Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Arcanis 5E Campaign Setting

Product– Arcanis 5E Campaign Setting

System– DnD 5e

Producer-Paradigm Concepts, Inc.

Price– $25.00 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/234910/Arcanis-5E-Campaign-Setting?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-Shades of grey are finally comprehensible!  95%

Basics-For the EMPIRE!  FOR ILLIIR! Arcanis was a campaign setting for 3.5 DnD which grew to its own game when 4th edition happened, and finally is coming back into the DnD mechanics with a conversion of DND 5e.  How does the world of the Shattered Empires stack up with a 5e rebuild? Let’s get into it!

Mechanics or Crunch-I usually start with theme, but let’s go mechanics first.  If you like 5e DnD, then you will like this. This isn’t a scrap to the base boards rebuild of DnD 5e, it’s a new implementation using the same base mechanics of proficiency, hit dice, et al. you most likely love from DnD 5e.  And honestly, that a good thing. I could give any person playing “Hoard of the Dragon Queen” an Arcanis character and they would be playing in seconds. So that begs the question, what’s different? Well some things are just simple reskins.  The Fury is the Barbarian. It’s got some different parts to it, but let’s be honest-it’s just a new name. Not bad, some theme for Arcanis added, but it is what it is. Some get a much more exhaustive change. Paladins are holy champions, and they might be a tad overpowered if you build them right, but that’s a criticism of DnD 5e itself.  Holy Champions get god specific paths to take that really hit theme hard with powers appropriate to the gods of the setting. The same thing for clerics. There are new races with instructions on how to change DnD straight races toward Aracnis races like there are no Tieflings, but there are Dark kin. New feat trees are brought in so you can master a fighting style with both introduction and advanced versions of those feats.  The book also introduces psionics in a heavy way, but honestly, it’s just the same mechanics you’ve seen time and time again in DnD 5e vanilla. You have powers, the DC of the power is 8 + ability mod + proficiency or you attack with a power and you use ability modifier + proficiency. DONE. Vanilla is my favorite base for ice cream, so this isn’t a bad. Rocky road starts Vanilla, and that’s what this book did. It took the base stuff you know and like and made it something you will love. 4.8/5

Theme or Fluff-So what is Arcanis?  Well, that’s probably the best thing this book does.  You get to feel the Shattered Empires honestly better than before.  It’s a pretty weighty tome coming in over 400 pages, so you get a lot of backstory.  And that’s really what this world needs. I came in when DnD 4e brought about a major change in the RPG world around it.  The Aracnis alone system wasn’t bad, but it relied heavily on me having books that we not in print and knowledge for a world that I could not find.  So, I was honestly in the dark for large portions of this world. Heck, there wasn’t even a great map available. I had fun with what I understood and playing in, so off I went playing and running Arcanis all over.  But, I would always run in to diehards who knew stuff from the wayback. The 5e book fixes this smashingly. I get better breakdowns in things. It’s big, but doesn’t have to dedicate all the pages the base DnD system does to the base rules just saying “GO SEE THE OTHER BOOK YOU BOUGHT!” and can dedicate those words to how the world works.  That’s amazing! The mechanics have been adapted and modified to meet the needs of the theme. Again, that’s a phenomenal way to build your world. As a GM when I run games with this book, I’m not lost. I feel like I finally know as much or MORE than my players. Sure, they are also republishing all the old books with updated rules, but this is a good way to hop in to a world of multiple different empires and groups fighting and in-fighting for control in a quzi roman world.  5/5

Execution-And the low point because I’m a bit petty.  I like the way this book is laid out. I like the text style, but it might be a bit too small.  I like the background, but I would like a background free version to read on my tablet. It comes in a PDF from Drive Thru RPG, so I’m thrilled that we’re moving Arcanis to the Paper free world.  But the things that makes me the least happy is no-hyperlinks in the text. This book is 400 plus pages. Thats a lot of hopping around trying to find pages. Just link the book! The book is bookmarked, so if you read on some readers, you will be fine.  Honestly, it’s small things that minorly annoyed me about this book, but as the RPG industry moves forward, I want hyperlinked PDFs to become the standard! 4.4/5

