Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Trail of Cthulhu

Product– Trail of Cthulhu

System- Gumshoe

Producer– Pelgrane Press

Price– $24.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/55567/Trail-of-Cthulhu?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Do you think Call of Cthulhu has too much Crunch?  88%

Basics– Should the story stop when the players just suck at rolling?  Trail of Cthulhu believes that story trumps mechanics as story should drive the game.  Let’s look at the pieces.

Overview-Trail of Cthulhu is a skill system like Call of Cthulhu, but unlike Call of Cthulhu you have two types of skills: investigative and general.  General covers any contested rolls and investigative covers learning the horrors of the mystery.  Let’s break that down.

Investigative Skills-  You enter a room, ask to search the library for secret books, and you find all secret books.  If you have ranks in the appropriate skills, you find all the books.  That’s it.  If you couldn’t find the books, the story might stop.  Trail of Cthulhu focuses more on you learning the mystery and less on you flubbing rolls to learn the mystery.  You build these skills with points like ranks, but those points are spent to learn more, not just enough.  Characters with even one rank would find all the books, then can spend points to learn more, like find the right places in the hidden books to skip something horrible or learn more secrets beyond the base mystery.

General Skills-  Punch a guy, out run a monster, and hide from the cultists are all opposed rolls where the story isn’t the issue, so they become general skills.  This system uses ONE d6.  That’s it.  You want to to a thing? Roll a d6 and aim for a 4.  Before you roll, you can spend points from the pool to add to the roll.  Some skills give you more damage or more hit points or sanity, but for the most part opposed rolls happen with skills or trying to do a thing that isn’t dependent on the story happening at all.

Honestly, that’s it.  There is sanity and HP, but for the most part the two types of rolls define the system.  Let’s see my thoughts.

Mechanics or Crunch-I like crunch (heck I build point based Shadowrun characters for fun!), but for the most part, this is a quick, light system.  My more roll-happy friends freak out when we play as they NEED to roll to search, but the option to make story happen as the goal is a good one.  If you just want a game that happens fast without a ton of hassle because you didn’t spec into the right build at level 4 to cast the one spell to put the deepone to sleep, but you will want a horror game then this is the crunch for you.    4.5/5

Theme or Fluff– This game is put out by the premier Lovecraft people in the industry.  They know their stuff.  It feels right, but it also feels like Indiana Jones as they build Pulp and straight Lovecraft versions of the rules into it.  If you want to punch the ghoul, then this can be your game, or if you want to go mad at the sight of a corpse, then this can also be your game.  The book builds out a full world in a quick way to help new GMs get running right away.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YES!  I have the two big things I want, but why am I not happy?  Well… RPG books can be built one of two ways: mechanics first or theme first.  This goes character build first.  I don’t know what ANY of the math means until WAY far into this book.  When I googled it it made perfect sense, and then 20 pages later I saw the explanation.  That is not good.  I like the world that is built with the book, but it’s a pain to read; a three column design isn’t great. This book is modern, but some of the design decisions are just a bit off.  3.75/5

Summary– Slick and simple.  This game is a fun one regardless of the book design.  I like the game this makes.  The solid focus on story first is nice.  I would like a bit more crunch, but  simple is fun sometimes.  The story and theme of the book are top notch.  The execution isn’t.  If you want a game that starts quick and plays quick but still has great Lovecraftian horror, then Trail of Cthulhu is worth checking out. 88%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Pip System Corebook

Product– Pip System Corebook

System- Pip System

Producer– Third Eye Games

Price– $14.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/216645/Pip-System-Coreboo?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– The Cypher system and Shadowrun had a baby! 93%

Basics– What do you want to play?  The Pip system book is a generic system book that focuses on the mechanics of the pip system and all the different worlds you can play in.  Let’s dig in.

Basics-This is SOLIDLY a skill based system.  Everything you do is based on how many skill dice you have and EVERYTHING is a d6.  Basically you take however many ranks you have in a skill plus your quality ranks (think specializations that may count for some activities) and roll that many six sided dice, counting 4s, 5s, and 6s as successes.  These are called your white dice.  Then you or the GG (game guide, the GM for this system) roll a number of dice equal to the challenge rating of whatever you’re up against and counts 4s, 5s, and 6s.  These are the black dice  If you get more white successes than black, you succeed.

