Nov 16, 2018

Book Recommendations of October and November 2018 Part 4 - Role Playing

Here are our role playing recommendations and tips issued in our October and November newsletters, enjoy!

ModernAge by Malcolm Shephard
green ronin publishing: €34,95

Green Ronin's The Adventure Game Engine (AGE) is the rules behind its role-playing games DragonAge, FantasyAge and Blue Rose, and it feels a lot like rules-lite and a modern version of D&D that lends itself to slightly more grounded settings. ModernAge adapts the AGE system to all kinds of modern genres and settings - spy thriller, urban fantasy, cyberpunk...In doing that, it also re-structures the system from the grounds up, removing classes and giving lots and lots of options to modify the rules for different tones. This rule-set is certainly an achievement, but to be honest, I'm a little on the fence about it: There's tons of options here, maybe a little too much. the stunt system, one of the big selling points of AGE (stunts give you a choice from a number of special effects on certain rolls) has become more structured, for example, but it also feels a little bloated by now - there's pages over pages of stunts, and while some are marked as "core stunts" to use when you feel overwhelmed, I know that most role-players don't work that way and still fret about the other options.
Still, AGE is a good, fun, cinematic rpg system, and ModernAge is its most flexible and consistent incarnation.
So if you're not that afraid of a few islands of complexity in a rules-set that, by and large, is pretty simple and intuitive, this might be your thing.

Capharnaüm - The Tales of the Dragon-Marked
mindjammer press: €39,99
Translated from the french original, Capharnaüm is a role-playing game of middle-eastern fantasy. The setting is focused around its world's equivalent of the arab peninsula, at a time shortly after what would have been the last age of crusades of our history. The idea behind the whole things is quite obvious - get away from the fantasy- European cultural center most rpg settings gravitate towards and present a world that feels very close to our own history, but with some notable differences. So there are no Christian, but Quarterian crusaders, whose religion is something a little different. Of course, there's also demons, djinni, magic, giant desert-lizard mounts and people who have been chosen by the gods for greatness (or at least a great death), the player characters being among them by default.
In terms of setting, Capharnaüm's approach reminds me strongly of 7th Sea; however, I find Capharnaüm's Crusaders Meet Arabian Nights concept much more appealing than 7th Sea's Three-Muskateers-Europe. The rules look solid, fairly simple and with a few nice twists - they remind me a lot of the excellent Middle-Earth rpg The One Ring in their focus on supporting core motifs of the setting.
Overall, Capharnaüm has me interested and I'll give it a spin at one of our next open gaming nights.

Dungeons & Dragons: Art & Arcana - A Visual History by Michael Witwer et al
ten speed press € 48,95

This is a terrific book! From the first iterations of most people’s favorite RPG called Chainmail and the original Dungeons & Dragons to present-day fifth edition, it covers the history of this game through its visual presentation. It is half art book with tons of beautifully reproduced original artwork from D&D products, and half history of the trials and tribulations of Gygax, TSR, and the game itself. What makes it even more interesting are juxtaposed illustrations of certain iconic monsters throughout the various editions, spotlights on artists, and also a huge collection of ads, covers for board and computer games, film posters etc. It’s a treasure trove of material and information, an entertaining read and a huge reason for drowning in nostalgia.

Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay 4th Edition by Dominic McDowall et. al
Cubicle 7 € 59,99

“The struggle of the gutter” -- this term from the introduction to the 4th edition of this game pretty much sums up, what Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay brought to the genre of Fantasy Roleplaying when it first met gamers in the 80s. Its setting, the Old World, can roughly be compared to renaissance Europe, especially Germany, with endless thick forests where enlightenment only takes place in a few big cities, but otherwise life and the prospect of life is miserably dark. And add to that some fantasy elements, all of them nasty, cheerless and perilous, and you get a quite accurate picture of the world of Warhammer, that is eternally besieged by the forces of Chaos, by ghastly mutated beastman, demons, demon worshippers, orcs, goblins, the wicked powers of magic and rat men … or, no, not by rat men, they don’t exist, really.
This game is a favorite with a lot of gamers because you don’t exactly play heroes but ordinary people like beggars, watchmen, or stevedores that stumble across the forces that seek to destroy the Empire (that theme was borrowed if somewhat altered from the Call of Cthulhu roleplaying game). In Warhammer there is no redeeming quality to the bad side, but the good side often gets too fanaticized and therefore sometimes presents another evil, so the characters can have a hard time choosing sides. As grim as this sounds, Warhammer also carries a lot of British humor and deals with moral dilemmas and the plight of characters and ordinary people alike in a tongue-in-cheek way.
First and second editions of the game used a percentile system that worked very well, and the fourth edition is returning to that exact formula, only adding some minor adjustments to the principal setup of 1st and 2nd. I haven’t tested it yet (and am still a huge fan of 3rd edition), but let’s rejoice in the fact that there is a new edition of this grimfun game out and available, and let’s hope for a steady flow of much desired supplements.

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