Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Carbon 2185

Product– Carbon 2185

System-DnD 5e

Producer– Dragon Turtle Games

Price– $ 25.10 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/283725/Carbon-2185–A-Cyberpunk-RPG-Core-Rulebook?term=carbon+2185?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Dungeons and Shadowrun, kind of  90%

Basics–  Want some cyberpunk with your DnD 5e mechanics?  Carbon 2185 uses the DnD mechanics you love but moves them to a nonmagic, cyperpunk future.  Let’s break it down

Mechanics-If you can play DnD 5e, you honestly know everything you need to.  It’s d20 + ability modifier + proficiency modifier if they are proficient.  This is the elegance of the DnD 5e system, and it’s fully on display here as skills, attacks, and saves all come across into this game.

Character generation-Again, DnD 5e is on display, but there are some drastic changes.  You choose a not-race called an origin, then you choose a background.  This is honestly the biggest change from DnD 5e.  Here you choose an occupation then roll 2d6, adding half your Intelligence modifier to see if you last five years in your chosen occupation.  Roll below your threshold and you are injured and lose your job!  Survive long enough, and you get paid as well as gain a skill.  You can take as many five year time periods as you want, gaining skills and money along the way.  All characters get a retirement gift when they leave but if you go long enough you get a retirement bonus.  This also changes the game in a weird way.  This is an old mans game.  If you need four times five years to get a retirement bonus, then your 18 year old going into work ends up 38 coming out.  Heck, if you pull another five years in for the sweet, sweet money, you end up middle aged!  Age alters the stats a bit, but it’s something to consider. 

Classes-Carbon 2185 is DnD 5e, so there are base core ideas that will be here.  The Daimyo is the barbarian and so on, but Carbon 2185 has subtle changes to the system that will keep it fresh.  Your Daimyo also has bard abilities that make it a bardbarian.  Most of the classes are represented, but they end up with a Carbon 2185 twist that does make them fun.

Cleric/Doc-You can’t really have a high hit point game without a healer, so this system has the Doc.  The doc doesn’t get spells, but gets a lot of other toys that make them kind of a fighter or other splash classes.  Healing abilities refresh after short rests to keep your characters fighting.

Wizard/Hacker-Everyone wants a spellcaster in their DnD, and cyberpunk is no exception.  The hacker is the class that has nanobots that do things.  In this system everyone basically has Matrix-like hookups that allow them to go online, so you can use that to manipulate them either with pain or distractions.  This character also is the one who can manipulate computers, but there is also the hacking skill.

Now the breakdown!

Mechanics or Crunch– I like the crunch here, but I feel that other cyberpunk games have ruined me.  Shadowrun has deckers who are hackers, but in this game you can’t really hack a computer and make it do all the things you want to do.  Hackers have limited uses of their “spells” so it feels a bit off.  Why can’t my hacker hack more than three computers a day at first level?  I know the “why” is mechanics based, but it doesn’t quite fit.  It’s fun, and it’s fast, but some things don’t fit as well as I want them to.  Also, this game is VERY random.  Character backgrounds have a very wide variety as some lucky players can get MASSIVE amounts of money and skills while an unlucky one won’t get money or skills from their background.  Base abilities are the same with no point buy in the basic system .  There is the basic array, but I still want my point buy.  Furthermore, no feats!?  You get character advancements, so feats may come one day.  But, I want them!  Let’s hope they come out in another book.  Overall, Carbon 2185 works mechanics, but there are some issues that may affect your fun in the crunch.  4/5

Theme or Fluff-Carbon 2185 is its own setting.  It’s not exactly just cookie cutter cyberpunk, but is it’s own world that builds fairly organically from today.  It’s depressing as all hell, but it feels real.  I enjoy playing in this setting while I would NEVER want to live there!  5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep!  Hyperlinked? YEP!  I like the book in general, but I feel that more is needed to further define things like computer security level and how some skills work.  More are the major things I need here.  Like more pictures of enemies in the back of the book.  More explanation of things that are talked about, but not shown.  I like what’s here, but give me more to help better understand the world.  4.5/5Summary-I like this book, but other things may have influenced me.  Cyberpunk is a fun world to play in, and the DnD 5e system works lightning fast.  But, some of those pieces don’t work well, like the hacker’s “not spells” and hacking computers. That hurts things a bit in terms of flow.  The world is fine, but I want more stuff to show myself and the players to help me see the world and better understand the flow and crunch of it.  I foresee a number of expansions to this and that would really help the players make the characters their own. It’s a solid RPG with a few issues that hurt it.  If you want some Cyberpunk and some simple gaming, this will be your new favorite.  90%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Oracle of War- The Iron Titan

Product– EB-EP-01 The Iron Titan

System-DnD 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $4.99  here https://www.dmsguild.com/product/308553/EBEP01-The-Iron-Titan?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Something for us all!  95%

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Basics–  Multi table event?  With my home group?  OH YES!  I’ve been part of lots of multi table events, but never one at home with a solo group.  The Iron Titan picks up with the players dealing with the giant they adventured under in the first Oracle of War adventure causing havoc in town.  How well does a multi table event translate to home?

