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Megan Robertson's page

Pathfinder Society Member. 5,261 posts (5,558 including aliases). 453 reviews. No lists. No wishlists. 1 Pathfinder Society character. 2 aliases.



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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This rules expansion delves deep into what it means to be an Inquisitor, providing a wealth of information about the setting of Warhammer 40K and the Inquisitor's place within that setting as well as a host of options to consider in customising your character - everything from new origins and professions to details of different worlds, the religious philosophies he might be exposed to and the nature of life as an Acolyte. There's a lot here, a lot to take in!

Chapter 1: Advanced Character Creation is the home of many of these new options. Building on the core rulebook, there are new homeworlds, backgrounds and character origins from which to choose. Neatly, the Homeworld table from the core rules has been rewritten to incorporate the new ideas so you can just read through (or roll if you prefer a random origin) the one collection rather than having to juggle the information from two books at once! Various sub-options have been provided to allow for even greater variety. This all serves to enhance the rich tapestry of the setting, it's worth reading through the options you don't intend to play just to get an idea of what else is out there!

The chapter moves on to review some unique worlds of the Calixis Sector - useful if you will be visiting, essential if you (or the dice) decide that is where you come from. There are also optional background packages, tailored to suit characters of different career paths and designed to help you give depth and personality to your character - another neat idea. In choosing them other requirements quite often need to be met, ensuring that the background fits your character well.

Next, Chapter 2: Calixian Careers suggests a new career path and offers modifications to existing ones as well as an array of what are described as elite advance packages. First, though, in the male-dominated environment that is the Inquisition, comes the Adepta Sororitas or Daughters of the Emperor, which consists of various orders involved in all aspects of endevour from warfare to diplomacy, teachers to investigators. They're powerful and very straight-laced, unable to tolerate the slightest deviation from orthodoxy or taint of the forbidden. It's not so much a career path as a whole battery of them, driven by faith and providing a wealth of opportunity for those who'd like to play a female character. This is followed by a collection of alternative ways to follow existing career paths, allowing you to customise a character in depth. Interestingly, all the alternatives are rooted in conspiracies, organisations or cults to be found in the Calixis Sector, helping to embed the character deeply into the region in which they operate. You won't change career path, but your advancement through your chosen one will take twists and turns unavailable to others. Each option comes with copious background notes as well as new skills and abilities to apply to the character. Elite advance packages, on the other hand, allow the character to remain on the core career path but take a few non-standard options as they advance, often due to something they've done or experienced along the way.

Chapter 3: Feral and Feudal Worlds begins a look at a vast range of weapons and other equipment that can be found on specific planets within the Calixis Sector. Characters who come from a given world ought to be at least familiar with them and may choose to wield them, others may take a liking to them when they encounter them and go to great efforts to seek them out and learn how to use them to effect. The next two chapters, Chapter 4: Hive and Forge Worlds and Chapter 5: Frontier Worlds and the Void, continue this pattern. Hive worlds are manufacturing centres with high population densities, while forge worlds are also industrial but in the grip of the Adeptus Mechanicus with many things rich and strange (and deadly) to be found there in the shape of the techno-devices that they make. As Calixis Sector is on the edge of the Imperium, there are quite a few frontier worlds which are even more dangerous that one might imagine. And then there is the void. The black between all these worlds and the ships that ply the spacelanes. Naturally, special skills and equipment are needed to survive let alone prosper there. Acolytes often have to travel as part of their duties, sometimes a vessel will be provided but often they will have to find their own way, the details here will help both party and GM organise transportation when it is required.

This survey is followed by Chapter 6: War Zones. There are plenty of them in Calixis Sector (indeed, anywhere in an Imperium which thrives on and is sustained by warfare), and this chapter touches on the weapons and equipment needed to survive there. Properly the domain of the Imperial Guard, there will be occasions when Acolytes' duties take them close to the action. Those interested in military weapons will find plenty here.

Next, Chapter 7: The Holy Ordos takes a look at some of the specialised and rare items used by the Inquisition itself, some are actually unique or extremely specialised for a specific task. Whilst Acolytes are expected to deal with situations using whatever resources they have to hand, it can be useful to know what is available and where to get it if the need arises.

