Category Archives: News & Reviews

Hidden Gem: The Unexplained

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fudge_unexplainedYesterday I bought a copy of Carnivore Games’ The Unexplained, a Fudge-based game in which you play members of a group investigating paranormal phenomenon. And from what I’ve seen so far it is definitely one of the best Fudge-based games around, with a lot of well-researched information on the paranormal.

If you ask people about Fudge you usually get recommendations to check out Carnivore Games’ other title, Now Playing. Now Playing is a roleplaying game meant to turn your favorite TV show into a roleplaying game setting. I have picked it up a while ago, but it never really grabbed me. When I learned about The Unexplained I was immediately intrigued. Even though I personally don’t believe in the supernatural, UFOs, paranormal phenomenon, I love to play in game featuring those things. Often I watch UFO “documentaries” and ghost hunting shows just to entertain myself.

Before going on, let me write a few lines about why I love Fudge so much. For me, the core mechanic which you might know from the more popular Fate is just genius. You roll four Fudge dice (six-sided dice with two sides with a plus sign, two sides with a minus sign, and two blank sides). A roll of 4dF generates numbers from –4 to +4 in a nice bell curve centered on zero. Skills, attributes, etc. and the difficulties assigned by the GM are on the same ladder and each step on that ladder has a descriptive word assigned to it like Good, Great, et cetera. So you are a Good sword fighter or a Mediocre craftsman. If you check a skill you roll 4dF and shift the skill’s rank by the roll result. That’s easy explained and makes it terribly easy to assign difficulties by the GM.

If you have followed my blog for the last couple years you might have noticed that Fudge cropped up from time to time, but I never really got into it. While I like many of Fudge’s core concepts, I always found the rulebooks too confusing, badly organized and too much of a toolbox. For the last few years I have been looking for an implementation of Fudge which you could just play out of the box, without having to pick and choose between countless options.

Carnivore Games’ The Unexplained seems to be what I have been looking for all this time. It presents a version of Fudge you can pick up and play without any hassle and it’s generic enough so that you can use it for any modern game. From what I’ve heard Now Playing uses basically the same set of Fudge rules, so I should give it a second look. It might also be more versatile, so that it can be used in any genre. If you have been happy with Grey Ghost Press’ Fudge corebook in the past, you probably won’t pick up The Unexplained just for the rules. But if you have always struggled with it, The Unexplained may help to give you a proper start.

The second reason I enjoy reading The Unexplained so much, is the fact that it contains a lot of well-researched information on the various fields of paranormal investigation. The book contains a lot of background on UFOs, ghost hunting, cryptozoology, and the methods people use to investigate these phenomenon. If you believe in such things, you might even use it as a handbook to get your ghost hunting career a kickstart. Zwinkerndes Smiley

Even though the PDF is completely black & white, it’s pretty easy on the eyes. The layout and organization are solid, and it was a joy leafing through it on my 7” tablet.

Yes, there are probably games with higher production values available. Conspiracy X, or the Dark Matter setting for Alternaty and d20 Modern come to mind. But those games usually deal with professional investigators and government conspirators and not with the countless amateur groups investigating the paranormal all over the world.

stargazers_world_sealFor me, The Unexplained is one of those hidden gems, most roleplayers not even heard about. It’s a solid product using a rules system which has fallen out of favor far too early. If you have a soft spot for the underdog, and for amateur paranormal investigations, check out The Unexplained. I am sure, you will not be disappointed.

The Unexplained is available in PDF form from DriveThruRPG for $19.99.

First Look: CONTACT – Tactical Alien Defense RPG

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Contact is one of the few roleplaying games created in Germany who eventually were released in English language. I have to admit I totally missed the release of the English PDF on DriveThruRPG probably because I had owned a hardcopy of the German version for quite a while now. The PDF on which this first look post is based on, was provided by the publisher. Thanks again, Patric!

So, what is Contact about?
Contact is a roleplaying game set into a near future, where aliens have started invading Earth. The players are part of OMEGA – an organization tasked with fighting the alien threat. Yes, this sounds a lot like the premise of the XCOM computer game series, and no, it’s not a coincidence. The author of Contact, Robert Hamberger, is a huge fan of the XCOM games and an avid role-playing gamer, who worked for many years to bring his vision to life: an XCOM-inspired pen & paper RPG.

A beautiful book!
The result is a 290-paged PDF (or book – the Kickstarter to fund the printing of hardbound books is still running) with gorgeous artwork and a percentile dice-based rules system which feels a lot like the mechanics ripped straight from a computer game. These mechanics may very well be what makes or breaks the game depending on what you prefer. I have to admit that especially combat in CONTACT has way too many fiddly bits for my tastes, but I might not be among the game’s target audience. If you love complex tactical combat in your RPGs you might love Contact.

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The first 33 pages of the book contain background information about the world in the 2040s, OMEGA, and what kind of characters you can play in the game. The next 70 pages or so are the rules needed to play the game (including normal and Advanced Combat rules, Vehicle Combat, Character Creation, etc.). The remaining pages contain the Gamemaster section, an extensive equipment list, a bestiary, and a Base Management Simulation. Yes, CONTACT even let’s you customize your OMEGA bases.

Continue reading First Look: CONTACT – Tactical Alien Defense RPG

Kickstarter: Shadow, Sword & Spell

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Shadow, Sword & Spell by Rogue Games is a game very dear to me. I still have fond memories of the game Zachary Houghton ran for us at GenCon 2010. Originally Richard Iorio II, the owner of Rogue Games, had planned to run the game for us, but unfortunately a very nasty cold stopped him from actually doing so. Shadow, Sword and Spell is – even in its 1st edition – a very easy to learn and to play sword & sorcery RPG with some interesting mechanics. The new mechanics which will power the 2nd edition of this fine game have been revised and now work better than ever. A Kickstarter project to fund the 2nd edition has just been started and at the moment of this writing has already reached more than a fifth of the goal of $5000.

For full disclosure I have to tell you that I worked with Richard on a couple of projects. I did nothing major, just some proofreading for several of his books, but this should be mentioned especially when I try to convince people to back his Kickstarter project. I also consider him a friend.

So, why should you invest some of your hard-earned money into this Kickstarter? For one Shadow, Sword & Spell is a great game which – in my opinion – is not as well-known as it should be. As I said before, the changes to the rules make the game even better. There will also be new artwork – which looks absolutely awesome by the way – and a completely new layout.

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Did I mention that everything from the 1st edition’s Basic and Expert books will be combined into the new 2nd edition rulebook? For a pledge of just $10 you not only support this project but you’ll also get a PDF, ePub, or Kindle copy of the game including all of the funded stretch goals. If you are willing to invest more, you can get a softcover or hardcover version of the rules.

What I really like about the Shadow, Sword & Spell Kickstarter is that it has a reasonable goal of $5000 and is not going crazy with pledge levels and stretch goals. I have seen too many Kickstarter projects fail because the goals where to high or the stretch goals could never be fulfilled.

In my opinion Shadow, Sword & Spell is a game which should be in any gamer’s library, especially if said gamer has a soft spot for the swords & sorcery genre. If you haven’t checked out the game yet, you should definitely give the Kickstarter project a look, or get the 1st edition from your local store or via DriveThruRPG!