Mechanics or Crunch– This adventure is pretty much the same event in both the multi table event and the single table.  The multitable event has rules for multiple tables, and it’s well written.  There are small sections added to this adventure that help you run it as a single table event.  The players honestly don’t get a different experience in terms of single table crunch vs a multi table event.  That’s quite frankly awesome.  5/5

Theme or Fluff– The story of this one is simple.  Zombies come.  You kill zombies.  Then Big Moe attacks, and you run around Big Moe killing pieces of him till you win.  Here is where something strange happens.  This is a battle interactive, and I liked it when I ran it with several other tables.  But I think I like it MORE as a single table event.  My players felt like they were the stars.  They blew up both arms then went for the head.  In the multitable event, you turn off a hand, but then another group does that as well.  That’s kind of strange…  It’s a fun story where everyone gets to play, but this multitable event actually runs better in single player mode!  4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep!  Hyperlinked?  No, but it doesn’t really matter (I’d still like it though).  This is well done.  I think the hyperlinks are needed more here than ever as this gets long and finding the sections you need on the fly is pretty important.  Overall I like what I see.  It reads fast, is well set up, and let’s you go from downloading to playing in about 10 minutes.  And you can play well after 10 minutes!  Solid execution in this one but I miss my hyperlinks.   4.8/5

 

Summary– I like this adventure, but this goes beyond me liking the adventure.  We’re in the middle of the plague.  Some people can’t make it to a regional con.  Some people have limitations on where they can play.  Some groups can’t travel.  Now every group playing the Oracle of War campaign can play this.  Of all the things I like about this adventure, that’s the best part-accessibility.  More groups will have the shared experience of this adventure.  You will enjoy this kaiju killing adventure, but the fact that any group anywhere can play this makes this a homerun I hope I keep seeing more of.  95%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Oracle of War- The Night Land

Product– EB-01 The Night Land

System-DnD 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $4.99  here https://www.dmsguild.com/product/296403/EB01-The-Night-Land?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Standard start to something great.  93%

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Basics–  Eberron?  In MY 5e?  OH YES!  Let’s hope in and look at the new TWENTY adventure long story for Eberron The Oracle of War Storyline called The Night Land.  You start by rolling into the town of Salvation on the Mournland border, and like all poor hungry souls, it’s time to find a job!  What’s the job board got today?

Mechanics or Crunch– This adventure is pretty balanced for crunch.  It is the same formula you’ve grown to love or maybe be annoyed with in this first adventure by Shawn.  Three small quests with some time between to rest up.  The party does some crazy stuff, rests, repeat.  The players learn how to be their characters, get a bit of a challenge, and then 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff– Standard well done 1st level adventure!  Shawn does 1st level adventure well.  Small packages to not kill the party day one.  It has a bit of Eberron feel, but like most things, it will require the DM to amp up the world feel.  You do hang with some goblins, changelings, and some horrors of the mournlands, so you get a good intro of the horrible things that want to eat you!  You can get a bit bored as your party might recognize a formula when they start.  But its level one!  You’re off to run errands and kill low level monsters, not take on the Lord of Blades day one!  4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep!  Hyperlinked?  No, but it doesn’t really matter (I’d still like it though).  This product has THREE PDFs.  One is the adventure in glorious color with lots of pictures that you run through the home printer.  The second is a slimmed down black and white no frills product that you run through the home printer.  Third is a newspaper to throw the players!  That’s some awesome world world building!  In addition, the adventure organizers have FULL PAGE sheets the players get after the adventure.  The things they check off let them know some serious crap is up.  Heck, I as a GM who isn’t fully aware of the campaign knows some crap is up, so I’m buying in too.  I also like the authors’ use of the DMs Guild to full effect by putting lots of pictures in.  These are pictures I’ve seen before, but it’s a nice touch to the other pictures that they throw in.  I like the art deco style of everything.  It honestly makes me feel more like we are between wars and I know something bad is coming….   4.9/5

 

Summary-I like Eberron, and The Wife LOVES Eberron.  This adventure brought her back to 5e and weekly gaming at the store.  That’s the sales pitch that I can give.  Now, is it perfect?  No.  It’s 1st level fare.  Small tapas portions of adventures as your cleric might be able to roll out two cure wounds and a real bad round of two crits can completely wreck a party.  Is that a problem?  No.  This is fun.  I’ll equate this to my favorite above average hibachi restaurant.  I know exactly what the chef is going to do there, but guess what?  I’m going to show up and be happy I went! 93%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Shadowrun 6th ed.

