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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,225 posts (5,522 including aliases). 445 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.



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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Opening with some decidedly adult fiction in which mages and ordinary mortals mix at a convention with unsatisfactory results for just about everyone, this book is a second collection of legacies adding to the rich tapestry of mage society and perhaps offering a path which your mage character might like to tread.

The Introduction: Long Ago and Far Away explains the significance of legacies in a mage's journey through life, how they can contribute to his development as an individual and Awakened mage. The focus of this book is the ancient traditions, those that trace their lineage back through the mists of time or which seek to rediscover ancient truths lost to modern mages. Thirteen legacies are presented here including a couple from the Left Hand Path, teaching their adherents dubious practices which make them more suited for NPCs than player-characters and so best left for Storyteller use.

The bulk of the book is given over to detailed discussions of the thirteen legacies, providing ample material for anyone wishing to play a mage embracing one of the legacies or a Storyteller who wants to embroil that legacy in the storyline. Although necessary game mechanics are included, the main gist of each one is the underlying mindset and concepts involved, helping the reader to understand how a mage will grow and develop as he pursues that legacy. Each one includes the attainments a mage gains as he advances within it and a sample character should you wish to make use of it as an NPC representative of the legacy (or as inspiration for building your own character or NPCs). There are also story hooks based around each legacy which can be woven into the plot or even used as inspiration for an entire chronicle focussed on it.

Reading through the different legacies gives an idea of the vast and magestic sweep of history that lies behind magic within this game. Like its companion book Legacies: The Sublime this one delves deep into the underlying philosophy and addresses the core of the game: the development of the individual as a wielder of magic in modern times. Many of these legacies involve mastery over something - the elements, dreams, even death itself - and speak to the need of many to control things around them, something that lies at the very heart of magical power. Others address the equally powerful urge to create, be it in stone or metal or music, or to understand the underlying pattern.

This makes for a fascinating read, once you have got past the opening fiction which will be a bit too explicit for some readers. The legacies are varied and provide valuable insights into what it means to be a modern-day mage, and for those who choose to follow them provide a vehicle to develop characters into potent practitioners of their art.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This adventure is designed with the novice GM in mind, and involves a series of unfortunate events in a mansion near the rural settlement of Gafolweed. It's intended for 3rd-level characters, ideally from the area. This mansion is the home of an adventurer called Marcellus Drake... an adventurer who has ensured his fame lasts by penning a series of autobiographical stories about his adventures.

The characters are brought into the story by an ingenious twist: the late adventurer's lawyer contacts them stating that they are his heirs, but to claim their inheritance they must solve the mystery of the adventurer's own murder!

With most adventures, this is where I'd make some comment about not everything being quite so straightforward, but in this one it is not a case of all is not what it seems - nothing is what it seems! The mansion is, needless to say, absolutely bursting with traps and other dangers, and the dungeon beneath is inspired by the stories of the adventurer's exploits.

The adventure begins in Gafolweed, where the legends around Marcellus Drake have become a cottage industry. Copies of the stories and related merchandise can be obtained here, and it is here that the party will be approached by the 'lawyer' informing them of their good fortune. Everything is well laid out with helpful hints and tips for the GM on how to run each encounter, even in the fairly loose and freeform early stages. Stat blocks for each encounter are clear and placed just where you need them. Good notes are given on playing each NPC as that individual is first presented, whilst descriptions - of people, places and things - paint vivid pictures. In addition there are neat "GM's Tips" that give additional advice on how to deal with various issues from concealing that an NPC is lying to keeping track of a horde of them.

The course of the adventure is quite free-form, with the characters able to wander around at will, interacting with the household staff and exploring the various parts of the mansion. Yet everything is laid out clearly so that the GM will be able to let the party have free rein while being able to respond appropriately. Ways of passing information on to the characters are suggested, including gleaning clues from knowledge of Drake's exploits (even if they have to speed-read the books - assuming they bought any - mid-dungeon!).

Several battlemaps (0one are good at them!), paper standees for the monsters and handouts are provided. The handouts are slightly marred by obtrusive product branding, but it is just about possible to cut around it if you prefer 'realistic' looking handouts.

This is a novel and well-resourced take on that old classic, the puzzle dungeon. It's coherent and logical, and should make for an entertaining game.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

An isolated township eagerly awaiting the annual supply/trading ship which doesn't arrive owing to an unfortunate encounter with a sea monster, two trading houses eager to capitalise on the high prices to be commanded by what items do make it over a difficult mountain pass and a chance for the party to make some money as well as a name for themselves by pioneering the mountain crossing... what more could you ask for in an adventure that embeds the characters in the everyday lives and excitement of the setting?

