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Faith #1
Publisher: Valiant Comics
by Crystal M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 02/21/2017 22:54:28

Title: Faith #1: Faith Begins Valiant Comics By Jody Houser, Francis Portela, and Marguerite Sauvage Posted on Crystal's Game Review Blog

Faith is a spinoff comic about a woman named Faith Herbert who had developed telekinetic abilities. She is able to fly and physically move objects. She joined a Superhero group called the Renegades to fight evil, but at the start of the comic, she had left the group in order to explore who she really is. She moved away from all of her friends, and started a new life on the West Coast as a pop culture blogger under the identity Summer Smith.

The comic starts a plotline right away, tieing the reader into wanting to figure out what is going on. Then we move onto Faith’s life and catch glimpses of her in her day to day activities. During the day, she continually has run ins with her past, including an ex that has a reality show. Her superhero identity, Zephyr, is rather well known, and is one of the driving stories for the blog that Faith writes for. Overall, Faith’s life is fairly similar to many of our own in those respects. Even her superhero identity isn’t over the top or zealous, but rather someone who understands what her job is, even if it is just puppies.

Overall, the starting comic for Faith does a good job in catching the reader up with some of the backstory for Faith. The reader will get to know the character Faith and how she interacts with the world. You get to see her daydreams, her heart breaks, and see how she misses her friends. She’s doing what she needs to move forward. Readers will also get to see her powers, and how she uses them, and how that kicks off her path down into the plot thread that was at the beginning of the comic.

Lastly, the amazing thing about this comic, and the one that drew me to it, was the fact that Faith is a plus sized superhero. She is portrayed as a normal woman facing normal things. She has dreams and fantasies, she dates, she has men she’s attracted to. And she doesn’t lament continually on her size. In fact, it is never even mentioned, even by the supporting characters. Even her costume is done well, and is practical for superhero fighting with a bit of flair. Her health and weight are not up for discussion in the comic, and as someone who is larger, that is important to me.

So, dear reader, I highly recommend Faith to everyone. Her character and the treatment of her identity is well done and her story is engaging and interesting. I look forward to reviewing her other stories in the future.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Faith #1
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Tales of the Dark Eras
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Crystal M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/11/2016 10:10:24

First Reviewed on Crystal's Game Reviews

Tales of the Dark Eras is a collection of short stories that connect with the Chronicles of Darkness. The short stories tie into each of the genres that Chronicles of Darkness hosts. The collection is set in chronological order, starting before recorded history and ending with the current era. Each story plays heavily on the theme of the setting in which it is written.

If you enjoy the Chronicles of Darkness, you will enjoy reading these stories. Each story has its own sense of horror, though it does skew toward the ‘fight to live or die trying’ aspect. Several of the stories have a psychological horror twist, make for a thrilling to read. It is a quick read as well; I was able to finish it in several plane rides.

The weakest story of the whole anthology was the first one, “Hoarse”: (Chronicles of Darkness 450 B.C.E.). The story took place so early in human history, it was hard to connect with the characters. It felt disconnected and jarring, and had no hook in the story for me.

My favorite story was “No Signal”: (Chronicles of Darkness 2015-2016 C.E.). This was a psychological paranormal story that focused on the God Machine in Chronicles of Darkness. It was a wonderful take on how easily mortals get pulled into the workings of the paranormal without ever wanting to. The ending was a great twist, and not the twist I was expecting. This was a wonderful end to the anthology.

Another highlight of the book was Jess Hartley’s “Ravens and Roses”: (Changeling: the Lost 1600-1700 C.E.). It takes place in the elite social circles of Paris. This story was a personal favorite of mine because it held all the makings for high fantasy, with a Changeling: the Lost twist, making it into personal horror.

You should look into this anthology if you enjoy Chronicles of Darkness or fantasy/horror stories. History fans will enjoy the settings of the stories, as they all take place in different eras across the globe. Storytellers will find many ways to tie plots into various chronicles they may be running. The quick read and captivating short stories will keep you entranced and horrified at the same time.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Tales of the Dark Eras
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Mermaid Adventures RPG
Publisher: Third Eye Games
by Crystal M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/07/2016 20:58:55

Mermaid Adventures Written by Eloy Lasanta Art by Melissa Gay Published by Third Eye Games Pip System

Originally posted on Crystal's Review Blog

Mermaid Adventures is a fun and easy underwater adventure game system designed for players of all ages. The book is small enough where young players and players who are new to roleplaying games will find it easy to follow, which is great for recruiting new players into the roleplaying world. I personally love the premise of this game. The genre is very appealing for younger gamers, and the overall system is very easy to bring new players into the gaming world.

