Product-Spelljammer: Adventures in Space
System- Dungeons and Dragons
Producer– Wizards of the Coast
Price– $41 here https://www.amazon.com/stores/page/D890997E-DC03-45CB-BABE-5A760E103954?channel=dnd-site-jam&_encoding=UTF8&tag=wotc03-20&linkCode=ur2&linkId=5e6ae51a65de0619af85a9a07edec25f&camp=1789&creative=9325
TL; DR– Spaceships and Sorcerers! 76%
Basics– TO THE SKY! Spelljammer: Adventures in Space is the latest setting for DnD that really encompasses all the other settings. Spelljammers are space ships that can travel between different systems and explore, so really the limits of this setting are the limits that you can steal and borrow from all the other DnD settings and your favorite fanfic of Star Trek. Let’s get into this one.
Mechanics or Crunch– This is a good book with some new mechanics, but not a ton of information. Overall space beyond a planet system is just empty and full of “air”, so you don’t need much. The spelljammers are fun ships, but the DnD isn’t really set up to do ship battles well. It’s not bad, but it’s simple and the system defaults to basic rules in the DMG for side combat for ship combat. There are new races, but not a ton beyond that. So if you want a lot of new crunch for your players, there isn’t that much here. Ships get a good rundown, which is needed, but don’t expect much as a player. There are monsters of the cosmos, which are absolutely needed, but for each system you need to grab that world’s/setting’s books and get monsters from there. This book adds decent materials for the GM, but not much for players. It doesn’t really expand the rules beyond the basics we’ve seen. 4/5
Theme or Fluff– I don’t hate the story here, but I’m left wanting more in a bad way. This setting is all about space and boldly going to new worlds. You do get the basics of that, but you don’t get a ton of new worlds beyond “Go grab your favorite other books and go there!” Again, it’s not bad, but it feels too loose to be helpful. I do think the adventure they give is awesome and will help GMs and players who are new to the setting get used to it. That “fish out of water” adventure that is included is going to be your best introduction to this setting. That said, after reading this book, I need more to really know what this setting is. 4/5
Execution– Can’t buy a PDF, but when there was an update it came out as a PDF. I can rent the book via DnD Beyond, but other than that, it’s physical only. What is in the book is a solid ok. Good spacing and text size and all the things I look for in a book, but it’s only in their proprietary app. I want to own my book, so you either buy a physical book or rent DnD beyond. And, while I love the adventure they give you, they don’t give you pregens at fifth level. Just include the pregens! I don’t want to make some for my players nor do some groups want to make some when the GM buys that book. I want to play ASAP and that would massively help those groups. It’s 2022 and you are behind the times. I am not pleased. 3.5/5
Summary– Spelljammer is a fun setting and book that just needs more. The mechanics here are ok, but there is not much for players and just enough for the GM to run a game beyond go to the DMG. The story is fun, but there isn’t much beyond go look at other stuff. The execution misses many marks that other companies are doing and it hurts my impression of the book. If you want some classic space and sorcery, this will be a fun book. If you don’t have an idea of what Spelljammer is then you still might not after reading this book. 76%
Product-Down Darker Trails
System- Call of Cthulhu 7th Ed
Price– $44.99 here https://www.chaosium.com/down-darker-trails-hardcover/
TL; DR– Cowboys and Cthulhu! 97%
Basics– What’s that ahead on the trail? Down Darker Trails is a wild west source book for Call of Cthulhu. This book has information for both the game master and players to build anything, from gunslingers to wild west cults serving dark gods all across the west. Let’s look at the parts.
Mechanics or Crunch– This book is an interesting and well done mix of old and new. Arguably there are LOTS of reskins of stuff we have seen before, but honestly, that’s what I need. I need to know what the fire rate for guns in that time was and and the prices. There are some major changes between 1880 and 1920, but the damage really doesn’t change that much in this game. That said, this book adds a lot of new stuff, from spells to real life states for characters, to excellent new options for investigators/players. I like everything that is here and it adds the right amount of depth and crunch for a game in this time. 5/5
Theme or Fluff– I like what’s here, but I have some minor issues. I mentioned before that there is a lot of reskinning for the time. That’s true and it’s true here too. But, I don’t see anything crazy new here regarding the mythos. It doesn’t invent a ton of new monsters or elder things. Lovecraft didn’t do a ton out west, so thats part of it, but I would like to see more new in the story of the mythos. That said, what is here is excellent. Amazing history summaries, great write ups on persons of the time, solid respect to the cultures of the west and its people, and character options that will let a person who is new to the old west beyond Back to the Future III into the world of what really went on out there. There is always more to be learned, but as a first pass into this world and the idea that a book can’t continue for forever, this is a great way to build mythos into the west and the west into the mythos. 4.5/5
Execution– Chaosium knows book publishing with the art, layout, readability, and book mechanics like hyperlinks and such all on point. This book even has real pictures of people from the time to so you can see the real faces of the west. Furthermore, since the real west was a lot more racist than the fun and wholly-pretend cowboy and Indians I played as a child, the book treats the indigenous peoples of the west with respect in art, writing, and design. 5/5
Summary– This is a phenomenal book. I love Call of Cthulhu, and recently lots of my video games have been old west as well. The pretend old west is fun, but the real west is far more entertaining and deep. This book gives me the keeper/gm the tools I need to merge those loves and it gives my players the tools they need to jump right in as well. I have some minor issues, but like all the products I love that quibble about it comes down to wanting more. What I do have is a well done book with crunch and stories to build a fun western adventure and a book that easily revealed its secrets. If you want cowboys in the mythos, then you need this book. 96%
Product-Starfinder Society Intro: Year of Redemption’s Rise
TL; DR– A simple, yet solid intro adventure. 93%
Basics– STARFINDERS! The society calls you to make friends? Year of Redemption Rise is the latest intro module for the 5th year of Starfinder society. Starfinders meet three new factions, learn the basics of these factions, and help each with a micro adventure. It’s the standard fare for a faction introduction adventure, so let’s see how it stacks up.
