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Bluebeard's Bride
by Queenie C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/24/2019 01:22:17

I found out about this game from the run Sarah Richardson did for the people at Oneshot RPG and I excitedly wait for the PDFs to go up for sale for months afterwards. Ran this with a few friends, had great fun. It's hard to find enough time to keep an ongoing campaign going week after week, so a oneshot campaign was perfect. It was my first time DMing as well, and all the materials were easy to use and follow. You're encouraged to make up rooms and other game elements on the fly as you run the game which can leave you feeling a bit panicked if you can't think of anything at the moment, but I enjoyed improvising alongside the players. Building a story together felt organic and engaging. I'm excited to run it again!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bluebeard's Bride
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Passing: Ashcan Edition
by Rich F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/08/2019 10:24:34

Like substantially all games from Magpie's developers, Passing offers a really deep and moving experience for under-represented and marginalized people. But even if you strip those elements out, you have a unique and highly-engaging premise with rules and setting that thoroughly engage players regardless of their background and makes it easy for GMs to build interesting and captivating stories with their players.

If you are preparing to run Passing, you will definitely want to be sure to familiarize yourself with all of the options players have with each playbook. Each playbook offers so much depth, that the MC will have an easy time finding things to build into the story but maybe suffer from a little bit of option paralysis on where to tke the story next. Together the players will also build their Cell, the group of aliens working together in a world that hates and fears them, from its goals to its organization.

Thematically, there is so much depth, especially for a game that is technically still in development. For my group, the game plays like an inversion of the horror genre. While the player characters, shape-shifting aliens, are the horrors that everyone is afraid of - and keep in mind: all too aware of - it is the irrational fear of the world at large that creates the real horror for the player characters. The game can be played as anything from a straight-up espionage thriller to an in-depth character study with themes of identity and erasure. But the game really sings because it is built around being all of it all at once.

Magpie continues to produce games that not only push the envelope as far as what is possible in roleplaying games, but to also expand the hobby to people who would have found themselves on the outside looking in just years ago.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Passing: Ashcan Edition
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Velvet Glove: Notebook Edition
by Rich F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/08/2019 09:54:46

While this game was a hard sell to my regular group, it has become a fovorite to the majority of the group. Given the number of really deep sessions I've run, I often forget that this game is still in development. Given how solid it is already, I'm really excited to see what comes next. To be clear, the players are not playing as bad asses with cool powers or cutting edge gear, they are playing as marginalized teenage girls who get in over their heads for the sake of taking freedom for themselves in a world that would have them subjugated - by their parents, by the adults in their lives, by men.

So far, I've run the game successfully for my regular game group, my adult and a couple other friends, and for a group at GenCon who were all friends who had signed up together. While I think having a group of players who all know each other and have history together can certainly help when delivering the intense misogyny and exploitation that is inherently built into this game, it could very easily be played as Warriors or The Outsiders with a cast of young women.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Velvet Glove: Notebook Edition
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Bluebeard's Bride
by Steffie d. V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/08/2019 04:46:33

This is such an amazing game! It's strange and disturbing in all the right ways. The game is committed to exploring one of the most brutal European fairytales from the viewpoint of its female protagonist, and really delivers.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bluebeard's Bride
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Masks: A New Generation
by Chazz K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 08/29/2019 08:01:44

I have long been chacing the superhero RPG and Masks has become my favorite. Instead of focusing on extensive rules to emulate endless powers, Masks shifts the spotlight to the drama behind the characters. While it does ask you to buy into playing teens, the mechanics of the game support the over-the-top drama tropes.

For my complete thoughts, check out our podcast review: http://thestorytold.libsyn.com/episode-13-masks-overview-with-steven-pope



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Masks: A New Generation
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Urban Shadows
by Alejandro V. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/15/2019 20:09:41

While other games in the genre feel more like "dark superhero games", Urban Shadows brings the political tension of Powered by the Apocalypse to supernatural fantasy.

Urban Shadows really makes use of its base engine to hone in on the tension of horror and the political landscape. The system is easy to learn, and has a gritty feel in its combat and consequences. Lastly, the PBTA mechanics help you create a living city with interesting characters and lore behind each of the different supernatural factions.

By far the BEST feature has to be the "Corruption" mechanic, which summed up simply is a double edged sword that gives the players access to very powerful moves all while nudging them down the spiral into becoming irredeemable monsters. This really captures the inner drama that many other games seek to emulate but mostly often overshadow with action and power fantasies.

The newly added Debt system is hit or miss. While its integral to the games leveling system, the amount of use it gets really depends how antagonistic your players are with each other. A competitive group will constantly badger each other for favors, while a group who actually enjoys working together might find their characters are progressing slowly by comparison.