Chapter 8: Religion and Superstition is more philosophical in tone, talking about religious faith within the Imperium. Belief in the God-Emperor is a given - it's not faith, he's actually there, a tangible presence: and he does not tolerate those who do not worship him. However, not everyone is devout, not everyone wishes to listen to preachers, even if they'd say that they venerate the God-Emperor as they should... and here you can find out about the varied roles religion plays in citizens' lives. The priesthood, saints, relics and pilgrimages that may feature in an Acolyte's religious life are discussed here, as well as common heresies that he might encounter. It all helps to add depth and flavour to the setting.

Finally, Chapter 9: Life as an Acolyte gives an inkling of the day-to-day existence that is the character's lot. Threats to overcome, positions to jockey for, the ways to stand out and gain advancement... and how alter-egos and contacts work, both mechanically and in-character. Sometimes an Acolyte does not wish it to be known what he is, hence the need for alter-egos, legends and disguises. And if you are investigating something, contacts always come in useful - as they do if you need something specific to complete the task in hand. Notes on expanded skills and the ability to craft things round out the chapter, and then an Appendix contains collected weapons tables from throughout the book.

There's a lot here, but all serves to contribute to the rich variety of the setting. The sheer scope, the vast sweep, is what makes the Warhammer 40K setting what it is, and this work encapsulates that nicely, bringing information about places and equipment, organisations and ideas, to your hands, and should prove valuable to players and GMs alike.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This work contains three linked adventures which will take a party of Acolytes to some quite unsavoury corners of the underbelly of the Calixis Sector. They are all suitable for characters of Rank 5 or below, and follow on quite nicely from Illumination, the introductory adventure at the back of the core rulebook, thus helping you to get your campaign off to a flying start. However, they are open enough that it's a trivial matter to retool them to take place elsewhere if you do not happen to want to use the Calixis Sector. Again, although linked, you do not need to run all of them if you campaign takes a different direction, and each provides suggestions for further adventures and special notes for those who want to exploit the various factions or Ordos within the Inquisition.

There's a brief introduction explaining all this, then it's on to the first adventure, Rejoice for You Are True. This takes the Acolytes to Scintilla, the capital of the entire Calixis Sector, to investigate a burgeoning new cult called the Joyous Choir. They believe that the main purpose of the Emperor is to ensure that all citizens of the Imperium are happy and hence hold that they should be contented with their lot, whatever it might be, to gain his favour. It's proven popular amongst young nobles and middle-echelon individuals, who seek to become True (as the cult terms it) through attending workshops and individual sessions run by cult Counsellors. Unfortunately, a few members have gone missing, and it is this along with discovery of xenotech devices that has led to the Acolytes being sent to investigate.

The Acolytes will be able to use a variety of routes to investigate, including posing as ‘visiting cousins’ to the noble and thus getting the opportunity to infiltrate the upper echelons of the cult, as well as wandering the streets to find out whatever they can about it. This is definitely an adventure for players who enjoy interaction, investigation and intrigue. There is a lot of atmospheric description to help you set the scene and create a convincing alternate reality for the Acolytes to wander through, and vividly-described NPCs for them to meet. There’s even a pamphlet that the Joyous Choir hands out on the street for you to give them, while there are many unusual rules and customs to catch them out. Make sure you have read the adventure thoroughly beforehand so that you know what they are! There's a lot going on (and a lot for you to keep track of), but there is plenty of advice as to what the Acolytes might do and how to deal with it in their quest to find out what's really going on.

The second adventure is called Shades on Twilight. It's a classic action adventure where the Acolytes are sent to explore a mysterious space hulk that has just emerged heading straight for Scintilla - so they are under pressure to find out what's going on, retrieve anything useful and ensure that it does not hit the sector capital! Pressure indeed, a scant 15 hours are allowed for them to complete their work. There are all manner of threats and downright oddities for them to contend with as they explore. Again, the adventure is well-resourced to enable you to run it to good effect.

The final adventure, Baron Hopes, takes the Acolytes to Sepheris Secundus, a planet where downtrodden serfs live a life that is only slightly less hard than that of mutants. A Baron there attempted - heretical idea! - to better the lives of the mutants but was eventually dealt with, however now the mutants have formed a 'terrorist' group, the Broken Chains, which has been causing trouble - and it seems that even once killed they won't stay dead. Or at least, a recent photograph shows someone believed killed. The Acolytes are sent to find out what's going on in what appears to be another investigative adventure, but which will soon turn to full-blown horror as the investigation turns into an exercise of pure survival!