Mechanics or Crunch– This adventure is a solid balance of fights and fluff. Players will talk with just as many NPCs as they shoot at. The crunch here for both sections is well balanced and thought out. It’s not reinventing the society’s basics, but it does a good job with the pieces it does have. 5/5
Theme or Fluff– What’s here is good, but there is not much here. The major adventure beats are leading a tour group, clearing an abandoned house, clearing a greenhouse, and cooling a political discussion. Nothing bad and it does set up for the future conflicts of tech vs. self sufficiency, but don’t expect some crazy inversion of the adventure template. You meet new groups, make friends with them, and then finish pretty quickly. Short, simple, and sweet. 4.5/5
Execution– Short, simple, and sweet is a good description of the execution of this book as well. Good layout, good pictures, a map for those who don’t have the specific map for clearing the abandoned facility, and easy to master intro and outro pieces for GM in a hurry. Six bucks is a bit steep for this, but that is my only complaint for this module. 4.5/5
Summary– This adventure reminds me of many of the other faction intro adventures. Paizo does their execution well, but it’s a bit pricey. The basic crunch in them all is well done and shows a mastery of the system. And while the story is basic, it does a good job introducing new major characters to the players. Overall is this is a solid adventure and introduction to the next year as the society heals its rifts and repairs who it is. 93%
Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea every day!
Product-We Hunt Bugs
System- We Hunt Bugs 2nd Ed
Producer– Orcs Unlimited Games
Price– SOON on kickstarter!
TL; DR– A Solid Pamphlet RPG 83%
Basics– Time to go on a hunt! We Hunt Bugs is a SMALL rpg. It’s honestly printed on a pamphlet and that’s the whole thing. The GM/world guide is a slightly bigger book going 32 pages. Let’s look at the preview of this micro RPG.
Base Mechanics- This is a d6 based game. You have two parts to a character: abilities and skills. Abilities are like in any RPG; they are your base attributes. There are only three of them. Skills give a bonus to dice rolls in the right situation. For a check, you roll a number of dice equal to your ability. If you roll a 6, you reroll and add to that six. Then when you finish rolling, you then add a skill if you have it. If you hit the target number for a check, you succeed.
Combat- Combat is resolved like the base mechanic above. Turn order is determined by each acting character or creature rolling a d6 and highest goes first. Successes mean damage and most players only have three boxes of damage they can take before they are knocked out.
And honestly that’s it.
Mechanics or Crunch– This book honestly made me do some soul searching in a good way. I LOVE good, crunchy, in depth RPGs. This isn’t that. It’s short and sweet. It doesn’t waste time and that’s a concept at the heart of the games I love. What is here isn’t much. There is gear, toys, guns, and some light background bonuses, but not much else. And it doesn’t need much more. The crunch here isn’t deep, but it is done simply and well. 5/5
Theme or Fluff– Again, there is just enough to get you interested and help you build a world the basic of the story is humans discover faster than light travel and instead of hell like Event Horizon, they fall into a bug dimension where bugs now join our universe and kill EVERYONE! You play spacers who go kill those bugs. We’ve mapped where bugs are now, but there are still bugs out and about that are killing space ships adrift. Throw in some obvious evil space company shenanigans and a dash a cyberpunk and you got a solid game. I like the story here. It’s enough to help you get interested in where it goes and how you could play it next. 5/5
Execution– I’ve loved everything so far, but this is the low point of the book. The book is a PDF. It needs spaces, bold text, and a bit more layout work. The player pamphlet explains things not in the book which is ok, but given infinite real estate, I want more in the book, so I don’t need the pamphlet as a GM. It works, but some polish will help. 2.5/5
Summary– Monstrous bugs in space and a lightning fast system to deal with them and corporate evil? Literally one page building a world and system? SOLID FUN! If you have d6s, you can play this on a car ride. This might not be the 12 year campaign you play forever, but this is the fun one-night or few-week system that will be a solid adventure in the cosmos as you meet new creatures and kill them. Needs a bit of polish to make the main book a bit nicer, and that might happen by the time the RPG goes to print for the 2nd Ed. But overall, this is a solid game that you will easily get into and have a blast. 83%
Product-Shadowrun Sixth World Companion
System- Shadowrun 6th Ed
TL; DR– If you want to build a new characters and are new to the shadows yourself, this is a solid place to start. 93%
Basics– WHAT THE HELL IS THAT!? Sixth World Companion focuses on how to build characters for Shadowrun players of all levels. The book has rules for newer players to build characters with guided character build packs and blocks of gear with a simple cost like buying bundles off a shelf. For more seasoned players you have new qualities, subraces, and methods to build characters instead of the older point buy. Let’s dive into my thoughts on this one.