The mermaid world is based in Atlantis, which is the underwater home of all of the merfolk. There once was a great war, in which all of the merfolk and surrounding areas were pulled into it. The war ended when the current King and Queen were able to peacefully settle the differences. Atlantis is still ruled by this King and Queen, who work to keep the peace and continue the alliance between all the different merfolk under their protection. Different merfolk have different alliances as well as rivalries, but overall they work to ensure peace throughout their world. Outside of Atlantis is the Dark Water, a creepy and dangerous part of the world. The Top-world is also briefly described, as there are chances for the characters to interact with the part of the world that they hide from.

The denizens of this world are extremely diverse, using features from undersea creatures such as sharks, fish, sting rays and even lobsters. Each of the different merfolk have a very interesting niche to which they fit into within their society. What is very cool is that the merfolk have talents that resemble their real life counterparts in the animal world. Alongside the merfolk are other animals of the seas, some friendly, others not so much. These animals can become friends with merfolk if the merfolk work at building up their relationships with them. Other animals are a danger and only should be approached with extreme caution and weapons.

Character creation for the game is very simple, using 4 steps to finalize a character. What is really neat is that this section there are several randomization charts for helping to create a physical character as well as some goals for the characters. This is a fun way to help new players flesh out their characters in a quick and easy way. Players have a lot of support in building any type of characters they want. As far as rolling mechanics go, there are contested rolls, but the only difference is one player rolls both dice sets. There should be a black set and a white set (or opposing color schemes). The player rolls the appropriate amount of dice for attacking and defending, and goes from there to determining which dice rolls won and lost. There are wound charts for randomizing what happens when a character goes to 0 in an attribute. There is no character death in this system, so this is a wonderful solution to things that happen to the character in a really bad fight.

What I personally liked about this book is that there is a small section in the book specifically for narrators. It sets up how to create an interesting story and also emphases that a narrator has the right to suspend disbelief for telling a story. This is something that narrators can forget, and it is nice to see it in the book. There are also random charts for creating an event or plot to bring characters into the story. This is a fun option to help kick off a game night and get characters involved. There are also pregenerated characters which can be used for non-player characters or for players who want a quick character to play.

At the end of the book there are five adventures that narrators can use for their campaign. The adventures are written in a way where it is easy for young players to be able to play, but the difficulty can scale to meet the needs of older or more experienced players. These scenarios take the players to different parts of the world, including a land based scenario in which the characters are stuck on land, an Olympic style competition, a rescue operation in the dark lands, and a mystery in the great Kings castle. These adventures are a great addition to the book, giving a well rounded resource for players and narrators.

The art in this book really captures the feeling of the game itself. The colorful and lively characters are all captured beautifully in the book, and help the give a visual representation of what the denizens of the sea look like in this setting. The pregenerated characters in the book are also designed by backers of the Kickstarter, which is very cool to see. Having fans of the game involved in the book is very neat, especially for a game written for younger players.

Overall, I am very impressed with Mermaid Adventures. It is a very fun and simple game that is laid out well in an easy to read book. There is both a PDF, which can be found on DriveThruRPG, and a soft cover, which can be found through Third Eye Games. I would recommend this book for any young players or new to gaming players who may not have an experienced player to help them. Parents will also find this book helpful. Teachers who are adventurous will also enjoy aspects of this book for their classrooms!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mermaid Adventures RPG
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V20 Dread Names, Red List
Publisher: Onyx Path Publishing
by Crystal M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/19/2015 14:31:02

Originally Reviews at Crystal's Game Reviews

Dread Names, Red List is a look at the war the Camarilla continues to feed by looking at the biggest enemies of the sect. The characters in this book offer some of the most dangerous and intriguing stories to tie into any chronicle. This review looks at the book itself, and does not take into affect game balance or play testing.

As with most Vampire: The Masquerade books, it starts off with a character tie in, a short attention grabber to pull you into the reason behind the book. It gives a great in character tie in to the whole book, making it seem more like a document then a storytelling guide. The history of how the Red List came into existence is rather extensive, outlining a history of how the Traditions had been violated by kindred, blood hunts ignored and the structure of the Camarilla was continually threatened and those in the upper echelons of the Camarilla trying to instill the importance of following the Traditions.