Summary-The real two remaining question to if you want this book is 1-Do you like the 5e DnD rules? And 2-do you want morally ambiguous semi-roman age fantasy?  If you don’t like 5e DnD, then this book still has lots of background that you might want to put into your game. If you don’t like shades of gray in your fantasy but love DnD 5e, then this is a great source book for crunch including psionics which WotC needs to get out there before they end up just copying these guys.  I like this book. I like the shades of gray fantasy that Arcanis bring to the table and using 5e is a great way to get people into the world extremely quickly since 5e is a snap to learn. My only qualms with this book are technical. Give me a backround free version if I want to print and bind myself or read on a tablet and HYPERLINK THE BOOK!  Will that stop me from reading this? No. This books is a well done resource from a fun world where a fallen Roman empire battles snake people for dominance of long lost relics that belonged to the elven gods that the Roman gods ate for power using slick mechanics. Ya, that’s an Arcanis sentence if I ever saw one. If you want to play in that world, then you need to get this book NOW! 95%

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Ring Side Report- RPG Review of What’s Past is Prologue

Product– DDAL-ELW00-What’s Past is Prologue

System– DnD 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $4.99 here https://www.dmsguild.com/product/248589/DDALELW00-Whats-Past-is-Prologue?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR-I can get my DCC RPG in DnD now!  92%%

248589 (1)

Basics-A get rich quick job in Eberron?  That CAN’T FAIL! The players take the roll of level zero characters as they attempt to earn a ton of money on a simple pick up and deliver job.  Along they way they get a ton of thing to sell for millions of GP, but how will they do it?

Theme or Fluff-The story of What’s Past is Prologue is a pretty simple one, but it’s done well.  The players get pregenerated characters that they will meet later in the Eberron adventurers league adventures.  This story tells how the characters got together, how they get a ship, and how they are amazing wealthy. That part of the story is fun and really tells a great Eberron based story while giving me the GM a jumping on point to dump the Eberron goodness on my Forgotten Realms/old school fantasy only players.  The only real problem with a prologue based story, is players always do things they are not supposed to do! The adventure gives some guidelines for this, but honestly, my players could not ditch the skyship fast enough! It might have been easier to instead of having a Sharn based section where the players can go off the script have some other story of how the characters fix their newly acquired ship.  It’s not game ending, but be ready for this eventuality! 4.5 /5

Mechanics or Crunch-This adventure features something new in DnD-level zero characters!  I love level zero character in Shadow of the Demon Lord and DCC/MCCRPG, so this was great for me!  My players had to adjust to this, but they dealt well. Aside from that, the encounters are balanced with the limited power of the players.  Running DCC style funnels in DnD 5e is a valid way to build characters now! 5/5

Execution-This is a solid modules that is spaces nice, reads quick, and provides most of what I want in an adventure.  Its a PDF, so that makes me happy! But, it doesn’t have hyperlinks between the parts so I can quick navigate.  Also, this modules again doesn’t have much if any box text. BOX TEXT IS SUPER IMPORTANT! It lays the scene for the GM to get in the right headspace on the fly as well as making sure the author lays out what information the PC have right away without the GM having to take notes on what’s in the scene.  The first paragraph of each section is like box text, but I as a GM have to read that, chop out my parts, and give a good scene starter to the players. Another issue is the number of pregens. You can have seven characters at a DnD Al table, but this adventure only comes with six. If you want to run seven, you have two of the same character, and that’s not as much fun.    Aside from those issues, the book is laid out gorgeously. The layout uses lots of old Eberron artwork. For a non-WOTC product on the DMs Guild, this is the exact reason the Guild was made-get non-WOTC people to make great product using art assets that usually only WOTC could reprint. This book has some obvious flaws, but it’s still a solidly produced book. 4.25 /5

Summary-The best and worst part of a DnD story are the players.  In a homebrew game, where the players can completely 180 degree their characters because they want to, free choice is amazing.  In a prologue adventure, that freedom hurts the story a bit as the PCs behave in ways the regular characters would not. That said, the story here is a great one and I can’t wait for the next part of the story and how players own characters will interact with their prologue selves.  The new mechanics here work well, are simple to implement, and easy to understand. That’s the trifecta of new bits on an RPG system, so good job! The execution is a bit off, but not in a way the will destroy the product. GIVE ME HYPERLINKS AND BOX TEXT! We’re exploring a ship, so having a ready to go box text will rapid fire my players through the exploration and get me in the rooms mood.  But, the book look AMAZING! I love the layout, text, spacing, and all the wordy bits that some modules forget are an important part of the human reading process. If you want to jump on the Eberron Adventurers League season, then this is an excellent way to start. 92%