Overall however, the games mechanics are too good to be overlooked, and I strongly recommend anyone looking for a narrative modern system to pick this up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Shadows
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Epyllion: A Dragon Epic
by Jamie O. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/12/2019 07:54:59

A wholesome game focused on collaborative worldbuilding and storytelling. I can't wait to be a Dragon Master for a charity stream on June 8th for the Red Knight Inn on Twitch. Ok, enough self-promotion, let's talk about the game.

Things to love:

A worldbuilder's dream

The world of Dragonia is rich enough in lore that a more casual group could get together and jump into a game with what's provided in the playbooks, but the true joy for me is that there is so much left open for the players and DM to create together. This isn't like in D&D or Pathfinder where if the campaign setting you want isn't published, then you have to create something entirely new; Epyllion provides the foundation for a world and gives you the keys to create something as fantastical or mundane as you and the players might want it to be. There's so much to work with both in terms of what is provided and what is left open that no two games of Epyllion will look the same except by design.

Things that could be better:

So how does this work?

As I've mentioned, this game is mostly about worldbuilding and storytelling. The mechanics play second fiddle to the narrative and that's well and good, but I wish there was a real straightforward summary somewhere that explained how the mechanics work. Instead, it's spread across the books (as is common among Powered by the Apocalypse books, so Epyllion is not uniquely guilty of this). You have to read through the books a couple times to get a sense of how it works, and even then I feel less confident about how it all works than I did when I read through the Player's Handbook for D&D 5e.

Epyllion is worth every penny and while I rarely get to play ttrpgs anymore, I'm glad people recommended this to me and I'm glad I get to use it to raise money for charity (St. Jude Children's).



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Epyllion: A Dragon Epic
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Urban Shadows
by Nick H. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/28/2019 07:53:41

I'd picked this off the shelf of my local games emporium in London multiple times. It called out to me. Finally I grabbed the PDF and discovered that it was a superbly written dark urban fantasy game that played out with as much or as little grit as you wanted...from Buffy-eque fun to darker, deeper politically driven opus's. It appealed to the D'n'D heads as it does fantasy but with a refreshingly real-world twist, and to the Palladium heads as it can escalate to gonzo, and to the Monsterheart emo's as it allows for personal interplay and emotive play...in fact it thrives on it.

The winning streak here is it's soooo flexible and so evocative that it draws you in if the thought of rain soaked streets and dark alleys makes you grin. I boght the book in the end as it's beautifully presented too and is a pleasure just to read.

One thing I must say is that this is modern gaming for modern mentalities. I've seen at least two negative reviews here which I cannot fathom the angle of. They speak of agendas hidden in the game. I've read and played this game repeatedly and just cannot understand where this is coming from. I'm going to go out on a limb and take it that it's the liberal urban viewpoint (this is very London/NYC/Lisbon-esque) somehow jars with them. The game deals with enclaves of minorities and threatened peoples fighting for their worlds against the odds and a system stacked against them. This appears to upset people. I'd ingore them, this is not a US-cenric game (YAY!!) and can be reskinned to anywhere really!

Bottom line: fun, imaginative, exhilerating, deep but quick, and inspiring. Get it!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Shadows
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Urban Shadows: Dark Streets
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/13/2019 14:45:30

The following review was originally published in Mephisto 69 and translated from German (find orignal German review below). More reviews can be found in the Mephisto 69 Online Add-On (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/261389/Mephisto-69-Online-AddOn).

Dark Streets

Urban Shadows could briefly be described as the role-playing game that results when you combine the World of Darkness with the rules of Powered by the Apocalypse. The setting revolves around a supernatural world lurking behind the facade of a modern metropolis. Vampires, magicians, occultists, hunters and others who get entangled in intrigues and open fights.

With the Dark Streets expansion, the game is expanded. Four new archetypes offer players more material, while the main focus is on eleven different city scenarios, which provide both concrete game material in the form of city descriptions, characters and threats, as well as much material for their own campaign.

Dark Streets provides a lot of ideas and concrete suggestions, but it also expands the game atmosphere rather than defining a canonical background.

Deutsche Version

Urban Shadows könnte man kurz als das Rollenspiel bezeichnen, das herauskommt, wenn man die Welt der Dunkelheit mit den Regeln von Powered by the Apocalypse kreuzt. Das Setting dreht sich um eine übernatürliche Welt, die hinter der Fassade einer modernen Großstadt lauert. Hier tummeln sich Vampire, Magier, Okkultisten, Jäger und andere, die sich in Intrigen und offene Kämpfe verstricken.

Mit der Erweiterung Dark Streets wird das Spiel ausgebaut. Vier neue Archetypen bieten den Spielern weiteres Material, während das Hauptaugenmerk auf elf verschiedenen Stadtszenarien liegt, die sowohl konkretes Spielmaterial in Form von Stadtbeschreibungen, Charakteren und Bedrohungen liefern, als auch viel Material für die eigene Kampagne liefern.