In this section, the upper echelons of the sect are outlined, from the Justicars and their role down to the Alastors and their organization. It outlines how a kindred ends up on the Red List, the politics behind it and some examples of it being manipulated with the right strings pulled at the right time to push a personal agenda. This section is wonderful for feeding a heavily political game, with plenty of tie-ins to many different aspects of this list. The Justicars are outlined as well, giving insight on how they represent the Inner Circle, serve the Camarilla, hunt the Anathema and their role in managing their clans. The hunt for the Anathema is dangerous and time consuming, but the rewards that come with victory are great. Many different prizes are offered as ideas on payment for the trophy clan, however creativity is encouraged.

The Anathema all have interesting backstories, dramatic falls leading to their ultimate placement on the dreaded list. The chapter dealing with the characters stories does not disappoint, and definitely delivers on more ties to use for hooking your current game into this direction. What's nice is that the character stats are included in their story and any special powers are given their spots at the end of the character stories along with how the particular Anathema uses it and passes the power on.

The role of the Alastors are also written out in this book, giving PCs the chance to lead the hunt, should this be an option for a game. This outline includes the Alastors, the Red Alastors and the Josians. Each area is outlined, with their specific goals and limitations laid out as a reference. It goes through how they work amongst the Traditions, and how each keeps the Masquerade in tact should it become damaged. One of the most interesting parts of this section is the Mark of the Trophy, which is the Mark Alastors get upon their ascension into this rank. There is a lot of speculation as to what this mark actually does, which gives storytellers many options on what direction to take it. Alastor's are masters of creativity when it comes to discipline use as well. Several disciplines are outlined and their most common uses during the hunt for Anathema.

This guide helps to give PCs a role in the hunt of Anathema, so it gives a good rundown on how to create an Alastor, as well as suggestions for making one that will be more likely to survive the hunt. The Anathema are powerful and cunning. It will take witt to capture one, let alone destroy them.

If characters are going to walk this path, a storyteller needs to know how to run this type of game. In the Storyteller Kit section it shows how the mood of different types of hunts develop. From the politics heavy, to the epic fight scene, the tool kit gives storytellers the necessary information to make the game fun for all involved. A quick read through this whole section will give storytellers enough information to provide a good balance to their game.

The last section of the book is an outline of the Path of Evil Revelations, which is the infernal morality path several of the Anathema walk. While it may seem out of place at first glance, in the V20 system it hasn't been discussed at length. If players are looking for an in depth game, this chapter gives a very important insight to the NPCs that will be pulling characters along, possibly corrupting them along the way. This is a wonderful chapter for the antagonist of the story, and if the right strings are pulled, possible PC falls from humanity.

The art in this book was done by Ken Meyer Jr, a veteran to the World of Darkness. And he certainly delivered, giving a wonderful throwback feel to the art in the books. Full color illustrations are done for every Anathema NPC outlined, which brings a wonderful breath of life to the stories.

My one criticism in this book was I was hoping for several NPC Alastor characters to be included along with their stories. I know the point of the book was to give that position a PC purpose, but I think having even a couple of Alastors, Red Alastors or Josians included would have given wonderful PC tie ins to the hunt. There were several ones hinted in the book, but nothing ever laid out. This may be on purpose, as many Alastors go undercover while on the hunt, so a storyteller can easily incorporate one in disguise for their game.

Bonus section: I'm including a little teaser because there was a small text box included in the very first chapter called the Council of Scales. I am mentioning it because if you enjoy the position of Harpy, or you love politics, this little box should be a highlight for you. I could go on and on about the Council of Scales and the ramifications of it on global politics, but I will not here. As I said, it is a small text box and was not outlined in great detail, which is why it is a bonus and not part of the greater review.

Overall I would say this book is definitely worth the purchase. If you don't plan on running a Red List game, purchase it for the stories of cannon NPCs, which can filter into your chronicle. The teasers of infernal in the book are also wonderful flavor, and can turn into a long term story arc. The art is beautiful and the layout overall is very easy to follow. Please follow the link above, and if you purchase it, please leave a review!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
V20 Dread Names, Red List
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Flesh Welder Audiobook
Publisher: Macabre Ink Digital
by Crystal M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/22/2014 21:37:27

The FleshWelder is a short story based in an apocalyptic world, where fear and violence are used equally to control what is left of the living population. We meet a doctor who has an ability to repair limbs and body parts, taking pieces of the dead to heal the living. He buys these parts off scavengers, trading basic supplies such as canned meat or bullets for them. The other character is The General Pain, a violent man who will rape, kill and plunder whatever he wants. The two characters meet when the General has most of his body burned and damaged from a bomb. After the FleshWelder repairs his broken body, the General walks out without payment. The General pushes himself too far, and the FleshWelder and his nurse take their revenge on the cruel man and his army. 