 

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Lover in the Ice

Product– Lover in the Ice

System– Delta Green

Producer– Arc Dream Publishing

Price– $4.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/184098/Delta-Green-Lover-in-the-Ice?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Good adventure, Hard NC-17 rating!  85%

Basics-Some things are best left unremembered.  In “Lover in the Ice”, a snow storm opens up a Delta Green storage facility, and “something” gets out.  Can you stop whatever got out from loving its way across Missouri in a blizzard?

 

Theme or Fluff-The story of “Lover in the Ice” is a solid one.  Players race around a medium sized town in the middle of a blizzard of the century.  It’s got some great scenes that feel real and a lot of little extra fill out the world details.  What I miss from most of Arc Dream’s work is intro paragraphs of box text. These set the scene for the players and really the GM to get you in the right headspace for each location.  I’m long enough in the tooth that I can cobble one together from the description, but this is something that needs to be part of each place you visit! Players do a breach, bang, and clear for several houses and locations, and a quick section detailing what each room looks like will really help my players and me.  It doesn’t make the story any less fun, but it does make me have to do more work. What here though is fun, but HOLY COW it’s hard R. KNOW THIS GOING IN! If your group is ok with that, then have at this one! 4.5 /5

 

Mechanics or Crunch-Overall, I like what’s here, but I think some things need to be filled out a bit more. There is a monster that can do some very horrible things to the players.  I’d like a bit more words on how the attack is done. I have an idea of how it works, but I’d like either a few extra checks or two phase method of attack to make it happen.  Otherwise the attack looks like its a one and done prospect. That’s a bit rough. Also Delta Green likes to just give the players information saying if you have HUMINT 30% you know X.  I prefer to make the players roll. This is at odds with the ideas Arc Dream has of not making trivial things rolls, but it’s more in line with player expectations. Players like touching dice and even if I say “you know X because of your HUMINT 30%”  It feels less fun to the guy/gal holding the dice. Overall, this is much more of a social/explore mission than a straight up fire fight. Don’t expect Fallujah level fights here! This is a contain the problem mission. The mechanics work well, but I had a few issues that I changed on the fly because its my game and I can.  I think you will do the same, but I think these changes should be a standard part of the scenario. 4.25 /5

Execution-I like the basic setup of this mission.  Now, let’s get petty! “Lover in the Ice” has a decent layout, but for the price, I kinda want a cover page, more art, and hyperlinks.  Its a PDF, but not hyperlinked, so I get slightly annoyed. It’s pretty short, so this is a good one shot. But, I’d like a bit more production value.  The monster gets a hand drawn picture, but never a nice, graphic picture I can throw to my players. The handouts I gave to my players are amazing and horrified a few of the players to stop reading!  But the adventure puts up a few red herrings along the way. There is a section where players can keep finding random crap. Nothing in the random crap box is useful except one item. That is fun to see all the different things in there and what other things Delta Green might have been up to!  I’d also like player maps of places without the marks that a GM has. These unmarked maps are VERY useful as something I can plunk down on the table instead of having to remake maps or just cover up points of interest. I like the general execution of this adventure, but I’d like a few more things to really knock it out of the park.  4.25 /5

Summary-I really love this adventure!  It’s got a solid storyline, good execution, and enough action to keep the players involved.  It is not without its faults. I’d like a bit more direction or changes to some of the rules, some extra writing, and some minor things added to the product.  None of the faults here absolutely breaks the game in any way. Honestly, if your group can stand Hellraiser and wants to try Delta Green, then this is a great intro game.  If your group cannot stand theme of body horror and rape, then give this one a hard pass.  Just like sushi, it can be done amazing, but if you can’t stand raw fish, pass and be polite.  Don’t force anybody to eat the sushi! But if you want to try this one, it’s a great day to save the world from some crazy horrors in the snow!  85%

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Masks of Nyarlathotep

Ring Side Report- RPG Review of Masks of Nyarlathotep

Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea everyday!