Product– Shadowrun 6th Ed.

System-Shadowrun 6th Ed.

Producer– Catalyst Game Lab

Price– $19.99  here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/286850/Shadowrun-Sixth-World-Core-Rulebook?manufacturers_id=2216?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– New but similar.  93%

 

Basics–  Shadowrun is 30 years old!  In honor of this, here is the 6th edition.  What changed?  What’s new?  What’s old?  Let’s dive in together!

Basics- Shadowrun 6th ed. uses the solid base of 5th edition.  Almost all rolls are: take an attribute (the stats of your character that range mostly between 1 to 6), add your skill ranks, and roll that many dice.  You then count the number of 1s and the 5s and 6s.  5 and 6 are successes and used to determine if you succeed, while if you have over half 1s, that’s a glitch and something bad happens.  Pretty simple.

What’s new with the basics-the BIGGEST change between editions is edge.  Edge is the magic cheaty story currency.  You buy pizza?  Get a point of edge.  You roleplay well?  Edge.  You’re the only player paying attention and you catch the plot hook?  EDGE!  What changed is now before every roll we check who has an advantage in a situation.   That side gains edge now.  You see in the dark and the opponent doesn’t? Edge for you!  What’s also changed is edge isn’t just rerolls now.  It’s much more an a la carte menu where you choose abilities, to change dice faces, and other crazy options.  Edge even powers new abilities. 

Combat-combat got more of a face lift with two sizable, but manageable changes.  1st, armor…is gone.  In 5th ed, I would roll to hit you.  You would roll to dodge.  If I got more successes (5s and 6s on the dice) than you then the difference would be added to the weapon damage.  You would then roll a soak roll.  Soak is reducing damage, and it was found by adding your body attribute to your armor value. You would roll that many d6s praying for 5s and 6s so you would not die!  In 6th ed, armor doesn’t provide damage reduction but instead provides a score to compare to guns to gain edge.  It means you roll much fewer dice and weapon damage is also down to compensate.  The second biggest change is actions in combat.  Before, in 5th, you would roll initiative and all characters would act from high to low.  After actions, you would subtract 10 from all scores, and characters with scores above 0 would act again.  This would result in multiple passes for fast characters moving at super human speeds.  Now all characters roll initiative as before, but depending on the number of d6s you roll you may gain additional actions.  Every character gets 1 minor action (things like run ) and 1 major action (thinks like attack and cast spells).  You can spend several minor actions to make a second major action.  This means you get fewer passes at the top of the round, but you also have a more stable initiative action order and action amounts.

Magic- magic changes, but it still follows the basics above.  Before you would choose how hard a spell would hit, now you just roll and if you get more hits, you increase magic effectiveness after the roll doing more damage or being more hidden based on your result.  Magic’s overall power did go down, but it also gained some significant ease of use, especially in regard to healing!

Technology-All the basics you loved before are here except streamlined.   You no longer need to MARC (put a tag on in game) computers or computer programs to take them over.  It’s also streamlined, with all matrix (think futuristic internet) actions being reduced to two basic skill pools.  It’s a lot quicker, and also means that you can do so during a fight rather than having to do all the hard work before a fight.  Also, all the naughty things you do online make the tracking score on your dirty deeds go up MUCH faster.  This means that a whole section of the game tracking how long until the matrix overwatch simply called GOD comes to smack you down now matters a whole lot more!

Mechanics or Crunch– Sixth edition is different, and that’s not bad!  Overall, the mechanics are still the same.  I liked 5th ed’s base mechanics, so 6th ed starts strong.  The changes that have been made are all made in the name of speed.  You don’t reroll init (speed), it’s easier to do hacking (speed), magic is a smaller number of steps (speed), and a whole host of other things.  These I really like.  All the choices here seem to have been really well thought out.  The things you won’t like are the loss of full crunch.  Numbers are smaller and there are fewer fiddly bits.  You can run a whole game of “Lasers and Love” where you do all the things in a Shadowrun game with just 1d6, but there isn’t a whole lot of crunch to that system.  You most definitely don’t hurl a dumpster of d6s at a problem any more.  That feels a bit wrong.  And there is the armor thing…. It’s small.  The logic has been explained to me by both the creator of the system.  It’s mathematically sound.  And it’s wrong.  It bugs me to high heaven that I can’t strap on a tank and take no damage from a pistol.  I gain a point of edge (of the maximum 2 I can earn each turn) for the tank I’ve strapped to my face but still take a crap ton of damage if I can’t roll a dodge worth a crap! 4.5/5