Mechanics or Crunch– This book fills an interesting gap in Shadowrun. Newer players are often intimidated by character creation needing a paired down method with less option paralysis, and more roleplaying heavy players want a more thematic character creation process. This book delivers both these options to broaden the game’s appeal. Older, seasoned players get the rarer races and some newer toys but no magic options or real new gear. What is here is good, but some players might not find anything they really want if you know what you want to build and don’t want to play some crazy creatures in the shadows. 4.5/5
Theme or Fluff– How much you like this book will honesty boil down to what you are looking for. If you want some thematic methods for building characters or new races and lore for them, then you will love this book. If you want a box of new net gear or some magic tomes to blast enemies with, then you will likely not get as much out of it. It doesn’t expand the main story of the universe, but it does fill in some edges on things that are missing in the sixth edition’s world. 4.5/5
Execution– Catalyst has learned many lessons on book layout and design. This is a hyperlinked book with MANY tables to help you find what you’re looking for, as well as solid pictures, design, and text to make reading this a breeze. I enjoyed the text and didn’t suffer through it like other books. Nor did I have any trouble finding what I wanted. Solid book production Catalyst. 5/5
Summary– This is a book where your mileage will vary. What you want will really determine if you will like this book. If you need new character build guidelines or story build building options, then this is a solid book. If you want lots of new toys, spells, or expanding the world and story of Shadowrun, then this is not the book you are looking for. In either case, it’s a solid book with amazing execution showing that Catalyst has learned how to make books you will enjoy reading and easily navigate. 93%
Product-Guns and Gears
Originally posted at www.throatpunchgames.com, a new idea every day!
Product-Guns and Gears
System- Pathfinder 2nd Ed
Price– $14.99 here https://paizo.com/products/btq029xk?Pathfinder-Guns-Gears
TL; DR– Solid new Pathfinder toys and toy based characters! 95%
Basics– BRING THE BOOM! Guns and Gears brings solid steampunk and introductory industrialization to the Pathfinder setting with new technology and themes, two new classes, a new race, and countless new character options and items.
Mechanics or Crunch– Paizo knows their system the best and they bring the best new materials for their toys. The new classes are fun parts of an ever expanding world. The Inventor is the steampunk inventor you may be searching for, with no magical background or ties like the alchemist. The Gunslinger brings pure boom to any encounter. The new race the Automaton is an interesting, but well supported addition to the world of Golarion. There is just a TON of materials with all kinds of new toys such as new guns, tools, and magic items that can help turn the tide of battle. My only complaints are that the Gunslinger feels a bit under-powered. It is an absolute crit machine, but guns can fall flat if a character spends a day hitting but not critting. That said, what Paizo has here is a FANTASTIC addition to the crunch of Pathfinder. 4.75/5
Theme or Fluff– Guns and Gears is not a small book and there is just an absolute TON of new stuff here. Now in a tool book you would think its just item lists, and there is that, but there is also a bunch of fluff to bring the new stuff into the old game. Pathfinder 1st ed is about 10 years ago in the world of Golarion, so this helps advance the world as the fantasy world gets a bit more pre-industrial. All that said, one thing sticks out and this may just be a me-problem: automatons. I always hate new races in old parts of the world as if we just magically found them in the same places we were. That and they feel out of place and honestly more like a warforged in PF2. Not a game breaker, but something I don’t think I would have wanted in my game. Another nitpick is there are no new spells here, and I feel that’s a reasonable, but somewhat annoying choice. If you want some gun spells, look elsewhere. The writers wanted to focus more on mechanics and less on magic, so while I might want some spells, it’s ok they are not here. 4.5/5
Execution– It’s Paizo- they know solid book production. Good layout, art, font, hyperlinking, and all the pieces I expect from a AAA RPG company. It’s a 50 buck book, but as an evil millennial, I mostly like PDFs, so the 14 bucks for a digital file is extremely worth it. 5/5
Summary-I honestly love Pathfinder 2nd Ed. It’s all the pieces of 4th, 3rd, and 5th Edition DnD I want. And differentiating itself from DnD by moving to a more steampunk and pre-industrial culture will help it grow by further making its own path. Guns and Gears is a solid step in that direction with amazing classes, items, and class options. The missteps I see are maybe more opinion; even if they are not my favorite things, they are done well. If you want less magic and more mechanics mayhem in your Pathfinder 2nd Ed, you need this book now! 95%