Product– Masks of Nyarlathotep

System– Call of Cthulhu, 7th Edition

Producer– Chaosium

Price– $59.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/245820/Masks-of-Nyarlathotep–7th-Edition?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Ya, this is about as good as it’s gonna get!  98.3%

Basics-Where will you find the Dark God?  Masks of Nyarlathotep is one of the granddaddy scenarios for Call of Cthulhu occuring in almost every edition of Call of Cthulhu.  Starting in Peru as a backstory adventure or in New York when the main action starts, players find a world spanning cult where different groups worship and advance the goals of an ancient evil creature beyond the stars as they travel the globe.  Let’s dig into this GIANT tome.

Theme or Fluff-You might not like Call of Cthulhu or Chaosium, but you can never fault them for their research.  First the “main” book clocks in over 500 pages. The original edition of Masks was about 150 pages.  That was pretty big for something in the 80s, but HOLY COW! This book has some details that you might never thing to check.  When was the first plane the flew over the Andes? The book checks! What is the ethnic makeup of the different locations in 1920s?  The book checks! This book has lots of small details provided where you need them. The story has been repeated so many times before, but that doesn’t make it bad, because this is the people who told it before. You’re going to stop a bad thing across the world.  It feels like Indiana Jones pulp, but then again, it should. Indiana Jones is 1920s. You just have to choose how much Pulp you want in your Mythos Orange Juice. Whatever your desire, this book is an excellent resource for telling a world spanning mythose tale. 5/5

Mechanics or Crunch– I really like the Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition rules.  It’s light and clean. I’d like a bit more character advancement beyond your numbers increase, but overall, it works really well.  That’s the rules you get for this book. The people who wrote the rules I like wrote a story they know well. So, unsurprisingly, it’s done well.  Now, it’s not perfect. I’d like some more advice on some things, but that criticism goes to the heart of Call of Cthulhu, 7th edition. Some things are hand waved a bit too much for my taste like if I keep the ancient evil gold, how much does your credit rating go up?  A bit more advice in those aspects would help, but I don’t think it hurts the product too much. This version of Masks is like the advice given by Michelin Star chefs-simple, well produced ingredients prepared expertly make amazing products. 4.75/5

Execution-GAWDDAMN!  So, Masks of Nyarlathotep is a beast at the main book clocking in over 500 pages.  But for $60 for a PDF, that would put that at an average price point. (By the way, hyperlinked PDF because Chaosium, while they write about the past, is not stuck in it!)  But, IT DOES NOT STOP THERE! You get a handout PDF that is expertly crafted so you can hand that out to your players WITH MAPS! You get a file of NPC portraits that you can show off.  You get a PDF of a GM screen and a separate Keepers guide. HOLY COW! You took the time and made this thing amazing. Oh ya, new art, maps, and the layout is great too. That’s usually what I whine about, but those basics are covered so well that I barely felt the need to mention it.  Like normal, I skimmed the first section before my first game running it and was able to pull of a great game without having to memorize the giant section on Peru. Digging deeper pays off, but its written well enough that you can just jump in the command chair right away and get running.  That’s hard to pull off in a FIVE HUNDRED PAGE BOOK! I really want to emphasise that! I’ve had basic DnD scenarios not be able to pull that off in five pages, so kudos to the writers. The price is a bit steep for some new GMs, but if you can pull the trigger, then you will get exactly what you need to run games for at least a year, if not more.  This level of production is well worth the price. BONUS ROUND!!! PDFs should be free if you buy the book. That’s my bold stance. Chaosium agrees. If you buy the PDF from them and then go to buy the physical book from them, then you SUBTRACT THE PDF PRICE FROM THE BOOK! The physical price will be over $100 because it’s over 500 pages (AGAIN THAT’S A LOT!), but if you want a book that can break a shelf at your house, consider ordering form them since you get the PDF for free when you get the physical copy.  Also, I LOVE this strategy as maybe I only want one and not the other but might change my mind later. LISTEN OTHER COMPANIES, GO DO THIS! 5/5