Combat, AC, and the rest-  We don’t really do that here.  You have hit points, but as a skill system you basically tell the GM how it goes down.  You just dodge the hit, then you roll athletics to dodge, but you might say I roll stealth to hide and avoid or survive to get out of the way into cover.  You succeed on the dodge, you don’t take the hit.  You attack with different traits as well,and damage is just difference in hits if you succeed on the attack.

Gear and Character Building-  Character building is quick too.  You choose a basic archetype that gives you some mental and physical hit points, basic starting skills, an ability, and a hindrance to roleplay.  Then you spend build points buying skills, quality ranks (specializations in a part of a skill), and advanced qualities (feats you have to meet prerequisites for).  Gear is the same way. You spend other build points buying different gear.  It’s all generic to help you build a character for any setting that you might want to pay.

Fortune-  Magic cheaty points!  Fortune is how you can control your rolls.  Everyone wants rerolls, HP, and other things so you can control the action a bit, and Fortune is that thing.  Roleplay well, do cool things, and play nice and you get fortune tokens.

Ok, what do I think of all this?

Mechanics or Crunch– For the crunch here, you have to ask yourself one of two very important questions-”Do I like the cypher system, but want a tad more crunch?” or “Do I like Shadowrun but could use a bit more speed?”.  If yes, you will love this.  It’s a simple system where you make lots of choices and control a lot without having too many rules in the way.  That also means that players can have a HORRIBLE time if the GG and they just don’t work well, so it’s got that OSR vibe of the system flexes a lot for fun, but your GM can ruin your experience.  Overall, the base mechanic running EVERYTHING is amazing to me.  You do need to coordinate with your GG to make sure your awesome character isn’t completely built against what he/she is thinking so your game time won’t be an issue.  Solid quick mechanics make this a good system to learn and get into.    4.75/5

Theme or Fluff– It’s always hard to review a generic system without a world.  There are some splashes of places to play, but mostly this book is how to play and check out the other stuff we got for specific places to play.  It’s got good intros so I like what I see.  The book does go a bit more fantasy than modern or future, even though it supports everything.  Good intro to a gateway to several new worlds.  4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YES!  Solid execution here, but a few issues that hurt it a bit.  Text is easy to read.  Pictures break up the flow, and I like a lot of the toys on offer.  However, I would like a few more examples of actual play.  Tell me how numbers happen.  That’s the big issue here.  It’s a generic system, so as the GG I need more guidance on what to throw at my players and how my players make the dice pools.  Overall, it’s decent, but if it were to provide a bit more walkthrough of a game and a combat scene, I would love this more.  4.75/5

Summary– Well, I’m in.  This is a fun system that I can get my players running in about 10 minutes after they select pregens or 20 minutes if they have to build people.  It’s quick, easy, and negotiable.  Players have control, but with all negotiable systems, dialogue will be key.  Make sure everyone is on the same page, and players will enjoy this game.  I like Sci-fi, so I want a bit more of that in the base book.  But, what’s here is good.  As for the physical build of the book, it’s done well.  I still need more examples, but I think I can run my first game well enough.  I like what I’ve found in this one.  If you want some quick d6 gaming in any universe, this is worth a look.  93%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Hellboy: The Roleplaying Game

Product– Hellboy: the RolePlaying Game

System- Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Producer– Mantic Games

Price– FREE here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/324717/Hellboy-The-Roleplaying-Game-Quickstart?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– WORTH IT! 100%

Basics– GONNA BE SORE IN THE MORNING!  Hellboy jumps from three movies and multiple comics into an RPG.  This kickstarter is for a Dungeons and Dragons 5e expansion featuring the Bureau for Paranormal Research and Defence.  Is this a cash grab or something full of soul?

