time frame. KAPBookofUther

Character creation was a blast. The explanation of Traits (internal personality and emotional drivers) and Passions (external attachments and drivers) instantly fired the new players, and made visualizing their knightly character much easier for them. The skills, the family history, and the land ownership instantly invested them in the setting and the game, and made everyone much more involved that I usually see in a one-off.

That took about an hour to get everyone through, we determined their land, and got them started on their quest.

It was a brief adventure, involving brigands who were holding a small ford used for trading, newly knighted characters with something to prove, and a scheming manor lord out for more power and authority.

We did the Winter Phase (despite the one-off nature), because I wanted the players to experience the phase I consider the most fun in the game, and the aspect I enjoy the most, namely manor management. all the players but one successfully had children, and the odd one out lost his wife and child during the winter phase, and there was mourning throughout the land.

There was excellent roleplay all around, some great rolls, some terrible rolls, inflamed passions (in characters, not players), revenge, and honor. The game felt instantly captivating to me, and after the game, we had a recap, and the reviews were unanimously positive regarding the mechanics, setting, and ideas behind Pendragon.

(Highly Biased) Grade:

  • Mechanics: A+
  • Setting: A
  • Accessibility: A+
  • Replayability: A

I think I might be able to reboot my Great Pendragon Campaign shortly if I can keep selling the game like this. Of course, the game makes it easy to sell, due to it’s excellent and awesome nature.

Overall, a resounding success.

RPG Review: The Book of Uther from Nocturnal Media

161509As part of my plans for the new years, I’m going to spend some time revisiting, reviewing, and playing older RPGs that deserve some attention. That means more actual play posts, more reviews, and just overall, more content.

So, here’s the first one of the new year! The Book of Uther from Nocturnal Media. I’m a massive fan of Arthurian lore (my Keltia review reference that), and so, here I am to review the latest book in the “leather book” line of King Arthur Pendragon books.

As a preface, I’ve gushed about Pendragon before, and I hold that KAP is probably the greatest, and most well-researched, written, and delivered roleplaying games of all time. However, that doesn’t mean this review is all cupcakes and roses. There’s some serious talkin’ ’bout to happen here.

 


1.) Size and Production Quality

A full size 160 pages, black and white interior (which…red reminder/rules text on the sidebars? That felt weird).  For 30$ + S&H, softcover, as you can only get it in POD or PDF from DriveThruRPG. The price point feels a little weird, and while the design, layout and interior quality is all great, but the book’s price point and thinness left me a little…cold.

There’s also a few typos, specifically around some of the usage of latin, where the plurals and singular forms get switched around and messed up. Not a major quibble for the average reader I suspect. For a thin, black and white book (essentially), I think it could be cheaper. Many other games (Savage Worlds comes to mind), can sell fullcolor books for less on DriveThru’s POD service.

6/10


2.) Art

All of the art is culled from various medieval sources, and fits the atmosphere of the book exceptionally well. Some of it (as acknowledged by the author) is anachronistic, but even that art, still delivers on the theme and feel of the game. It’s an exceptionally deliberate choice that is expertly executed on.

10/10


3.) Content/Rules

 

Oh, look at that. Rules regarding Uther’s coronation, the politics and courtly states of the times, members of The King’s Progress, and stats for Uther and Excalibur…

That’s right. I don’t think Uther and Excalibur get stated quite this way in any other book (I could be wrong of course, as I’m only familiar with the 5e line, but a quick pass through my 5e books seems to bear me out).

All of the NPCs are well done. The delivery of the discussion around castles, property organization and management, and more is fascination as always, and Stafford (the author) delivers another excellent bout of history and gaming merged into a singular experience.

New mechanics around monks (cloistered religious ones, to be clear), and some new skills really round out the game.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

The whole book is really a giant game master section mixed with additional rules you can use to enhance your Pendragon campaign. The Content/Rules review up above really serves well to cover what I felt about the book.

10/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

Doesn’t exist here, so instead, we’re going to talk about the 5 year expansion to The Great Pendragon Campaign that is contained within The Book of Uther. 

Normally, the GPC covers years 485 to 566, but with the expansion in the BoU, you get an extra few years from 480 to 484. This means, your campaign can now cover the entirety of King Uther Pendragon’s reign. And every bit of it is awesome.

The new NPCs, conflicts, and chances to establish your lineage a little bit earlier are wonderful. They add a lot more depth than I expected, and giving the characters a chance to be allies of Uther from the start really adds a certain, feel to the game, I can’t help but love.

10/10


Total Score: 46/50

Well, The Book of Uther now has the highest score I’ve ever awarded to an RPG review on this blog since doing this format. Congrats!

I gotta be honest, I had to work to keep it as “objective” as possible, but I was ecstatically reading this book and loving every minute of it. I still hold Pendragon as the best RPG ever made (in any context, suck it everything else), and I think the Book of Uther is a must-have addition to the line.

RPG Review: Feng Shui 2 from Atlas Games

fengshui2_cover_finalFeng Shui 2 was is a recent sequel to the excellent Hong Kong Gun Fu action movie RPG of Yesteryear, Feng Shui. The inevitable comparisons to the recently Hollywood trend of rebooting films unnecessarily is low hanging fruit, so we’ll avoid that.