Dark Streets liefert zwar eine ganze Reihe Ideen und konkrete Vorschläge, doch auch damit wird eher das Spielflair erweitert als kanonischer Hintergrund definiert

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Shadows: Dark Streets
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Urban Shadows
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/13/2019 14:43:09

The following review was originally published in Mephisto 69 and translated from German (find orignal German review below). More reviews can be found in the Mephisto 69 Online Add-On (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/261389/Mephisto-69-Online-AddOn).

Urban Shadows

Urban Shadows could briefly be described as the role-playing game that results when you combine the World of Darkness with the rules of Powered by the Apocalypse. The setting revolves around a supernatural world lurking behind the facade of a modern metropolis. Vampires, magicians, occultists, hunters and others who get entangled in intrigues and open fights.

The ten archetypes can be divided into four large groups: Mortality, Night, Power and Wild. Mortality are people who have come into contact with the supernatural. Night includes the typical monsters like vampires, werewolves or ghosts. Power is the group of people with special abilities like oracles or magicians. Wild is the name of fairy creatures and demonic powers. Of course the different archetypes have their special abilities, which are illustrated by moves and special rules. The archetypes are relatively broadly arranged, and many details are left to the individual gaming group - in particular myths or stories of origin of these creatures or further backgrounds remain deliberately open.

Besides the standard moves there are special classes of moves. The Intimacy Moves come into play when two characters come close to each other. For example, the wolf builds a bond, through which he always knows where the other character is for a while. Often these moves have a price for one or both sides. Then there are the Corruption Moves, with which a character can play out his special abilities the hard way. This also corrupts him and makes him more and more an uncontrollable monster. Corruption Moves are good to live out the special nature of the character, but always carry the risk of losing control. There are also the End Moves, which are used when a character dies.

Debts are a central rule element. Urban Shadows is about who owes whom a favor. Not only does this already play a role in the character creation, but especially in the game the collection of favors, their exchange and of course the collection is covered by rules. Thus, a character who owes a favor to another character has a certain power over them. Of course, you can resist this situation, but that also has consequences.

The position of the characters within the four different factions also plays a role. These factions don't form fixed power blocks, but it does matter how the characters are viewed by them. Of course, there is also potential for conflict between the players. Complex situations in which the loyalties come into conflict are an important plotter element.

For the gamemaster, the focus is on building stories or mini-campaigns called storms. They are a roughly described threat that players have to deal with, and they are free enough to claim that the game should follow the ideas of the players.

Urban Shadows is a truly engaging PbtA-based role-playing game in a modern world full of monsters, intrigues and threats. From my point of view a big advantage is that the details of the game world are left to the gamemaster and players. For players who want to play a world full of monsters based on the rules of Powered by the Apocalypse, Urban Shadows is a must.

Deutsche Version

Urban Shadows könnte man kurz als das Rollenspiel bezeichnen, das herauskommt, wenn man die Welt der Dunkelheit mit den Regeln von Powered by the Apocalypse kreuzt. Das Setting dreht sich um eine übernatürliche Welt, die hinter der Fassade einer modernen Großstadt lauert. Hier tummeln sich Vampire, Magier, Okkultisten, Jäger und andere, die sich in Intrigen und offene Kämpfe verstricken.

Die zehn Archetypen lassen sich vier großen Gruppen zuordnen: Mortality, Night, Power und Wild. Mortality sind Menschen, die mit dem Übernatürlichen in Berührung gekommen sind. Night umfasst die typischen Monster wie Vampire, Werwölfe oder Geister. Power ist die Gruppe der Menschen mit besonderen Fähigkeiten wie Orakel oder Magier. Hinter Wild verbergen sich Feenwesen und dämonische Mächte. Natürlich haben die verschiedenen Archetypen ihre besonderen Fähigkeiten, die über Moves und Sonderregeln abgebildet werden. Dabei sind die Archetypen relativ breit aufgestellt, und viele Details sind der individuellen Spielrunde überlassen – insbesondere Mythen oder Entstehungsgeschichten dieser Wesen oder weitere Hintergründe bleiben bewusst offen.

Bei den Moves gibt es neben den Standards besondere Klassen von Moves. Die Intimacy Moves kommen dann zum Zuge, wenn sich zwei Charaktere nahe kommen. So baut z.B. so der Wolf eine Bindung auf, durch die er eine Zeit lang immer weiß, wo der andere Charakter sich aufhält. Oftmals haben diese Moves einen Preis für eine oder beide Seiten. Dann gibt es die Corruption Moves, mit denen ein Charakter quasi auf die harte Tour seine besonderen Fähigkeiten ausspielen kann. Das korrumpiert ihn aber auch und lässt ihn immer mehr zum unkontrollierbaren Monster werden. Corruption Moves sind gut, um die besondere Natur des Charakters auszuleben, bergen aber immer das Risiko des Kontrollverlusts. Außerdem gibt es noch die End Moves, die dann zum Einsatz kommen, wenn ein Charakter stirbt.

