Category Archives: Reviews & First Looks

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

Caves of Qud

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Yes, this is first and foremost a pen & paper roleplaying games blog, but sometimes I just need to sneak in a post about related topics. Today I want to talk about Caves of Qud, a very intriguing roguelike computer RPG, which I was interested in for quite some time now.

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Roguelikes are games which are similar in gameplay to the original Rogue, which is – in a nutshell – an old-school dungeon crawl simulator. If you are familiar with the first editions of D&D you know what to expect: the game is quite lethal, there are countless monsters which are out to kill you, there are deep dungeons and countless treasures. Even though computers are now capable of almost lifelike graphics and sound, the classic roguelike genre with minimal graphics and turn-based action is still alive and well.

One of the more recent games in this particular genre is “Caves of Qud”, which is a game with a lot of depth and an intriguing world. The world presented in the game is set in a post-apocalyptic world. But from what I’ve seen so far, it’s no radioactive wasteland like in many other games of the genre, but it reminds me more of Monte Cook’s Numenera. You can either play a mutated human (and there are a lot of cool mutations to choose from) or a member of the true kin (which are – I guess – unmutated humans).

At the surface CoQ looks like any other roguelike, but after a couple minutes of play you realize that there’s more to it. One cool aspect is a very detailed skill system, which allows you to develop your character in any way you want. Currently I am playing a mutated human with the ability to regrow lost limbs and to suck the life force out of enemies who also happens to be a gunslinger. Just recently I acquired enough skill points to buy the Akimbo skill, which allows me to wield two pistols at once! I have started exploring some caves to the north of the starting village and already I have stumbled upon countless wondrous animals and plants.

There is a quest system and I already had a couple of interesting conversations with NPCs. It seems Caves of Qud is not just killing monsters and taking their stuff, but there’s also a story for you to follow. I have just started delving deeper into the game, so I can’t tell you that much about this aspect of the game though. But what I know is that the game is extremely addicting. I actually had to force myself to go to bed last night and that’s even though several of my characters died horrible (but unheroic) deaths. Being killed by some kind of snail is not the best way to go…

If you are looking for an exciting game with an interesting world and some old-school charm, you definitely should give Caves of Qud a try. It’s available on Steam for about €10 or you local equivalent. At the moment it’s on sale, so you get 10% off.

P.S.: There’s also a free version (which uses ASCII characters instead of graphical tiles). You can download it from here.