Theme or Fluff– Shadowrun always has good fluff, and this book is no exception.  That’s it.  I’m in Michigan, and despite all the horrors of the 6th World, this is the one future where Michigan has an economy!   5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep!  Hyperlinked?  YES! This book is done pretty well.  My main issues are some of the tables and the writing with them.  A key example of this is the table for racial maximums.  As you build a character, you are given extra points that you can put into special attributes like magic, edge, or some racial attributes like orcs are strong etc.  You have to manually find that.  It’s not hard when you jump onto the writer’s logic, but why?  Don’t make me five second logic puzzle out where my extra points can do.  Just put that in the chart!  There are a few times where those small puzzles come out.  Now this is a MASSIVE BOOK, so editing issues will pop up, but those things hurt teaching new players this game.  I live and breathe RPG, so that took me five seconds.  A few of my friends though?  It took multiple passes to make them understand if your score can go above six, then you can put the extra point there.  But, for the majority of the book, this is how you want to make a RPG book.     4.5/5

 

Summary-The sixth sixth world is here, and I like it!  This might not be a complete love affair as some minor things like tables and armor values murky my joy, but the changes together make a game that runs a WHOLE lot faster than before.  The one thing Catalyst can do extremely well is tell a crazy story about orcs with shotguns in downtown Detroit, so the story and fluff of this game is amazing.  The layout is good, with some minor issues that once you get past will work easily.  Is this a perfect system?  No, that can’t exist.  The changes that happened all happened to make the game run on a non geological time scale.  Will this make all fans happy?  No.  It’s got some differences that older fans just won’t grok.  Does it make me happy?  Honestly yes.  I look forward to playing in the sixth world as my decker hacks Elf eyeballs in the middle of combat in Jersey fully as a member of a team even if my armor doesn’t matter much! 93%

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Adventurer’s Backpack 

Product– Adventurer’s Backpack 

System-Castles and Crusades

Producer– Troll Lord Games

Price– 19.99 here https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/234183/Castles–Crusades-The-Adventurers-Backpack?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– OPTIONS!  86%

 

Basics-It’s time for a solid player option book for CnC!  This book features TONS of new classes, spells, items, niche rules, and even a complete new magic system.  There is even a whole chapter dedicated to backpacks of tools each adventurer would need to do their job. How does it stack up?

Mechanics or Crunch– Ah old school… you provide us with gonzo options and allow the DM to do whatever they want.  The problem is, this is pretty rules-light for how some of the crunch works. A perfect example is the warrior priest.  That class has Cure Wounds which allows them to heal other characters. Awesome! I love it. But the rules don’t describe: do you roll once per day, or do you roll all hit points and then give them out as you want, or do you spend dice as you go?  I could hunt online and find the answer.  I don’t want to do that. I just decided and went with it. This is old school, so once the group decides, we roll with it. That’s the bad; the good is this book gives you new character classes, character options like spell casting rangers, paladins,and bards, lots of equipment options, spells, and all sorts of tools adventurers might need to fight evil.  It’s not perfect, but the flaws are all part of OSR rules’ light touch. The good is amazing and makes this worth the price. 3.75/5

Theme or Fluff–  I would not call this a fluff book, but I do think what is here is done well.  It mostly gives you ideas how the new things fit into the fantasy worlds of Castles and Crusades.  It’s world-agnostic in a decent way, so you could plug these into any fantasy world and have a fitting character.  I would like more, as I want to build out the world and campaign setting, but the book gives you enough that you can find the equivalent in your world and plug and play right away.  4.25/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep! Hyperlinked?  YES! This book is well done.  It’s an old school game, but it’s modern design makes me happy.  It’s not perfect – I would like the font to be a bit larger, but this thing has all the things I think a modern book should have.  4.9/5

 

Summary-My summary of this book comes down to one very specific question-do you want more character options for CnC?  If yes, then get the book. It’s not perfect; I think things need another round of writing to fully explain what the writers wanted me to do in some spots, but if you can look past some small issues, you will enjoy this.  The fluff is decent. I want more, but it’s not bad. Just not the whole world laid bare. Physically, the book is done well. Links, layout, and text all work well. I’m glad this is in my collection, and I know my players are always happy to have this as a place to get spells, classes, and toys to help them put down evil.  86%

 

Ring Side Report-RPG Review of Refractions of Glasston

Product– Refractions of Glasston

System-Call of Cthulhu, 7th ed

Producer– Taylor University PWR Press

Price– free! https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/297601/Refractions-of-Glasston?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– A grade 297601college work!  90%

 

 

Basics-All is not well in the midwest….In a small glass making town in Indiana, something ancient and evil is stirring.  Can our heroes learn the horrific secrets in time or will fail and end up consumed by the glass as well? Let’s break this down!