Ein zentrales Regelelement sind die Gefallen (Debts). Urban Shadows dreht sich darum, wer wem einen Gefallen schuldet. Nicht nur spielt dies schon bei der Charaktererschaffung eine Rolle, sondern gerade im Spiel wird das Sammeln von Gefallen, deren Tausch und natürlich das Einfordern regeltechnisch abgedeckt. So hat ein Charakter, dem ein andere Spielfigur einen Gefallen schuldet, eine gewisse Macht über diese. Natürlich kann man sich in dieser Situation widersetzen, doch auch das hat Auswirkungen. Auch die Stellung der Charaktere innerhalb der vier verschiedenen Gruppierungen spielt eine Rolle. Diese Gruppen bilden zwar keine festen, in sich einigen Machtblöcke, aber es spielt eine Rolle, wie die Charaktere bei ihnen angesehen sind. Natürlich ist hier bewusst Konfliktpotenzial auch zwischen den Spielern vorgesehen. Komplexe Situationen, in denen die Loyalitäten in Konflikt geraten, sind ein wichtiges Plotelement.

Für den Spielleiter im Fokus steht der Aufbau von Geschichten bzw. Minikampagnen, die als Storms bezeichnet werden. Sie bilden eine grob beschriebene Bedrohung, mit der sich die Spieler auseinandersetzen, und sind frei genug gefasst, um dem Anspruch gerecht zu werden, dass das Spiel den Ideen der Spieler folgen soll.

Urban Shadows ist ein wirklich gelungenes Rollenspiel auf PbtA-Basis in einer modernen Welt voller Monster, Intrigen und Bedrohungen. Aus meiner Sicht ein großer Vorteil ist hier, dass die Details der Spielwelt Spielleiter und Spielern überlassen werden. Für Spieler, die einmal eine Welt voller Monster anhand der Regeln von Powered by the Apocalypse spielen wollen, ist Urban Shadows eine unbedingte Empfehlung. bl n

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Shadows
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Bluebeard's Bride: Book of Rooms
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/13/2019 14:27:45

The following review was originally published in Mephisto 69 and translated from German (find orignal German review below). More reviews can be found in the Mephisto 69 Online Add-On (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/261389/Mephisto-69-Online-AddOn).

Book of Rooms

Exploring the rooms in Bluebeard's castle is the central element in Bluebeard's Bride. It gives the story a solid structure by playing out each room the bride enters before moving on to the next. Each room confronts the players with the horror awaiting the bride, and all hold secrets to be interpreted by the players. In the end, they answer the question of whether Bluebeard is the villain of the story or not. The fact that the rooms are to be improvised by the game master on the basis of the description of the corresponding key does not present him with an easy task.

The source book Book of Rooms, divided into the four wings of the house, provides dozens of ideas for rooms in the castle. These always consist of a general description containing four interesting elements, two of which are elaborated. Of course, there is also an illustration for each room that beautifully depicts the setting in its typical style. Only through the absence of people do they appear less haunting than the impressive pictures of the basic rules.

The volume doesn't offer fully elaborated rooms. It is the task of the players to interpret the history of the respective room, which is why a clear, predetermined answer is not possible. The rooms are clearly assigned to the facets of the "feminine horror" of the basic rules and the themes are definitely chosen for adults. Particularly when it comes to sexual themes and abuse, it quickly becomes apparent that horror does not necessarily need moments of shock or lots of blood. Some topics may be too real or too personal. What is certain is that under the beautiful facade there are always dark abysses lurking and the horror is sometimes subtle, sometimes drastic, but usually gets under your skin.

The Book of Rooms is a collection of ideas that create tangible starting points and a good feel for how horror is created in Bluebeard's Bride. This works very well as long as you're not looking for an explanation of what Bluebeard and the terror of his castle is all about - because solving this question individually in the gaming group is the core essence of the game. And if you find it difficult to get the themes and their representation in the game to the game table, you won't get clear solutions for the rooms, but a rich and frightening arsenal of ideas.

Deutsch Version

Das Erkunden der Räume in Bluebeards Schloss ist das zentrale Element in Bluebeard’s Bride. Es verleiht der Geschichte eine feste Struktur, indem jeder von der Braut betretene Raum ausgespielt wird, bevor sie sich dem nächsten zuwendet. Jeder Raum konfrontiert die Spieler mit dem Horror, den die Braut erwartet, und alle halten Geheimnisse bereit, die von den Spielern interpretiert werden müssen. Am Ende beantworten sie die Frage, ob Bluebeard der Schurke der Geschichte ist oder nicht. Dass die Räume durch den Spielleiter auf Basis der Beschreibung des zugehörigen Schlüssels improvisiert werden sollen, stellt diesen vor keine leichte Aufgabe.