The story itself reads very much like a western. The descriptions and language used are strong and gritty, matching the world in which they live. How this doctor becomes the FleshWelder is somewhat of a mystery, leaving the reader curious as to how he is able to do this. It is very easy to envision the Wild West of Texas while the story is taking place. The timeframe itself is not explained well, nor is the history if what happened to get to this point. My one criticism is I was left wanting more history surrounding the world and the characters. Even with it being a shorter story, I personally craved more information about the world this story takes place. 

Overall, it is a full story with very little downtime between action. If you are into westerns or fiction, I would recommend this book. You will not be disappointed.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Flesh Welder Audiobook
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FirstFable
Publisher: OneBookShelf, Inc.
by Crystal M. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 09/22/2014 18:57:17

First Fable is a roleplaying game tailored specifically to children around the age of 6. It is designed to be run by a GU (grown-up), who leads the characters through the story and helps the players understand the rules. There are many gamers who are now parents and looking to introduce their children to their roleplaying world. This book is set up to do just that! The wonderful part about this book is that the book is written so even grown-ups who have never done roleplaying games before can pick this up and play it.

The book starts off with the basics of roleplaying and why roleplaying can be beneficial to children. Language, math skills, emotional growth and communication skills are all built up in the process of telling a story. It’s also a safe way for children to work out social situations they may not know how to handle. We, as the GUs, can help guide a child through situations they may face in school or the playground when we aren't there. I will go into this in more detail later in the review.

Character creation is always the hardest part for new players. So how in the world do you get a 6 year old to make up a character? Well, that is where this system comes into play. There are 4 different character types outlined in the book, all of which are easily identifiable to children: a pirate, a warrior, a fairy princess and an animal keeper. Next, you get to pick any 3 things at which your character shines. They then choose one thing they are not very good at. After that, they can pick one item that does something very special; whether it is an animal that talks or a singing crown, it’s whatever they want. They can play characters that cross the different types of characters. Younger players may want to play themselves, which is fine as well! Challenge older kids to come up with reasons why they have their special items. Remember: always assist children with writing where needed!

The rules for challenges and resolutions are also very simple. D6s (six-sided dice) are used with 4s, 5s, and 6s being winning dice. A challenge is determined as an action that has the chance of changing the story. These actions should always have a dice rolled with an action the player cannot actually do in real life.

Tasks are simple actions that help the story move forward. Most tasks are actions taken by the players that can be accomplished fairly easily. These are storytelling opportunities where the players can give details about what their players are doing.

Special things are actions that involve the use of the unique item they possess. Each item gets stars, which the player can use to accomplish extraordinary tasks. It may also require a dice roll, depending on the action, but it is up to the GU to decide.

This system is one of the simplest starter systems to work with. It is open-ended, so children can pick whatever they want for any of the categories. Some kids may elaborate on their items or abilities, others may keep them simple. Always encourage children to elaborate as best as they can. They may need help with words or actions that they want to do. As a GU, help by asking them questions and helping them find the word they are looking for.

The age group I played with was 4, 5 and 6 – so, the younger end of the spectrum. When creating their characters, all of the kids worked together and helped each other. A couple of the kids were not good with writing, so the older kids helped them. I also had them draw their character. The kids I worked with modeled their characters after themselves. Some used their real names, others used a character name. For their official character sheets, I did write down what they told me, so that I had a reference, but allowed them to keep their original sheets. I ran the starter story in the book, and the kids loved it right from the start. The system for rolling dice was easy enough. With a few reminders, the kids quickly figured out how to roll their dice. The children all waited for each player to make an action, and helped each other with the story. They also helped remind each other what was written on their sheet.

Overall, this book was perfect for younger kids. It was challenging enough to make them think and engaging enough to keep them interested for about an hour, which is long for the younger age groups I worked with. I would recommend this book to parents and teachers alike. Experience in gaming is not necessary, though it may help. Just remember: it is not about the rules but about the story the kids tell.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
FirstFable
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