Mechanics or Crunch– This is 5e, which is good, but it’s so much more.  This game has the standard 5e mechanics but adds its own touches like new ways to heal in a fight as well as doom and ingenuity.  These are new pools that are like inspiration or hero points, but a full new system that makes this feel like the comics.  Players roll an extra d10 with 1s earning doom points, points for the GM to hurt/mess with players, and 10s earning ingenuity, points for the players to play with.  It feels pulpy and something that honestly DMs might steal for other games they run that need a comic feel.  It’s easy to slap a coat of paint on a fighter and be done, but honestly this book does a lot more to make the game its own.  5/5

Theme or Fluff– This isn’t a full product, but the adventure and the overall pieces makes me think Hellboy.  Sure I know where the pictures come from as there isn’t a ton of new art, but who cares.  I like the pieces here and think that this feels right in the Hellboy world.  Heck there is a full free adventure that feels like a BPRD comic.  Solid world building here.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  YES!  The big boys of the RPG world can’t even pull that off and this FREE PRODUCT comes out swinging with solid text design and flow, good execution of its pieces, and a great explanation of how to play 5e that even the base 5e book might have trouble matching while giving me new toys to play with.  I would like a bit more pictures to break up text, but if this is the full book, I’ll be happy.  5/5

Summary-I love the Hellboy comics, the hellboy movies (yes even the latest one), and I love DnD 5e.  This is a no brainer for me.  Solid old and new mechanics, solid world building and theme,and solid execution of a PDF make this something you should get NOW. Heck, even if you don’t want to pay THIS IS FREE!  The base buy-in of the RPG is about 14 bucks, and I honestly expect that from MUCH smaller companies for MUCH less.  Check this one out!  100%

Ring Side Report-Board Game Review of Micro City

Product-Micro City

Producer– ThisTroy Games

Price– SOON!

Set-up/Play/Clean-up– 30 to 60 minutes (1-2 players)

Type- Euro

Depth-Light

TL; DR-Packs a punch for its size 90%

Basics- If you build it, they will come!  MicroCity is a simple building game that almost has a rondel and worker placement feel to it.  Each round you play a card from your hand.  This card moves your one worker on the map to different locations that give you resources, let you trade resources, or even spend resources to build.  The card also gives you a second action that can let you get more resources or removes investment tokens from the board.  Thus, the cards really shape your play.  Alternatively, you can pick up all your cards and not do a card action and just move one place.  In addition to the cards, each round you roll two dice.  These dice can be spent, if they match the location or the card, to make the action more powerful.  Or if neither is used, you can use them to gain extra money.  At the locations you take your actions then place an investment token.  These tokens block future uses of that location until they are removed.  The goal of the game is to spend different combinations of resources to build different parts of a building within a number of turns (in the cooperative or solo mode) or earn victory points in the competitive mode.  If you run out of turns or can’t place an investment marker, you lose!  If you have the most points or complete the buildings before time is out, you win!

Mechanics-MicroCity is a simple game.  You just read most of the rules above.  It’s pretty simple.  However, it does have some meat on its small bones as the game’s timer can be brutal if you don’t plan ahead.  However, much like my problems with Scythe, you can end up just doing the same action multiple times in a row.  That’s not as much fun.  The game limits this as investments can stop you from just doing the same location actions again and again.  MicroCity isn’t the most complex game I’ve played, but it does have some depth despite it’s small size.  4.25/5

Theme-Did I feel like a builder?  Solid kind of!  The locations in the city where you send your one worker have a feel like you are picking up wood or steel.  The pieces make you feel like an engineer.  Was it the most character driven game I’ve played?  No.  This game can’t be that involved given its small size and small run time.  Overall, this is the most solid building experience I can expect from something the size of a large matchbox. 4.5/5

Instructions-The rules are the weak point to the game.  They work, but the flow is honestly weird.  Parts and their meanings are explained  before the flow of the game so I felt like I was lost until I saw the flow.  There are multiple versions of the game which is amazing, but the way they are separated in the rulebook feels off.  You won’t need YouTube or Board Game Geek to play, but learning all by yourself is a bit hard given the flow of the book. 4/5