Der Quellenband Book of Rooms liefert, aufgeteilt in die vier Flügel des Hauses, Dutzende von Ideen für Räume in dem Schloss. Diese bestehen immer aus einer allgemeinen Beschreibung, die vier interessante Elemente enthält, von denen zwei ausgearbeitet sind. Natürlich gibt es zu jedem Raum auch eine Illustration, die das Setting im typischen Stil wunderbar darstellt. Nur durch des Fehlen von Personen wirken sie weniger eindringlich als die beeindruckenden Biler des Grundregelwerks.

Voll ausgearbeitete Räume bietet der Band nicht. Es ist die Aufgabe der Spieler, die Geschichte des jeweiligen Raumes zu interpretieren, weshalb eine eindeutige, vorgegebene Lösung nicht möglich ist. Die Räume sind eindeutig den Facetten des »feminine Horror« des Grundregelwerks zugeordnet und die Themen sind durchaus für Erwachsene gewählt. Insbesondere wenn es um sexuelle Themen und Missbrauch geht, zeigt sich schnell, dass Horror nicht unbedingt Schreckmomente oder literweise Blut braucht. Einige Themen können durchaus zu real oder zu persönlich sein. Sicher ist, dass unter der schönen Fassade immer finstere Abgründe lauern und der Horror manchmal subtil, manchmal drastisch ist, aber in der Regel unter die Haut geht.

Das Book of Rooms ist eine Sammlung von Ideen, die konkrete Ansatzpunkte schaffen sowie ein gutes Gefühl dafür vermitteln, wie Horror bei Bluebeard’s Bride erzeugt wird. Das funktioniert sehr gut, solange man nicht nach einer Erklärung sucht, was es mit Bluebeard und den Schrecken seines Schlosses auf sich hat – denn diese Frage individuell in der Spielrunde zu lösen, ist nun mal die Kernessenz des Spiels. Und wer sich damit schwertut, die Themen und ihre Darstellung im Spiel an den Spieltisch zu bekommen, erhält hier zwar keine klaren Lösungen für die Räume, aber ein reichhaltiges und erschreckendes Arsenal an Ideen.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Bluebeard's Bride: Book of Rooms
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Bluebeard's Bride: Book of Lore
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/13/2019 14:22:44

The following review was originally published in Mephisto 69 and translated from German (find orignal German review below). More reviews can be found in the Mephisto 69 Online Add-On (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/261389/Mephisto-69-Online-AddOn).

Book of Lore

The Book of Lore is the first expansion for the PbtA roleplaying game Bluebeard's Bride. The book tells its own interpretation of the fairy tale of Bluebeard and takes up its elements and perspective.

Thus, the central part of the story is the bride's wandering through Bluebeard's gigantic house alone, equipped with a bunch of keys that opens every door and a warning not to open a door under any circumstances. Driven by curiosity and fear, the bride explores the castle and encounters terrible things in various rooms. However, the story itself is not only about the horror lurking in the rooms, but especially about the bride's inner self. Already in the introduction and in her view of Bluebeard, the bride shows a multi-faceted character. The story is written in such a way that the reader - although he should know it - asks himself how the whole thing is supposed to end. In fact, in the end the reader has to make the choice for the bride and thus for the end of the story - similar to what the players have to do in the role-playing game.

Even though the fairy tale of Bluebeard is well known at least to players of Bluebeard's Bride, it is told in a very exciting and emotionally intense way in this interpretation, which still offers some leeway for the characters. Together with the few illustrations that still literally get under the skin, the Book of Lore is not only a good tool to empathize with Bluebeard's Bride, but also an exciting and modern stand-alone version of an old story that shows that there can be more to a seemingly simple and familiar fairy tale.

Deutsche Version

Das Book of Lore ist die erste Erweiterung für das PbtA-Rollenspiel Bluebeard‘s Bride. Dabei erzählt das Buch eine eigene Interpretation des Märchens von Blaubart und greift dessen Elemente und Perspektive auf.

So ist zentraler Teil der Handlung auch hier, wie die Braut allein durch das riesenhafte Haus von Blaubart irrt – ausgestattet mit dem Schlüsselbund, der ihr jede Tür öffnet, und mit der Warnung, eine Tür unter keinen Umständen zu öffnen. Getrieben von Neugier und Angst erkundet die Braut das Schloss und begegnet in verschiedenen Räumen schrecklichen Dingen. Die Geschichte selbst dreht sich aber nicht nur um den Horror, der in den Räumen lauert, sondern insbesondere um das Innenleben der Braut. Schon bei der Einleitung und ihrer Sicht auf Blaubart zeigt die Braut einen facettenreichen Charakter. Die Geschichte ist so geschrieben, dass sich der Leser – obwohl er es eigentlich wissen sollte – fragt, wie das Ganze wohl ausgehen soll. Tatsächlich hat der Leser am Ende die Wahl für die Braut und damit für das Ende der Geschichte zu treffen – ähnlich wie die Spieler es im Rollenspiel tun müssen.