The action starts with the party arriving in the isolated township and getting swept up into the forthcoming celebrations. There's plenty of detail provided to get them embroiled quickly so that they, along with the townspeople, will really feel the loss of the expected ship when the news arrives. Along with a sidebar concerning likely effects of over-celebrating the festivities.

A neat idea is several 'adventure flowcharts' - this is a very freeflowing adventure and it will help you keep track of not only what the party is up to but what others involved are doing as well. There's a lot going on and it all adds to the flavour, but it does have the potential to get quite confusing. The party can get confused, but it is best if the GM does not! Speed is of the essence here, and there are some neat mechanics to help you assess how well the party - and their rivals - are doing. Lots of details are provided to help you run an adventure where the journey itself is the adventure, rather than something to get you to the adventure. Hang on to them, they'll make running future journeys easier yet more exciting as well.

During the mountain crossing there are all manner of hazards: natural ones, the local wildlife and deliberate attempts to slow down the party or prevent them making the crossing altogether. Then they'll have to round up a caravan of goods and make the return trip... whoever said the life of the adventurer was an easy one?

A good thing about this adventure is that it brings the world of commerce to vivid and exciting life in a way rare for fantasy games. Even if the party is not bitten by the trading bug, they will get a real feel for what is going on in the world of trade whilst they're off killing monsters and looting their stuff - something that increases the reality of this alternate reality that you and the players share. Recommended.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This book opens by introducing the Firefly TV show, and does so well even if you have watched it before (likely you have if you are interested in a game based on that show... although the Leverage game from the same company actually started me watching that show, but I digress). This overview is linked neatly into what the game's about: you will form a crew similar to the Serenity one (if you are confused, Firefly is the name of the show, this game and the class of ship they went around in; Serenity is the name of the ship, the movie spin-off from the TV show and a previous RPG...), and have adventures similar to the ones in the show. Indeed, if you want you can play the characters from the show. The adventures will be new, though. It would be rather dull to play out ones you've already seen on TV! This opening section finishes with there's some background on the place you'll be adventuring in, the 'Verse, and basic notes on what you need to play.

The next chapter is an episode guide of all fourteen episodes of the show that were broadcast. Naturally it's a bit more than that, with notes on how things work in the game - e.g. what dice would be rolled by a given character to perform some stunt that he did in the show - ideas for adventures spinning off from what's already happened, stat blocks for people who feature and more. Weapons and items, for example, are both described and given their game statistics, should you want to use them yourself. It's all lavishly illustrated with screenshots - alas uncaptioned. Each episode ends with several full-blown adventure outlines you could use, and there's plenty and enough detail there that you could throw the episode itself at your characters and see if they can do any better than the originals!

This is followed by Find A Crew, a chapter that explains all you need to know to create your own character. It also has full work-ups in game terms of all the show's characters if you'd rather play them and a set of archetypes that provide a half-way house, most of the hard work has been done for you and all you need to do is personalise them for yourself. If you have Serenity Crew, you'll already have the show characters and archetypes, but here you also get to find out how to create a character from scratch, if that's your preference.

Next comes Find A Ship, which provides a similar service for working out the details of the ship that will be your characters' home, transportation and business. There's even a handy technobabble chart for those who want to sound like they know what's happening in Engineering! There's plenty of material here for you to design a ship from scratch as well as a range of ideas about all the other ships that are out there in the black... not to mention other modes of transportation that you'll find when you land as well.

Ship and crew sorted, all that remains is to Find A Job: and the chapter of the same name starts with the basics for novice role-players, explains how the game is played and how the rules work, and ends with more customisation, how to create your own options and how characters advance once they've been played a bit. This continues with the next chapter, Keep Flyin', which is aimed at whoever wants to be the Game Master (GM). This looks at the rules from the GM's point of view before delving into the running of adventures, how to keep the excitement high and the pressure on, and how to create and run the myriad NPCs needed - for Firefly is, above all, a game in which interactions with other people is central.

The penultimate chapter, Into the Black, looks further into that black art, game mastering, showing you how to use those gamemaster characters to best effect, create the atmosphere and the surroundings and bring it all to life. If it all sounds a bit hard at first, everything soon becomes plain - it's a good solid overview of the game master's art. These skills learned it is time to put them into practice with a complete ready-made scenario to run: What's Yours Is Mine. In this, the party's help is enlisted by someone wrongfully gaoled for murder who wants to get their company back from the individual who framed them... well, you would, wouldn't you.

There's an Appendix jam-packed with useful bits and bobs, including enough Chinese to sound authentic (but perhaps best not practiced on the local Chinese takeaway!), schematics for a Firefly-class ship, system maps and blank sheets for both characters and ships.