Execution– Honestly, for a small game the pieces are nice!  Check out our unboxing here-https://youtu.be/pAvDwAu_lCQ   Art is solid, tokens are good, and the cards are good quality.  There are lots of extra pieces given the different game modes, but there is enough here to make that happen and make you happy to get the kickstarter copy.  Good pieces do come in small packages! 5/5

Summary-This is a fun game that feels like a few other games I own with some good and bad.  I did feel like I was building, but some goals made me feel like I was just doing the same thing over and over again.  The rules are hard to start, but get you through decently at the end.  The game itself is pretty to look at and solid to play with.  If I want a good less than one hour co-op building game, I think this will hit my table again. 89%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Pocket Lint, Light Loot & Tiny Treasures

Product– Pocket Lint, Light Loot & Tiny Treasures

System-NONE!

Producer– Beyond the Horizon

Price– $1.95 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/321954/Pocket-Lint-Light-Loot–Tiny-Treasurest?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DRSolid, random stuff!  95%

Basics– What has it got in its pocketses?  Need some random stuff an NPC is carrying and not sure what they have? This is the book for you.  Roll a d20, then a d6, and finally a d20 again.  Random pocket stuff on the fly!

Mechanics or Crunch– Roll three dice, get an item.  That’s the basic idea, and it works pretty well!  The book is here to help you find some good, random stuff, and the number of dice make it pretty random.  The one thing I would like is a random die to know how many items each creature should have.  The book gives a bit of advice: aim between 1 to 2 and no more than six, but throw another die in there to get me a number.  Aside from that, it’s an easy, quick way to find some stuff that can make a monster’s random possessions stand out.  4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-This is where the book shines.  You need some random crap on a monster?  DONE!  And it’s lively!  Each thing feels like it will build a world a little bit.  Solid random stuff in these tables.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  No… This book is solidly layed out and has good tables and readability.  It’s 14 pages including an intro and cover page, but otherwise its tables.  But I can read them quickly and easily.  THAT’S WHAT A LOT OF BOOKS NEED TO LEARN!  Would like some linking so I can use this as a quick reference more, but that’s the only negative here.  4.75/5

Summary-If you need some random on the fly, then this is your book.  You will be surprised how easily some of these things could become whole adventure seeds.  Some, on the other hand, are just fun.  I have my minor issues, but for less than two bucks, you get a whole lot of bang for those two bucks if you need some quick ideas to spice up the random possessions you find on a fallen foe.  95%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of EB-03 Where the Dead Wait

Product– EB-03 Where the Dead Wait

System-DnD 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $4.99 here https://www.dmsguild.com/product/302373/EB03-Where-the-Dead-Wait?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Solid semi-side episode of an awesome campaign. 95%

Basics– Time for Dawn of the Dead in Eberron?  You’ve escaped from the Warforged with a magic talking box, but now the dead hunger for you in the Mournland.  Can you get out, keep the box, and stop the dead from eating you?

Mechanics or Crunch–  The crunch here is strong!  It’s a fun adventure. Mechanically it works well.  It might be a bit much for some players if they don’t think straight and want to do a smack down outside with an army of undead and don’t keep track of what’s happening with the NPCs.  Overall solid, but sometimes the hint stick may be needed to help if the players just can’t keep themselves from killing themselves.  4.5/5

Theme or Fluff-Combine Dawn of the Dead, Evil Dead 2, and From Dusk till Dawn, and you have this adventure.  It’s fun.  It’s mostly a side adventure, but it doesn have a major plot tie in.  Even the filler episodes of this campaign are fun.  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  YEP!  Hyperlinked?  No… I like these adventures.  They are a blast to run as they read quick and I feel I can tie the player into the story.  Reads quick, layout is nice, art makes me feel like it’s the 1920s between the wars period, and the additional newspapers are a great touch.  Just give me my hyperlinking to move easily through the materials, and it would be perfect.  4.75/5

Summary-Oricle of War keeps delivering.  This isn’t the main plot for the most part, but honestly you won’t care.  Solid plot, decent mechanics, and a good execution make this an adventure to play if you want to get deeper into this campaign.  95%