All three adventures can be summed up with terms like 'atmosphere' - as well as providing plenty of action they also give a real feel for what this alternate reality, the world of Warhammer 40K, is like, highlighting the curious mix of priviledge and constraint that is the Inquisitors' lot within it. They should contribute well to a memorable campaign.


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An RPG Resource Review

****( )

This product has two components: a Game Master's screen and a book containing an adventure and some additional rules. Depending on whether you've gone 'dead tree' or electronic, you either get a cardstock screen and printed book or two separate PDFs to download.

The screen has some useful tables - the ones you are likely to need most often during combat - on one side and some quite dramatic art on the player-facing side. If you have gone for the electronic option, you'll have to print these out and stick them on card for the full effect, of course. Whilst pleasing to the eye, the art is dark and will use up a lot of ink - it may be best to have it done at a copy shop, or decide that you just want the tables for your own convenience. They are in greyscale, clear and easy to read.

The adventure is called Maggots in the Meat. It's set on Acerage, a backwater planet within the Imperium with a feudal ruling structure and hordes of quarrelsome lordlings perpetually squabbling over who is in charge of what, even more so since the High King died without troubling to name a successor! However, this is of no direct interest to the Imperium as long as tribute is paid and the world's surplus food output supplied...

The adventure itself begins with the party of Acolytes (it's suited to 1st or 2nd rank ones) being sent to investigate reports of 'unnatural' attacks on citizens of one lordling's domain, rumours of 'daemons' and 'monsters' fly around and it's their job to get to the bottom of them. Needless to say, the region in which they will have to conduct their investigations is being fought over at the moment.

There's a lot of atmospheric description of the areas they have to visit, along with people to interact with and rumours to pick up in the course of their investigations. Enough is provided to enable you to steer them in the right direction to the source of the problems, and there are plenty of opportunities to brawl along the way, never mind the likelihood of a spectacular combat with said source once they find it. It's a good open-ended adventure with options for you to take it in whatever direction you please, including suggestions for further adventures.

There's also an Appendix which contains details of a xenos (alien) race, rules for creating your own aliens - which can, of course be a sentient race or 'monsters', alien animals to fight, as you need, and a section on poisons and toxins. This includes a list of 'Infamous Toxins of the Calixis Sector' and their effects.

The adventure is good fun, with plenty going on yet open enough for you to run it in a fairly sandbox style to enable the characters to conduct their investigations however they please. The xenos generation system is excellent, and should come in useful whenever you need an alien monster (or race).


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

This massive tome launches the Warhammer 40K Roleplaying line, something long-awaited by those who'd watched the richness of the setting unfold around the original minitatures skirmish game. Unsurprisingly, it begins by explaining the underlying concepts of that setting, clearly enough that even those of us uninterested in miniatures can understand. Set in the 41st Century, it paints a bleak picture of galaxy-spanning warfare across decaying worlds where much of technology has been lost, presided over by an undead - or at least, not properly alive - emperor, who is as much deity as ruler.

Interestingly, characters are not the iconic 'Space Marines' of the skirmish game, but acolytes of the Inquisition, whose role is to search out threats to the Imperium of Man from within and without. The first part of the book explains how to create your character and shows how the game is played, with later chapters detailing the role of the Game Master, providing a lot more information on the setting, and even an introductory scenario to get things going.

The character creation process is laid out clearly in Chapter 1: Character Creation. It is a six-stage process beginning by determining your home world. You next work out your 'characteristics' or capabilities both physical and mental and then choose a career path to follow. Next you have points to spend on skills (or improving characteristics if preferred) as well as money for weapons, armour and other equipment. That's the main number-crunching part of the process. Then you need to flesh out the character a bit, deciding everything from what he looks like to how he behaves and thinks, maybe even his hobbies or favourite food! Each choice made has a bearing on what comes after, and in the main you have the option of making a choice or rolling random results, although you do have to roll characteristics. Plenty of detail on all the options is provided to help you make up your mind, and it's written in such a way that you are absorbing background on the setting as well - neat!

Chapter 2: Career Paths comes next, giving a wealth of detail about what the path you have chosen to follow has to offer, both now and in the future as your character gains experience. Each is unique, indeed each character on that path can choose a different route, and it is worth studying your chosen one thoroughly from the outset. The entire process of advancement is described here too, it's complex but elegant and quite easy to follow once you get the hang of it. Again, the background is woven in seamlessly so as you read you discover more about your niche within the setting.