Overall, it's a fine introduction to the game - go enjoy yourself out in the black!


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This is a resource for a Firefly RPG Game Master (GM), whose role is of course to ensure that thing's don't go smooth for the characters... er, that they may live in interesting times. After all, who wants a game where all plans execute as intended and the bad guys never show up? Keep that for real life...

The Introduction lays this all out, in the rather slangy approach that is standard for Firefly resources. Whilst the book is mainly intended for GMs, there is material that players can use, however - like new distinctions, signature assets and ships. You may prefer, however, to introduce these in a controlled manner rather than letting them loose in these pages, particularly if you intend on using the army of antagonists or the plot suggestions to be found here.

Antagonists are not necessarily villians. They're just people whose interests or inclinations run contrary to those of the characters and so can be relied upon to object to or counter whatever they are trying to do... or whose own schemes will impact in a negative way on them. Some are out-and-out bad guys, but even villains don't necessarily see themselves as evil: they may have a quite reasonable (to themselves, at least) rationale for whatever they are doing.

The bulk of this book, then, is a collection of antagonists who can be relied upon to ensure things don't go smoothly for your characters. They are divided into various categories, so you can pick ones appropriate to what you have in mind... and of course, reading through all the details presented sparks ideas for stories if you haven't a plan in mind already. Spies and crime bosses, rival crews and gangs, and assorted other potential opponents are to be found here.

The first lot - the spies and crime bosses - are all individuals although most command a fair few minions to do their bidding. There are notes on what makes a good - great, even - crime boss, which you can apply to individuals of your own design as well as appreciate in these ones. Each one comes with detailed background information and some atmospheric illustrations - not just them but things like appropriate advertisments or scenes - as well as full stat blocks. Notes include typical locations and details of their followers, but the main focus is on the individual in charge. If you are wondering about the spies... well, strip away the followers, tone down their activities a bit and any one of these people could make a career out of espionage, if that suits your plans better. The individual details are followed by some appropriate signature assets. Some might be appropriate for your characters... or they may, ahem, liberate them from a passing crime boss in the course of an adventure. The chapter rounds out with some plot seeds that would work well with these antagonists.

Then come the rival crews and gangs. After all, it is extremely unlikely that the characters are the only bunch of somewhat questionable types crusing around the 'Verse in a ship looking to make a score. There's bound to be other groups with the same idea in mind. Some may be intrinsicly similar to your crew, with enough differences to make them interesting and challenging - their cortex hacker maybe enjoys a good brawl whereas yours hides under a table when a fight breaks out, for example - others will be completely different with their own motivations. Ideas for how to present them in interesting ways are provided before descriptions of several groups are provided, with full stats for the leader and summaries of everyone else in the crew or gang, along with copious background notes replete with suggestions as to how to incorporate them into a good plot. Again, illustrations and notes bring them to life, adding atmosphere to the listings. The chapter ends with a neat system for coming up with a rival crew on the fly (which will work just as well if you are short a few ideas but know you want a rival crew...) and a selection of plot outlines to embroil them in.

The final collection of antagonists are quite strange - things that might be completely unexpected. There are some guidance notes on setting up the right circumstances to introduce them and what makes them tick, too, which empower you to weave them seamlessly into whatever's going on. And they are weird indeed - a rogue AI, perhaps, which has got religion or maybe someone who is a nice person who just happens to be (unbeknownst to themselves) a programmed assassin... or even someone - something? - that may be a ghost or is it merely an urban legend that the unscrupulous are capitalising on? More new signature assests and a whole bunch of stuff about the Reavers and how to bring them into your game with the right amount of terror and confusion that they should generate.

The next chapter presents a veritable fleet of enemy boats. A memorable enemy has to have a ship to match, after all. Several are described in detail all ready for the using (or the stealing if your crew is anything like mine...) and there's also a complete system for designing your own ships, based around devising new signature assets and new classes of vessel.

This is followed by a chapter called Scheming and Narratin' - this is jam-packed full of hints and tips on game-mastering and in particular how to give your antagonists every bit as much life, individuality and interest as your players lavish on their characters. There's all sorts of stuff here including combat, location and much, much more... material that could easily be retooled for any game and so is well worth reading whatever ruleset and genre you run games for. Spend a lot of time reading and rereading this chapter, it will reward you amply.

Finally there are two complete adventures ready to run - Merciless and Thieves in Heaven. The first involves a heist in a museum and the second a collective of shipyard dogs who have fallen on hard times and are coming down with a mysterious illness to boot. Of course, there's plenty more to each of them and they should prove interesting entertainment for you and your group.

If you are serious about GMing Firefly, this book should be snuggled up next to your copy of the core rulebook.


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