Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Review of OtherWorld Creations' Strike Force 7 by Caias Ward & Hyrum Savage

Strike Force 7
Caias Ward and R. Hyrum Savage


In effort to maintain full disclosure, the following review is based upon a complimentary copy of the PDF, however this was unsolicited and with no expectation of favoritism. The following is based upon unbiased opinion and review.

In fact, it should be noted that this PDF product was an after-the-fact holiday present that was in response of an article I wrote on my livejournal, which can be found here, where I was waxing nostalgic about a foundation element of my childhood - G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero. You see, I was obsessed with G.I. Joe as a boy, I still enjoy the comics and toys today, even the cartoon is a modern guilty pleasure of mine, thus I felt the need to talk about it in my journal.

All of which brings me the OtherWorld Creations product known as Strike Force 7, by Caias Ward and R. Hyrum Savage, which is Spycraft variant and alternate history take on the modern anti-terrorism activities with healthy super heroics similar to popular comics and cartoons, such as G.I. Joe or S.H.I.E.L.D.. Now Spycraft, originally Published by AEG, is a espionage role-playing game using a variant of the d20 rules that is currently in the 2.0 edition of the rules and published by Crafty Games.

As with G.I. Joe and S.H.I.E.L.D., the perspective of Strike Force 7 is very American-centric, even though it is a joint strike force with international elements, but that is also its target audience and they creators hit a fairly solid mark with that choice. Within the 72 pages of this PDF, not only are you treated to an interesting variant on the Spycraft version of d20, but you are also presented with an alternate history for the last 50+ years of American military history, intrigue, and its impact on the foundation of the clandestine military force that was recently brought out into the public light.

Right off the bat, Strike Force 7 starts to put you into the feel for this science fiction/fantasy genre of super heroic military action. Not only the foundation elements of background, who you are and why you are in SF7, but also which "Team" you are a part of, which determines ability variation and bonus feats for your team member. There are five teams total, four of which are overt and a covert fifth team that is a secret from many of those within Strike Force 7. Be it the rank and file of the Military Operations team, the hard hitting Counter-Terrorists, the skilled techies of the IT team, the charismatic Media Relations, or the infamous Furies, you will be much more than an average soldier.

In addition to the Teams, there are also two prestige classes, one that is heroic and one for the villains; they are, respectively, the Strike Force 7 Commando and the Anubis Warrior. Be it the ultimate soldier from a cadre of ultimate soldiers, which would be the SF7 Commando, or the technological tyrant who is the Anubis Warrior, these two prestige classes are not only full of flavor, but interesting crunch, too.

Speaking of Anubis Warrior's, it is time to talk about the enemy against whom Strike Force 7 came out of the ammo bunker to fight publicly, which is Skorpian. As an analog for various enemy and terrorist groups, both in fiction and, to some degree, in reality, Skorpian is themed off of Ancient Egyptian lore and mythos, which adds an excellent cultural feel, as well as trope familiar to comic book fans. Not only is this organization ruthless, but they have been attached to some of the more savage moments in this alternate history's view of media laced terrorist. On a global level, Skorpian terrorizes the world with vicious, focused violence that can slow even the heroic Strike Force 7, thus drawing them to even deeper acts of valor.

All in all, Strike Force 7 is an enjoyable piece that could make for an enjoyable range of super heroic military campaigns or one-shots, be it as the expected character types, the heroes of SF7, or the unexpected, as members of Skorpian. The only thing that could make this comfortably priced PDF, currently discounted at $6.99, down from $10.00, would be for it to have full color on the interior and, perhaps, more internal artwork, specific to the trademark weapons and imagery of the characters. But, that would be more icing on the cake, than it missing sugar in the mix, so it is not too bad of an issue.

Currently you can find this product at, here, for $6.99.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Review of Rite Publishing's The Living Airship by Soren Keis Thustrup

The Living Airship
Soren Keis Thustrup


In effort to maintain full disclosure, the following review is based upon a complimentary copy of the PDF, however this was unsolicited and with no expectation of favoritism. The following is based upon unbiased opinion and review.

The Living Airship, by Soren Keis Thustrup, is an adventure for 4-6 player characters, ranging in levels from 7th to 10th, in a campaign that uses Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved. Usable in any setting using the Arcana Evolved ruleset, the Living Airship is easily converted from the Diamond Throne with modest tweaks, be it for your own homebrew or Heroes of the Jade Oath, the in-development setting by Rite Publishing, under the Patronage model. For more information about Rite Publishing and their Patronage projects, visit here and here.

While the concept of the adventure is enjoyable and interesting, where Vallorians steal a faen airship, to twist to their own machinations, the designer and developer, Soren Keis Thustrup, in addition to the normal seeds and plot hooks, adds a personal touch by commenting how the adventure was in his original campaign. While it is not an in-depth walk-through, full of anecdotes, it is a nice touch that gives an interesting feel to the adventure.

In addition to the personal touch, Soren also puts the adventure in a place that seems unusual, as the player character's are seeking a hijacked airship within a far away mountain. With a title like the Living Airship, images of swashbuckling amongst the clouds, instead you are swept deep into a subterranean realm. Using the Vallorians, the reclusive, malevolent race of subterranean masters of living weapons and armor, is a nice twist on the "living" in Living Airship, as the idea of this secretive race, with a hatred for the surface, possessing living airships should scare any party.

Wrapped around the classic trope of a dungeon crawl, the Living Airship challenges the player characters to traverse the subterranean realm, overcome the unusual foes within, in a hope to recover the stolen airship before the villainous Vallorians twist the technology into their own vile means. An enjoyable romp through a classic fantasy event with a new twist, The Living Airship is a welcome adventure for Monte Cook's Arcana Evolved, joining the modest, yet well received, list of adventures for the system.

You can find the Living Airship here, normally listed at $9.99, the adventure is currently on sale for $6.99.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Kobold Quarterly's Behind the Spells

Now, just when I thought Kobold Quarterly had come up with one of the coolest ideas to date, Wolfgang and company comes up with, yet again, something pretty cool and interesting. That something cool is Behind the Spells, which launched its self with Color Spray, and is pretty darn interesting.

Kobold Quarterly is hoping that other gamers are like me, too, with respects to our wonderment at where spells came from and from whom these interesting spells sprung, not to mention the state of mind that helped the creation. While there are memorable spells with the names of their creators attached to them, so well known are these folk that I do not need to mention them, so I will not, but you know of whom I speak.

Maxolt Alberiim, a "human" fighter-mage, walks use through the unknown histories of some tried and true spells, of lore unknown, forgotten, yet we know exists because spells had to have come from somewhere, someone, right? Maxolt, voiced by author Bret Boyd for the color spray article, walks us through not only the history and usage of the tried and true spell, but also strategy and alteration of the spell's focus and effect.

Once again, in my not so humble opinion, Kobold Quarterly has hit it out of the park, again, in an article that is free on their website. While KQ has been a much heralded replacement for Dragon magazine, they are quickly cutting their own path and surpassing the legendary periodical, and well they should.

So, people, go and enjoy Kobold Quarterly's Behind the Spells, I know it is part of my regular habits, now.

Addendum: Tricky Owlbear Publishing is the publisher of the Behind the Spells series, by Bret Boyd, author and company president, as well as the series Behind the Monster. So, not only can you see Behind the Spells articles at Kobold Quarterly, but you can also find the series at Tricky Owlbear Publishing. My apologies for missing this important detail, it was not intentional.