Mechanics or Crunch– This is mechanically well done for an intro adventure.  Honestly, the only major tool in the CoC toy box that isn’t on display is a chase scene.  There are fights, ancient, evil books, spells, investigation, and lots of social interaction.  If you play your cards right, don’t lose your head, and look everywhere (all the parts of a smart CoC investigator), you can put down something TRULY evil, and it will feel natural when you do it.  5/5

Theme or Fluff-Here things suffer a bit.  The story is decent once you are in.  However, it’s a big rough getting the different investigators together, into the town, and working together.  That’s a pretty rough start other than “YOU SEEM TRUSTWORTHY! LET’S INVESTIGATE HORRORS BEYOND HUMAN KEN TOGETHER!”  But once you are past that part of the story, it opens up well and you will have a blast. 4.5/5

Execution–  PDF?  Yep! Hyperlinked?  no…. For a first outing by this team, I like what’s here.  Need my links, but it’s not bad. There are rough spots like there is a character that they characters will need up with who plays a major role in advancing the story, but she’s not in the Dramatis personæ at the back of the adventure, so that’s a minor problem.  Aside from minor issues like that, the adventure is solid. The pregenerated characters have a mix of types that are fun, but their skills are thought out enough that they compliment the problems you see well. I would like for pulp options in the next adventure like how that is handled in the larger adventures Chaosium puts out, but again, that’s going beyond in development.  What’s here is relatively solid and reads well out of the box. 4/5

 

Summary-I majored in the hard sciences in college, so I never did anything as cool as write a CoC adventure for credit.  But, if this is the quality I can expect going forward, I think I really missed something awesome. This is a good intro adventure with a fun variety of toys to spring on and for the adventurers.  The story has a harder start, but once it’s going, it takes off. The execution is decent. It’s not perfect, but the issues are minor enough that the players won’t know if you think on your feet as a keeper.  Good layout and text make this easy enough to read. I did enjoy the line about completely reading the adventure before you start because that NEVER happens. Overall, this is a fantastic intro adventure I feel like I can spring on any group of new players and get an amazing CoC experience that will hook them for decades to come.  90%

Ring Side Report-Keeping It Classy: The Cleric

Product– Keeping it Classy: The Cleric

System-Dungeons and Dragons 5e

Producer– DMs Guild

Price– $ 5.95 https://www.dmsguild.com/product/290873/Keeping-It-Classy-The-Cleric?affiliate_id=658618

TL; DR– Routinely amazing 93%

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Basics-Time for class options for my favorite class-the cleric!  How does this one stack up compared to the others?

Mechanics or Crunch–  This is a well done book with a few things that I would not have done myself.  The book has new cleric domains. That was a given, and these are well done mechanics.  Perhaps a few too many rely on playing with the channel ability, but I like them all. The book has new items.  Again, solid things I expected. The book also has a new race. This I am less a fan of. It’s well done, but I want all the races set out before I start a game.  That’s just preference. What I would like instead is more spells and feats. But, that’s again a personal preference. What is here is solid, but I would just like more.    4/5

Theme or Fluff–  The Keeping It Classy series keeps it classy here.  The race is well done. The domains feel right. The items have good fluff to make you feel them in the world.  I love what is in this book! 5/5

 

Execution–  PDF?  Yep! Hyperlinked?  Yep! Ok, all the things I want standard in a book written in 2019!  It uses public domain art well to break up the flow and makes the book easier to read, so this honestly is how I want books written out.  New art is nice, but for the price you can’t beat what is here! Text is well laid out. If you want solid design of a book, this is a good example to use.  5/5

 

Summary-The Keeping It Classy series is a precision machine that keeps spitting out precision product.  Think less McDonald’s machine and more Fine Dining expectations-the routine should be phenomenal.  And this is true. The book has good races, items, and class parts that if you want new options for your cleric, then this is worth your time.  I’m not as much a fan of new races as other DMs, but the race is well done. I’d just like more other “things” like feats and spells, especially for this spell casting class.  However, that boils down to the problem of me wanting more from this book, which means I like what’s here. This is as always a routinely amazing book from a routinely amazing team.  93%