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Review : Dungeons & Dragons Libris Mortis

by Lev Lafayette

Introduction and Product

As a 192 gloss page hardback Libris Mortis is very well-bound, with a colourful cover piece of a graveyard summoning. The contextual internal art, of colour and monochrome, is of highly variable quality although shows some notable aptitude in creativity; the bored lich is a particularly nice piece as an example. The book comes with a one page table of contents, but no index. The content is in two colum justified serif text with good use of white-space and clearly marked chapter title and page numbers in the margins. As with all books in the edition, the use of black-on-yellow chapter pages is annoyingly difficult to read. The writing also leaves a little to be desired; it is far too vebose, often chatty, and there are an unexpected number of minor typographical errors.

The content consists of seven chapters; Introduction and All About Undead (14 pages), Character Options (17 pages), Prestige Classes (16 pages), Spells (13 pages), Equipment (6 pages), New Monsters (51 pages), and Campaigns (57 pages), which are all pretty much what they say on the tin. As can be easily ascertained, this is primarily a book for new undead monsters and undead campaigns, and the review with emphasise those areas as appropriate.

For its own part, the first major chapter starts of by bringing together various definitions of the undead, and provides an excellent variant rule of 'Haunting Presences'. It also deals with the rather ambiguous issues of undead physiology and does so more as a collation rather than bringing the disparate implementations together. There is all too brief discussions on undead psychology, society, and religion although for the latter the 'Evening Glory' deity of undying love is at least interesting. The chapter concludes with various aspects of fighting undead including knowledge checks, tactics, and of course the time-honoured favourite of ability and level drains that the cold hands deal.

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50 Years of Deception? Teach The Controversy!

Masters of Duck and Leath

Plot Summary: A group of Gloranthan Ducks are hunting an ogre in the Upland Marsh. They find themselves transported to the Cumbrian Leath, where they encounter a young woman who has been struck unconscious. Helping her, she talks about a man-eating monster that is rumoured to live in the area. The talking ducks are taken to the family's homestead where they are (eventually) warmly welcomed. The family explains that a wicked knight, Sir Daffyd, with his men-at-arms and squires have been oppressing the local people and trapping them within their dungeons.

Twentieth Issue: Monsters and Aliens

The twentieth issue of RPG Review has been released with the following content:

Administrivia, Editorial, Letters many contributors p2-4
Hot Gossip: Industry News by Wu Mingshi p5
Bunnies & Burroughs by Lev Lafayette p6-11
Alien and Monster Reviews by Lev Lafayette p12-26
Aliens in Eclipse Phase by Martin Tegelj p27-30

World War III for Twilight 2K: How It Could Have Occurred

The background assumption is that the 1991 coup [1] in the Soviet Union was a lot more aggressive and successful than the historical version (which lasted two days and led to the breakup of the Soviet Union). In this alternate history a much wider section of the KGB and the Soviet Army backed the coup, and the State Committee on the State of Emergency was able to reunite the Soviet Union with force of arms following a demands by Helmet Kohl (and an increasing military presence) to renegotiate the Polish border from the Oder-Neisse line [2]. Moving rapidly, insurrections also occurred among hardline communists in the former Warsaw pact (such as Intermovement [3] in the Baltics), calling for Soviet intervention. Ignoring international protests, in 1992 the Soviets retook their former territories in the Eastern bloc, despite majority civilian opposition.

Review of Apocalypse Games

As a setting genre of roleplaying games, the apocalyptic has done moderately well. Indeed, the sheer number of games that have been realeased which can be considered "apocalyptic" is extremely large, although many of these are either small, independent publications that have not gained significant market traction or, as will be revealed, have a tenuous association with the genre. In terms of real history, the term used to mean a revelation. It is certainly the case that the scenarios described in biblical book of Revelations that has led to a contemporary association of the Apocalypse as meaning "End Time". It is this association that people understand the term, and therefore that is what will be used in these descriptions.

Eighteenth Issue Released: Cthulu Mythos

The eighteenth issue of RPG Review has been released with the following content:

Administrivia, Editorial, Letters many contributors p2-3
Valedictions, Lynn Willis The Chaosium p4
Hot Gossip: Industry News by Wu Mingshi p5
Three Cthulhu System Reviews by Lev Lafayette p6-17
Variant Cthulhu Settings by Lev Lafayette p18-30

Warhammer 40,000 Roleplay: Dark Heresy

Introduction and Product

The arrival of Dark Heresy was greeted with some excitement; for many years the setting for the Warhammer 40K minature game was considered most opportune for a table-top RPG. As a result there have been a number of games in this setting; Dark Heresy, Rogue Trader, Deathwatch, Black Crusade and most recently Only War. These are really the same game, kinda-sorta, sharing a great deal of similarity in the rules and should be considered to be a line of related RPGs; Dark Heresy concentrates on Acolytes working for an Inquisitor, Rogue Trader for interstellar semi-legal activity (think Han Solo but with more grit), Deathwatch for Space Marines, Black Crusade, for Chaos-corrupted characters, and Only War (in development) for guardsmen. The production of multiple hefty books in this method could be considered by cynics as part of a continuing strategy to fleece the flock of loyal customers. A more generous assessment would suggest it gives the opportunity for a deep evaluation of each character type and setting. In this instance, I think the cynics are right.

The physical product is a 400 page heavy hardback rulebook, but perhaps insufficiently bound for the weight; it's a good combination of glue and stitching, but handle with care. The text is typically in two-column serif font in full-colour throughout with clear page and chapter markers. The artwork is certainly impressive throughout, with skill and imagination, and with a consistent style for a popular-gothic science fantasy, and usually with some contextual appropriateness. The text provides new levels of verbosity, but comes with a good three page table of contents with sidebar references and four-page index with table references. The writing style itself uncomfortably jumps between the informal and formal without a real evocative sense of the setting. The thirteen chapters of the book, reasonably well ordered, covers character generation and experience, skills and talents, equipment, psychic powers, setting and play information (including aliens and other antagonists), and a sample scenario "Illumination".

GURPS Third Edition (Revised)

Of all the RPG systems I have had the pleasure to play, GURPS third edition must certainly rank as one in the top five which I have played the most over the decades. It still provides a default when a variety of setting choices even to this day. So whilst I could review GURPS first, second, or fourth editions (all of which I have also played), it is GURPS 3rd edition, and specifically third edition (revised) which is being reviewed here. One could accuse me of cherry-picking a particular edition that I have a preference towards, and to a certain extent I accept that charge.

With that caveat stated, GURPS is a game with high aims. It seeks to be, as the name suggests a generic (i.e., modular) set of rules, that is universal according genre, that emphasises roleplaying integrated into the game system itself, and provides a consistent system throughout. With claimed influences from Champions (certainly true), Empire of the Petal Throne (er, no), and Tunnels & Trolls for its appeal to solitaire gamers (some justification), GURPS is most heavily influenced by Steve Jackson's earlier game, The Fantasy Trip. Those familiar with both GURPS and The Fantasy Trip will very much see the lineage in core design elements.

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