The next few chapters continue in similar vein, with detailed examinations of skills, talents, equipment and psychic powers, if you are lucky (or unfortunate?) enough to have any. Throughout, it is explained how each one will work both mechanically and in character, enabling you to use them to good effect in play. The final part of the opening section is Chapter 7: Playing the Game which draws everything else together and gives you the lowdown on how to make everything work. Examples and advice abound, and although there's no substitute for trying it all out, preferably in the company of someone who already understands it, this chapter provides a good start.

Then comes Chapter 8: The Game Master, which seeks to provide aspiring Game Masters with what they need to know to run the game effectively. It is comprehensive, starting from the basics and hence being suitable for someone who has never GMed before, as well as providing system and setting specific information to empower you to run Dark Heresy well. There is a wealth of material here and it will repay careful study (along with the rest of the book, as the GM, of course, needs to have a thorough grounding in rules and setting alike).

The next three chapters provide more detail on the background and setting, looking at life in the Imperium, the Inquisition itself and one part of known space, the Calixis Sector. Unlike many combined rulebooks (i.e. those intended for both GM and player) which divide into a 'Player' section and a 'Game Master' section, these are of equal use to both players and GMs despite being located after the chapter dedicated to the art of game mastering, certainly the chapter on life in the Imperium. The GM may choose to reveal the inner workings of the Inquisition through role-play, if the characters begin as new recruits to its ranks, and likewise may wish to restrict knowledge of the Calixis Sector until the party actually goes there.

Chapter 12: Aliens, Heretics and Antagonists provides a bestiary and details of those whom the characters may encounter in their travels, with particular note - of course - to those who they might be investigating for heresy or who would provide opposition.

Finally, there is a full-blown adventure, Illumination, to get your campaign off to a good beginning. It's a tale of treachery and dark secrets to be uncovered, with action and danger aplenty, showcasing many of the perils that the average Inquisitor faces on a day-to-day basis. A bunch of newly-recruited Acolytes (guess who?) are sent to escort a senior Inquisitor as he heads up an investigation of a barbaric world... but they have to get there first.

As well as providing all the game mechanics necessary to play the game, this richly-presented tome provides an excellent introduction to a darkly fascinating setting. Whether you are a long-time player of the skirmish game wanting to know what else those characters do but brawl or a role-player looking for a vivid and rich setting with depth, this is worth checking out.


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An RPG Resource Review

*****

Magic in the Sixth World is a diverse and fascinating topic. Practitioners range from the studious academic magician who'd as soon write a paper about a spell as cast it to the street mage who doesn't care about theory as long as it works. This book is designed to open the lid on the practise of magic with everything from underpinning theory and beliefs to organisations mages can join and (of course) plenty of new spells. Then there's material about spirits, alchemy and the role of the talismonger as well.

Of course, after the introduction explains what's in the book, the first thing we get is some fiction. It's intriguing, a story about a girl returning home to see her sick mother, with the magic she wields being almost incidental: a nice touch, it is about a person not her magic!

Story told, along comes Surviving Magic, a discussion about what it means to be a full-blown magic capable part of the Awakened world. For some it is a joy, for some something fearful - and for most, a mixture of the two. Much of this is conversational in style, with contributions from others chipping in. It's a wide-ranging discussion beginning with finding out that you are magically-endowed - and how that makes you a target for everyone who wants to use or abuse you - and looking at popular conceptions about mages and so much more. This is useful reading even for those who are not playing mages, because it helps set the scene in which both mage and mundane operate. Many people are scared of magic, whether they can wield it or not. Others seek to exploit it... and in some parts of the world it's illegal. Most schools test for magical aptitude like they test for other potentials and capabilities, and track those who show signs of it, whilst most universities run courses in magic - which interestingly are not just for those who can cast spells, there are programmes for those interested in the underlying theory, the social ramifications - well, you know academics, they'll study a topic from every possible angle! Of course, shamans stand somewhat outside of this, as they rely on a spirit guide rather than book-learning. Corporations and even religions also take an interest, recruiting magic-users and making use of their skills. And then there's the shadow world...