Summary-Every DnD player explores the Tomb of Horrors.  It’s in almost every edition, it get reprinted, and it’s a rite of passage.  Sometimes that reuse of material is throw in a separate book and called good as a slapdash money grap when you don’t have anything better on the horizon.  Sometimes the product is nurtured, loved, and cared for till it matures like fine wine. That is exactly what happened here. The 7th edition Masks of Nyarlathotep is an phenomenal product that is well worth the considerable money you are putting into the product.  I love the writing, the mechanics, and the overall presence of this thing. It’s got some flaws, but those are minor issues that will not distract from the amazing product her. If you have the money and want to play some Call of Cthulhu, then this is your purchase!   98.3%

 

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Custom Heroes

Product-Custom Heroes

Producer– AEG

Price– $25.00 here https://www.amazon.com/Alderac-Entertainment-Group-Custom-Heroes/dp/B07117V56Q

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 45 minutes (3-6 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Build a hero!  89%

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Basics- Cards!  Assemble!  Custom heroes is another in the card crafting games lineup from AEG.  This game is a trick taking game where one player will play any number of cards of one number, and every player after them will play cards of the same number or higher numbers until no one can play any more cards, and the last player wins the round.  Then, the player who went last starts again. An example would be starting with three 4s, and then play continues to 3 10s. You can also skip other players by playing the exact same cards as the previous player, so even if that player has an awesome play, they might not get a chance get it out there!  Players continue until they have no more cards in hand earning various rewards. The first player out in a round then earns victor points, power chips, and inserts, while the last player left in a round loses a point, but gains many more chips and inserts.

And here is where the game really takes off!  Each insert will give you a new base number, add, subtract, or provide a new power.  When the round comes to you, you can insert as many inserts as you want into a card, as long as they don’t cover ones already there, and then play these new custom heroes.  The game starts with base cards numbering 1 to 10, but I have seen three 18s played on a turn! Powers have to be activated with power chips, but if you don’t use the power, you gain back a chip.  While you modified that heroe, they are part of a common deck, so you might watch as the hero you made one turn is played by a different player a turn later

The game continues until a player has 10 victory points and wins.  So you might be over the 10 victory point top, but unless you are the first one out with that many, play keeps going.  Three way battles between players with 14 or more victory points make for some tense games!

Mechanics-I have a lot of trick taking games, but the custom nature of this one is really fun.  You get a bit more choice in the game. Lots of games like this just screw you on the flop, but now you get the ability to build your own numbers should the ones you are dealt suck.  But, what’s really fun is how much this little game will make you think. You really do send your time thinking about the different math combinations you can pull to make your next play.  This is a simple game that hides a much deeper one! 5/5

Theme- Here is where this game gets screwed by my love of theme.  Hearts is a fun game, but it has absolutely no theme. This game has some good art and the nature of how the inserts customize what the heroes are doing is fun, but there really isn’t a story.  It feels like some anime world, but beyond that, there isn’t much here. This game has a fun, but not deep, theme. It tries! There are descriptions of things in the book, but again, this is like asking for a custom, story based, version of poker that doesn’t change the cards in any fundamental way.  3/5

Instructions–  Did you see the instructions up above?  That’s the rules! The book says it nicer, shows pictures, and reads quick.  This game isn’t hard to get into, and the rules make that transition quick. 5/5

Execution-Overall, i really like this game!  The art is cool with a nice anime vibe.  The inserts are great quality, as they build awesome heroes.  The one things I don’t like are the card sleeves. AEG has to walk a hard line here.  The card sleeves are the game, so they have to be rough and tumble enough to be used over and over.  BUT, they are a bit too tough. They stick to each other way too much! Often when I’m about to hand out the 10th card for the round, I have everybody count to see if I have given them 10 already because the cards are stuck together.  It’s not game ending, but it’s a slight annoyance that will drive you a bit mad. You can see our unboxing of the games here: https://youtu.be/3TAXTdlFGWA   4.75/5

Summary-Custom Heroes is just fun.  It’s a small box game that teaches quick, plays fast, and isn’t bogged down in being too much.  The art is great, the rules read easy, and the inserts are a fun addition to a simple game concept.  I’d like to see more of this. I wish there was a story that we could build upon here to make more theme, but this is a simple game that any card player knows what to do next.  Overall, it’s a blast that you will want to replay as soon as you finish your last game. 89%