Auch wenn das Märchen vom Blaubart wenigstens Spielern von Bluebeard‘s Bride bestens bekannt ist, wird es in dieser Interpretation sehr spannend und emotional intensiv erzählt, die immer noch Spielraum für die Charaktere bietet. Zusammen mit den wenigen, aber immer noch buchstäblich unter die Haut gehenden Illustrationen ist das Book of Lore nicht nur ein gutes Hilfsmittel, sich in Bluebeard’s Bride einzufühlen, sondern auch für sich allein stehend eine spannende und moderne Version einer alten Erzählung, die zeigt, dass in einem scheinbar einfachen und bekannten Märchen mehr stecken kann.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Bluebeard's Bride: Book of Lore
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Urban Shadows: The Dragon
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/13/2019 13:02:08

The following review was originally published in Mephisto 69 and translated from German (find orignal German review below). More reviews can be found in the Mephisto 69 Online Add-On (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/261389/Mephisto-69-Online-AddOn).

The Dragon

Whatever its original form may be, the dragon in its present incarnation is bound in a human form. He is only one of a whole brood that is in great danger in each of its incarnations: the mysterious Ordo Draconis mercilessly hunts down these supernatural beings.

The Dragon is another single game book for Urban Shadows that introduces a character whose background is a mythical dragon, but who now takes on a human form. A special feature is his brood: In addition to the player character, there are four other brood siblings that give him special advantages when he finds them again and gets involved with them. Otherwise, the Dragon is a rather selfish monster that hoards artifacts and books to learn more about its own history. So the special feature of the Dragon in the game is that it can bring a number of NPCs into the game with its brood siblings, on the one hand, and has a powerful and dangerous enemy in the form of Ordo Draconis, on the other.

From my point of view, The Dragon is a more difficult playbook, but it opens up a new perspective for Urban Shadows.

Deutsche Version

Wie auch immer seine ursprüngliche Form aussagen, so ist der Drache in seiner jetzigen Inkarnation in eine menschliche Gestalt gebunden. Er ist nur einer aus einer ganzen Brut, die in jeder ihrer Inkarnationen immer wieder in großer Gefahr schwebt: der geheimnisvolle Ordo Draconis macht gnadenlose Jagd auf diese übernatürlichen Wesen.

The Dragon ist ein weiteres Einzelspielbuch für Urban Shadows, das einen Charakter einführt, dessen Hintergrund ein mythischer Drache ist, der nun aber eine menschliche Gestalt annimmt. Eine Besonderheit ist seine Brut: Neben dem Spielercharakter gibt es vier weitere Brutgeschwister, die ihm besondere Vorteile verleihen, wenn er sie wiederfindet und sich mit ihnen einlässt. Ansonsten ist der Drache ein eher egoistisches Monster, das Artefakte und Bücher hortet, um mehr über seine eigene Geschichte zu erfahren. Die Besonderheit des Drachen im Spiel besteht also darin, dass er einerseits mit seinen Brutgeschwistern eine Reihe von NSCs ins Spiel einbringen kann und andererseits mit der Ordo Draconis bereits zu Spielbeginn einen mächtigen und gefährlichen Gegner hat.

Aus meiner Sicht ist The Dragon ein etwas schwierigeres Playbook, das aber Urban Shadows eine neue Perspektive eröffnet.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Shadows: The Dragon
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Urban Shadows: The Immortal
by Björn L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/13/2019 12:59:39

The following review was originally published in Mephisto 69 and translated from German (find orignal German review below). More reviews can be found in the Mephisto 69 Online Add-On (https://www.drivethrurpg.com/product/261389/Mephisto-69-Online-AddOn).

The Immortal

The name-giving immortal is exactly that: a being that has survived for many years, perhaps even centuries, because it is immortal. As expected, such an immortal is involved in his intrigues and plans. Thus he becomes rich and powerful - and an interesting playable character alternative for the role-playing game Urban Shadows.

The Immortal is a Playbook that can be purchased separately. It is characterized by the fact that the main character is indeed immortal - if he would die, a dice roll will only decide what disadvantages he will have in staying alive with his special ability. The second important rule change is the so-called Schemes - the special plans of the Immortal, which work similar to the threats of the game master - only from the opposite point of view. These are plans that are of central importance to the Immortal in the game and that give him advantages if they are successfully completed.

The Immortal consists of both the Playbook and a small supplement for the game master to better understand the specifics of the character. For players who want to expand Urban Shadows with a character who has very long-term plans and doesn't have to fear death, The Immortal is a great addition.