Next, Magic in the World gets down to the nuts and bolts of how magic actually works. Or at least, as much as is popularly understood. It's not just the laws of magic that are talked about here, it's also the law as it relates to magic: licences to practice or even to purchase magic items can trip up the unwary. You can also find out all about mana and background counts and rifts and other strange manifestations of natural magical power.

Then comes Magical Traditions with a round-up of the myriad beliefs and theories underpinning magic. There are a lot of them, and it depends on your background and upbringing which you'll decide to apply. Most faiths have quite strong ideas on the matter, but if you are not religious there are plenty other paths to follow. Each tradition has its own core style and preferred spells.

This is followed by a section called Magical Societies. People like to band together and it's as true of mages and shamans as it is of anybody else. Some operate openly, others are hidden - and probably find you rather than the other way around. There's everything from religious orders and learned societies to street gangs here. They could provide allies or opponents for the characters, even if they choose not to join up.

The next section is rather ominously titled Dark Magic. Now, those not magically-endowed may see all magic-wielders as being involved in the dark arts but the more enlightened know that magic isn't anything like that, it's a tool like any other and can be used for good or ill... but... well, there really is some nasty stuff out there in the magical world. You may not want to dabble yourself, you may never even encounter it, but it is best to be prepared! Some comes from within, drawing on the worst ideas and emotions that people can have, and some comes from without, from alien entities. Whatever the source, those who choose to make use of it risk their very metahumanity - and quite possibly, yours. The reasons why someone might want to go there are explored, as well as the different paths into darkness that might be followed. All manners of nastiness, most suited more to be used against your party of shadowrunners than used by them (indeed some of the anecdotes and comments suggest scenario ideas as you read them!), and there's plenty of detail such as spirit statistics to enable their use.

Then on to the Expanded Grimoire, which provides a wealth of new spells with which to experiment. They are grouped by nature, so you have combat spells, detection spells and so on. Each comes with a detailed description of its effects and uses as well as the necessary detail to cast it during a game. There's a lot here... but if that is not sufficient, the next section is Shadow Rituals. This is a more detailed look at formal ritual magic than you find in the core rulebook, with plenty of ideas and examples for those who have the patience, discipline and desire to perform castings of this type.

Next comes Secrets of the Initiates. Here, those who wish to expand their powers can find out about different routes they can follow to gain even more arcane knowledge through enlightenment. Not for the faint-hearted, but for those willing to make the attempt the rewards can be potent indeed. Various ordeals may be required, but whole areas of knowledge may be opened up: geomancy, necromancy, psychometry and more. There's even a note about a fascinating career path, that of the forensic thaumaturgist. This role revolves around the use of magic to solve crimes rather than the solving of crimes in which magic was employed (although a good one can probably do that as well). The concept suggests a whole campaign based around a fusion of police procedural, magic and general CSI/forensics... but before I get sidetracked, there's loads more in here, which will be of interest to the more thoughtful mages, those interested in the theory and philosophy of their art as well as the practical applications thereof.

There's another fiction segment, Butcher's Bill, then on to a section called Physical Magic. More goodies for the physical adepts amongst us. Like each section, this begins with a short (page or so) fictional excerpt to set the scene, before launching into detailed material which starts off by explaining what physical adepts are and how they fit into Sixth World society. To give more scope to adepts, several paths or ways for them to follow are presented, each allowing the adept to specialise and focus on a specific area based on their underlying philosophy. There are some juicy new adept powers as well.

The final two sections, The Immaterial Touch and Turning Lead Into Nuyen, deal with spirits and alchemy. The section on spirits delves deep, looking at where they come from, the whys and hows behind the stat blocks we are used to, and should help you make them more of an integral part of your world. Different types of spirit and a collection of new spirit powers round off this section, along with things as diverse as how to create an ally spirit, avatars and more. Finally, the section on alchemy looks at the practice of that ancient craft, providing scope for those who'd like to try it out or for making more rounded NPCs whom the characters might consult. There's a lot about magic items and their manufacture too; and then the discussion moves on to talismongers - what they do and how, and the things they have to offer.

This book reaches down into the core essence of Shadowrun, showing how magic is integral - this is not just a cyberpunk world where magic works, but a true natural revolution, a world changed by the resurgence of magic. Most of us have got that idea already, but the depth and breadth presented here really brings it home and makes it all come to life. If you want the full picture, add this and Run and Gun to your library along with the core rulebook.


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