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Medusa

Amber Scott's page

Contributor. Goblin Squad Member. Pathfinder Adventure Path, Campaign Setting, Companion, Modules, Roleplaying Game Subscriber. 585 posts. 4 reviews. No lists. No wishlists.



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A novel narrative system

****( )

I've never played storytelling systems before. The closest I ever got was old White Wolf (Vampire, Werewolf, etc.) which still had a lot of traditional gaming elements. I backed the Hillfolk DramaSystem on Kickstarter mainly because I like Robin Laws' writing and the system looked interesting. Once I received the product I realized it was like nothing I'd ever encountered before.

Hillfolk isn't about killing monsters or leveling up. It's about creating relationship-based stories. The character creation session is like a miniature adventure in its own right. Instead of designing a backstory in a vacuum, you go around the table defining your relationship to the other characters and inventing emotional ties to each. Instead of playing a paladin whose parents were killed by orcs so now you hunt orcs, you might indicate another player and define yourself as his brother, son, lover, or rival. Then you do the same to the other players, while they do so for you. Your character sheet is a web of connections.

Hillfolk also contains a straightforward mechanic for overcoming challenges by ranking what abilities you are "strong" and "weak" at. The simplicity of the system allows for enormous variation. For example, you might rank yourself as strong at "Enduring" and then specify how your endurance manifests. Perhaps you can run for an hour without slowing, or go two days without food before feeling hunger, or sleep only 6 hours a night. Your character's abilities are only limited by your imagination.

There are still story mechanics, of course, but the players have almost as much control over them as the GM does. The GM ("Game Moderator" here) is more of a referee than an overlord. The players each get a chance to determine scenes in a session and identify which characters are present. Through a token exchange mechanism, players can opt in or out of scenes. The character interaction in these scenes revolves around the characters' emotional needs, and players can win tokens by filling those needs. If you kill a monster in Hillfolk, your victory over might earn you the respect you crave from your estranged father and satisfy your character's desires. Or it might be an example of how you once again caved in to your bloodlust, despite your every effort to exert self-control.

I'm enchanted by the possibilities Hillfolk has to offer and eager to try it out with my group. It's a new kind of system, one that I think requires a certain level of maturity and openness in a group. I haven't playtested it yet and the system seems very foreign to me, so I rated the book 4 stars (great).

The book is physically beautiful too, with good quality pages and gorgeous black-and-white art. The font is somewhat small (maybe I'm getting old) but the pages use a good balance of white space.

I'm really excited by this product and can't wait to give it a try.


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Crunchy Mummy Goodness

*****

If you've read any of the other Minotaur Games Monster Focus products, the format of Mummies will be familiar to you. Unlike Skeletons or Zombies, this book has new traps in addition to the rest of the crunch--a nice touch given the popular notion of mummies lurking in trap-filled tombs.

The book begins with a brief paragraph about mummies and then leaps right into the crunch. New content fills the book from end to end, including:
-a list of the results of skill rolls to determine what the PCs know about mummies
-4 new feats for mummies and mummy-fighters
-new alchemical items and Craft DCs
-5 new mummy-fighting (or using!) spells
-4 new magic items including a cool new figurine of wondrous power
-3 new traps
-3 variant mummies
-a section on adventure ideas using the contents of the book

The book is 6 pages long (including the cover) and contains some simple line art drawings. The quality is fantastic for the price. If you're going to be using mummies in an upcoming game--or if you think mummies are cool and want more ideas on adventures in which you can use them--Mummies is a great book to buy.


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Glorious Sandbox Setting

*****

First of all, this book has beautiful art. The cover just leaps out at you and tells you “this is one badass, high-adventure, high-stakes, high-seas campaign world.” Before the first chapter there’s also a full-page color map of the Razor Coast.

This may be a strange comment, but the OGL License page is really good too. It’s nice to see a third-party publication really make use of open game content and pull monsters, classes, and spells from a half-dozen sources. It makes the material feel expansive and more applicable to a variety of games—plus it tells me the writers were free to use material they felt was cool and appropriate.

The book’s introduction defines Razor Coast as “a sandbox-style, mini-campaign setting and toolkit that guides GMs to create a high-fantasy, age of sail adventure path for a party of player characters ranger from 5th to approximately 12th level.” The book is divided into 7 chapters, plus appendices.

Chapter One: History and setting details of the Razor Coast.
Chapter Two: GM advice and plot points for creating an adventure path.
Chapter Three: Setting details for the main community of Port Shaw and prominent NPCs.
Chapter Four: Setting details for the area surrounding Port Shaw and the “dungeon” style sewers beneath the city.
Chapter Five: Ship and sea combat rules.
Chapter Six: Details on a main “plot arc” of Razor Coast and guidance for the GM on “designing and executing your unique conclusion” to the plot arc.
Chapter Seven: Details on a potential “finale” to the main Razor Coast plot arc and how the GM can design and execute the adventures.
Appendices: New magic items, new monsters, NPC stats, and gazetteer-style information on the campaign world.

There isn't much I can add to the other reviews save that this book exceeded my expectations. It has a ton of great content and take a really unique slant on adventure design by guiding the GM on how to use the presented components. Also one of the coolest, creepiest "end bosses" I've ever seen. Fantastic book all around.


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Caper meets horror

*****

This was one of my favourite Pathfinder Tales novels. I love caper stories and this was a fun take on the genre--caper meets horror with a motley crew of characters. I'd love to read more of the group's adventures. I'm normally not a fan of present tense, but I thought it worked in this case. It was one of those books where I stayed up far too late reading "just one more chapter."



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