Deutsche Version

Der namensgebende Unsterbliche ist genau das: ein Wesen, das viele Jahre, vielleicht sogar schon Jahrhunderte überdauert hat, weil es unsterblich ist. Wie zu erwarten, verwickelt sich ein solcher Unsterblicher dabei in seine Intrigen und Pläne. So wird er damit reich und mächtig – und eine interessante spielbare Charakteralternative für das Rollenspiel Urban Shadows.

The Immortal ist ein Playbook, das einzeln erworben werden kann. Es charakterisier t sich dadurch, dass die Hauptfigur tatsächlich unsterblich ist – wenn er sterben würde, entscheidet eine Würfelprobe nur darüber, welche Nachteile für ihn daraus entstehen, mit seiner Spezialfähigkeit am Leben zu bleiben. Die zweite wichtige Regeländerung sind die sogenannten Schemes – die besonderen Pläne des Unsterblichen, die ähnlich wie die Bedrohungen (Threats) des Spielleiters funktionieren – nur eben aus umgekehrter Sicht. Dies sind Pläne, die für den Unsterblichen im Spiel von zentraler Bedeutung sind und die ihm Vorteile verschaffen, wenn sie erfolgreich abgeschlossen werden.

The Immortal besteht sowohl aus dem Playbook als auch aus einer kleinen Beilage für den Spielleiter, um die Besonderheiten der Spielfigur besser zu verstehen. Für Spieler, die Urban Shadows um einen Charakter erweitern wollen, der sehr langfristige Pläne verfolgt und den Tod nicht fürchten muss, ist The Immortal eine stimmige Ergänzung.

(Björn Lippold)



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Shadows: The Immortal
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Urban Shadows
by Arthur W. L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/27/2019 14:47:19

Originally published on my blog: https://www.wharthur.com/single-post/2019/01/27/Urban-Shadows-Review

I should start with how I got into the game. Like most people who got into tabletop RPGs, I started with D&D. I always have a soft spot for urban fantasy settings, more so than the high fantasy setting of D&D. Fast forward to free RPG day, and a friend of mine was running Monsterhearts. I instantly fell in love with the Powered by the Apocalypse system, especially with the character sheets/playbooks. One of my pet peeves of D&D is the unwieldiness of character creation. Things are never in just one place, and I have to flip through the player’s handbook multiple times and copy paragraphs onto my character sheet. (While the DM can hand out pregens, I find it detracts a lot from the role-playing experience.) In PbtA, there is usually a two-page playbook that each player goes through, ticking boxes and answering questions. While Monsterhearts is a great game, I prefer a game with less PvP and sexual content. (While I still haven’t read it properly, I know Monsterhearts has a really good section on consent and setting boundaries, but that is a discussion for another time.) After some searching, I found Urban Shadows (written by Andrew Medeiros and Mark Diaz Truman, and published by Magpie Games), which has everything I wanted, a more PvE focus, and the sex moves are replaced with intimacy moves. I read through the book and ran a number games, and every Urban Shadows game I ran had been a blast.

Mechanics

I guess I should go through the mechanics of Urban Shadows, which is similar to other PbtA games. Urban Shadows has narratively driven mechanics, rather than one focused on simulation. You makes moves in the game, which usually has the variation of “If you do a certain thing in the story, roll 2d6 plus a stat. It is a hit on a 7+, and you choose from one of the following options. The results are more favourable if you roll a 10+.” There are 4 stats in the game; Blood is for both fighting and running away; Heart is one’s charisma and passion; Mind is intelligence and wisdom rolled into one; Spirit represents a character’s connection to the supernatural. I have a minor gripe with stats in PbtA game, and I will talk more about it later. The wonderful thing about PbtA is that the MC (Master of Ceremonies) never have to roll dice. I love the simplicity of it, and it is just one less thing for the MC to worry about, so they can focus on the story instead.

Aside from the standard moves, there are moves that deal with social aspects of the game, including the aforementioned intimacy moves, debt moves and faction moves. Your deal out debts in character generation, either between player characters, or between PC and NPC. A player’s action in the game can either make them more indebted or they can hold new debts on other characters. The advantage of it is two-fold. The PC-PC debts bring the PCs together. They are not random characters who just met in a pub, but they have histories with each other, and those histories have a mechanical significance in the game. The PC-NPC debts serve a similar purpose, making the NPCs more “real” to the story and giving them influence over the PCs. In Urban Shadows, the PCs “level-up” by interacting with various factions. There are 4 factions in the game; Mortality for characters that are mostly human; Night for your typical monsters of the night, such as vampires and werewolves; Power for Illuminati-ish individuals who want control of the city for themselves; Wild for beings who came from, or draw power from places beyond. The beauty with the whole faction mechanics is that it encourages the players to populate the city with interesting NPCs. Yes, in Urban Shadows, the players have as much initiative in creating the world and its inhabitants as the MC. The MC does not have to prepare a bunch of NPCs in advance.