I’m going to give the sections ratings in bullets! No I’m not. That’s not a valid rating system. Sorry.


 

1.) Size and Production Quality 

A 352 page hardback in full color with gorgeous fullpage and half page illustrations, fantastic layout, AND it’s a genre game? That’s all awesome for a 50$ price tag. For serious, compare to the last book I reviewed: Keltia Review. 50$ for that book, black and white, and 100 and change less pages. Feng Shui 2 is a steal.

10/10


 

2.) Art

For the most part the art is top notch, and really drives the feel and quality of the game home. There’s art on almost every other page, and the graphics, and iconography of the game is intuitive and easy to use.

9/10


 

3.) Content and Rules

With such a massive book, there’s a lot packed in here. There’s atreatise on the Chi War (the game’s default setting), and then it gets right into the basic rules and characters. The game has 36 character archetypes you can play as. They’re all in the vein of Apocolypse World, where you pick the archetype, fill in a few details, and call it good. But every single idea you could want is covered here. Pretty great.

The base mechanics are the same as the original game, (rolling piles of d6), and here’s where the game bogs down a bit. There’s a lot of addition, subtraction, learning when to roll, finalizing rolls and results, and more. It’s not unmanageable or even bad, but it’s less “furiouser and faster (as the back cover says) than I’d like for a game based on action cinema. It’s just simply unwieldy.

However, there are many improvements on the first edition, and regarding that, the game isn’t bad at all. I have no complaint with the system, but I feel it could have been either streamlined or simplified in order to provide faster game play.

7/10


4.) Game Master Section

As I’ve noted, I normally loathe GM sections, however, Feng Shui 2 delivers one of the best I’ve read. Clear examples of how to use genre tropes and archetypes to deliver a compelling story. It gives the GM some setting information to surprise players with and then wraps up neatly with some excellent advice about the Chi War.

As a bonus, the book has a fantastic filmography of action cinema films, and any movie aficionado should enjoy the list of movies here.

8/10


 

5.) Pre-made Adventure

The premade adventure focuses on the story and idea of the Chi War, and introduces Cyber Apes. Soooo, yeah. It’s probably not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you’re playing Feng Shui 2 for the Chi War and not straight Hong Kong action, you’ll love it.

7/10


Total Score: 41/50

That’s the second highest rating I’ve ever given, and 1 lower than the leader (Keltia due to theme). I’d recommend this game, and in fact I have.

Your group might need to house rule a few things, but it’s a well made, well produced, and thematically fantastic piece of art.

RPG Review: Keltia from Cubicle 7

KeltiaCover550Time for an RPG Review! Anyone who knows me will know that I am a huge fan of Arthurian roleplaying, history, and myth, and integrating that into my RPGs.

So Keltia seemed like a natural fit for me, and I bought it. Guess that’s time for a review then eh?

As usual, let’s start with:


 

1.) Size and Production Quality

A 240 page hardback that MSRPs for $49.99. Hm, little bit of a small book for a price tag like that, but it seems like RPGs are getting more expensive anyways. The art inside and layout is in greyscale which was exceptionally frustrating. For $50 I expected a full-color book. Pages feel a little thin, but the book itself is plenty sturdy.

5/10


2.) Art

The art inside itself is quite evocative and beautiful, and works in the greyscale feel of the book. The cover is simply gorgeous and one of my favorites I’ve seen recently. Can’t complain there.

10/10


3.) Content/Rules

The interior layout of the book was interesting. There was a good 80 pages of setting in a lot of detail. Serious detail. A fascinating read, but it was a bit jarring to see so much setting first. It reminded me of layout I’ve seen in Pinnacle books. It kinda jarrred me at first, but that’s probably due to the currently reading slate of RPG books I’ve been involved in. The detail given about the world and setting is fantastically done, and the discourse on the “true” Arthur is well done. Where C7 filled in gaps in real world knowledge, it flows very well, and makes logical and cultural sense.

The rules are mostly good. They’re mostly simple, and mostly to the point. There’s a few points in which I was confused and had to reread multiple sections, and there’s one particular section that I still am unsure about. Character creation is fast and easy, and the rules of the game will not bog down in play.

I like their combat system, the multiple action set up is exceptionally interesting. Their combat action list is well thought out, but it’s a little too much for how fast the rest of the game plays. They need cards to remind you of the options.

10/10


4.) Game Master Section

Historically I have little patience for Game Master sections, and C7 historically keeps theirs pretty well done, and focused on how to capture atmosphere, and feel of the game. No exceptions here. I like what they did, but a few examples of rules usage would make up for some previous confusion.

8/10


5.) Pre-Made Adventure

Well well. An Arthurian “saga” adventure that will be continued throughout splat books and detail the coming of Arthur, and his rise to power/fame/etc. It’s interesting. It’s short. It’s fun. It’s well done. I have no complaints here, other than it’s a little too short.

9/10


 

Total Score: 42/50

That’s the highest score I’ve given, so… pretty good score?

Frankly, and I tried to keep the gushing down. This is one of the best RPG purchases I’ve made in recent years, and I can’t wait to get a real campaign going and buckle down to play in a mythic history of Arthur. I would highly recommend this RPG to anyone, and it’s got a very strong chance of being in my top 3 RPGs of all time list.