Another two mechanics I want to talk about are corruption and end moves. Every PC has a corruption track, and they are taken out of the game when it gets filled up. You gain corruption by choosing certain options in the basic moves, by meeting certain playbook specific criterion, or by using your corruption powers. You may think it is just a bad thing, but no, since you also unlock more corruption powers as your track advances. The PCs can succumb to their darker nature to gain more power and risk losing themselves to the dark side, or they can control themselves and suppress the beast within. People tend to see character death as a negative thing, and it should not be. (Well, unless a PC dies at the beginning of a session and the player has nothing to do for the next few hours.) Like other games, PCs in Urban Shadows can be taken out of the game via injury, as well as through corruption. When a PC gets taken out of the game, they have access to their end move. The end moves have powerful effects specific to the playbook, and they can be a heroic sacrifice to bring one’s allies closer to victory, or a vengeful curse to bring down those who wronged them. When a PC dies in Urban Shadows, they have a lasting impact on the world instead of just fizzle out of existence (and they can even come back as a threat if they were lost to the dark side).

Prep-less and Player Centric

Another thing I love about Urban Shadows is that a MC does not have to prepare anything prior to the game (other than knowing the rules). I just give players a map of the local city, and have them reference points of interest on the map. I do not prepare any plot nor create any antagonists beforehand. There is a session start move in the game, which requires each player to provide a rumour of what is happening in the city. I then combine the rumours with the character backgrounds to form multiple threats that are inter-linked. Coming from D&D, I was really worried about not having a pre-made adventure ready for my first Urban Shadow game, but everything worked out in the end. Some people are put off when I told them character creation takes an hour to an hour and a half for a one-shot, but character creation in Urban Shadows is not a solitary activity. Answering individual background questions only takes ten to fifteen minutes, and most of the time is spent divvying out debts. Each playbook has three debts to assign (either those they owe or own), and the players work together to find out how best to distribute them. In the process, everyone has an understanding of everything else’s character, and a camaraderie (as well as rivalry and sometimes animosity) is formed between the PCs. (For the record, none of the players complained that character creation took too long. Only some random haters on the internet.) One of the PbtA philosophies is “play to see what happens”, and I embrace it in my Urban Shadow games; every game I run is unique because I use my players’ ideas instead of forcing mine onto them.

Playbooks

I said in the beginning how the playbooks drew me into PbtA. Urban Shadows has one of the best PbtA playbooks in my opinion. Each playbook can be printed onto a single piece of paper, double sided, and folds into a three-column leaflet. The whole thing is in black and white, with amazing black and white character portraits that portray the grittiness of the setting (and prints very well on a printer). Every section is well organised and I do not have to flip back and forth in order to fill in the stats (looking at you here, Monster of the Week). I just love the design of the playbooks so much.

Themes, Setting and How I Run the Game

I guess I still have not actually described the setting nor theme of the game. Urban Shadows is an urban fantasy RPG, where the world we live in is actually inhabited by supernatural monsters that vie for control of the city. Since I mainly run one-shots, the game is often fast paced and action packed. At the start of the game, the PCs would be going on with their normal lives, but they are interrupted by the villains’ machination. Sometimes, the characters choose to fight the goons head on. Other times, they talk their way though or run away. In the process, they learn more about who the villains are, and what they hope to gain before a final confrontation. One of the MC principle I love in Urban Shadows is “Push the characters together, even across boundaries”. (What I do not understand is how some other PbtA games want the MC to split up the party.) As I mentioned earlier, I have already created inter-linked threats that concern more than one PCs. I would further nudge the PCs so that they would face the threats together, even if they have previously parted ways. (It is kinda like the Avengers reconvening in New York to fight Loki.) Sometimes, I think my way of running the game may not be as dark and as political as the authors have intended, but the table always have fun.

Minor Gripes

While I love Urban Shadows, I still have some minor gripes with it. The game itself is US-centric. Even though there is the Dark Streets supplement that contains advice for running games in different cities across the world, the core rules are not changed by it. The major thing that sticks out is how prevalent guns are in the playbooks, as well as the big freaking swords. (I am not sure if you can carry a katana openly in New York for that matter.) I wish there are less firearm options and more concealed weapons as choices for the characters’ gears, so it would be more plausible for them to blend in UK cities (and other non-US cities across the world). The other gripe I have is on the stats, which also applies to other PbtA games. In the games I run, there is sometimes that one power gamer who complains they cannot use their best stat on a move. While I would tell them to focus on the narrative rather than the mechanics, I can understand some of their frustrations. The names of the stats in PbtA are more abstract compared to traditional RPGs, which made it harder to gauge which stat to choose for the character they envisioned. I think many PbtA games would be better with stats that say what it is on the tin.

Overall, I cannot express how much I love Urban Shadows and how much I enjoy running it. I would recommend everyone into tabletop RPG and urban fantasy to give it a go.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Urban Shadows
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