Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category


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Moving on from the character creation, the game offers a broad selection of threats, from basic animals to bandits, and township threats, and moving up to the Emperor’s finest soldiers and even Celestial Animals and Oni for the more supernatural angle.

Seeing this kind of spread is actually a good thing for the game, as Ninja Crusade seems to be geared specifically for a broader range of games, from ninja vs ninja tragedies, to action-adventure yarns. It’s a deep toolkit of ideas for the GM to use, and I sincerely appreciate that.

In the Setting chapter, Ninja Crusade 2e gives us an overview of life in the renewed Izou Empire. While heavily influenced by Japan, the setting of Ninja Crusade is much more well formed this time around.

Wherein the first edition was all broad strokes and implications, there’s a stronger voice of authority in the setting, but enough white space around for GMs to place their own take on things.

Each of the provinces of the Empire are described in a short blurb, along with descriptions of prominent cities. This could afford to be a little longer, I feel, but there are some pretty good plot hooks in this section for people to insert different kinds of adventures.

The game then zooms out to talk about the lands around the Empire, giving us a better appreciation of it’s place among it’s neighbours and the lands beyond the borders of the empire where new friends (and foes) might come from, or where the heroes might be forced to visit for a time.

In the GMing chapter, Ninja Crusade tackles the job of providing inspiration and ideas for a new GM. Starting from inspirations, which feature some obvious picks like Basilisk and Naruto, the book then moves on to the basic structure of handling Ninja Stories. There’s good advice here on how to put together a plot, as well as how to pace the game.

One of the best sections here is an examination of common Ninja Story types, as this can be the backbone for a new GM’s attempt at running the game. After all, you don’t need to be original you should be well executed.

The book finishes with a collection of pregenerated characters, all of which could be used by new players, or as NPCs in an ongoing game.

Conclusion & Review

Ninja Crusade 2e is kind of like that long delayed sequel you never thought you wanted until you were walking out of the movie theater after seeing it. While the first edition was full of haphazard enthusiasm and spunk, the second edition of the game greatly benefits from a host of improvements brought upon by careful and deliberate design.

Third Eye Games has shown that it is capable of great leaps of innovation, with this edition showing off some incredible artwork, well-considered, and imaginative mechanics, and a much more fleshed out setting.

As a total product, it finally feels all there. There are no hanging bits that feel tacked on at the last minute, no hasty ideas written in just to make it to print. Everything is here because it was meant to.

But that said, is it fun? I would say yes. As a love letter to ninja anime, the game has everything you might want. From strange powers to warring clans, and a setting that lets you go from Naruto to Legend of Korra, Ninja Crusade delivers. Comedy games of Ninja Crusade aren’t too far fetched, and I can see a serious group pull off Basilisk-style ugly clan wars mutual destruction just as easily.

So if you’re looking for a good game that does over-the-top anime action without the fiddly nature of Exalted, but with enough crunch to satisfy your tactical itch, Ninja Crusade is a solid pick.


Today we’re taking a look at the mechanics behind Ninja Crusade 2e.

Gifts and Triggers

One of the first thing this chapter talks about are the Gifts and Triggers. As seen in the character creation entry in our series, 5 of the Steps involve getting a Gift and a Trigger.

Gifts reflect lessons learned and internalised by a character, and bestow a bonus to a Skill for a specific use. Triggers on the other hand reflect hubris and conflict between loyalties. When Triggers are activated, players receive 1 Karma.

Skill Combo System

The game uses only Skills to complete tasks. When performing an action, the GM can call for a combo of 2 skills that are involved in the action. The player then rolls a number of 10-sided dice equal to the total of those two skills and tries to roll 7 and above. 7, 8, and 9 count as one success each, while a 10 counts as two successes.

Should a character roll no successes and any of the dice show up as a 1, then this is considered a critical failure.

Difficulties

Difficulties in Ninja Crusade is rated by the number of successes needed to roll in order to pass. This ranges from 0 (easy) to 5 (legendary).

Boosts

If a player is able to roll 3 successes OVER the Difficulty, then the roll benefits from a Boost, which grants improved benefits over a normal success.

Boosts can bestow benefits such as the ability to attack additional targets, gain bonus information from a roll, halve the time to execute a task or deal bonus damage.

Fate Die

Should a combo be reduced to 0 by modifiers, or due to a lack of any levels in either skill, then the player rolls a single d10 called a Fate Die. This die differs in that the only way it can score a success is by rolling a 10.

Karma Pool

At the beginning of each session, the group begins with a Karma Pool with a number of d10’s equal to the number of players. These dice are considered a shared resource, and have a maximum cap of 10 dice. During play, certain events add to the Karma pool, such as Triggers and Critical Failures.

Any player may use these Karma dice on their turn as long as no other player objects. These may then be spent on Bonus Dice, or in a Dramatic Rewrite, which allows for players to change something in the Scene to fit their character’s needs in the heat of the moment.

All good so far. Ninja Crusade’s basic system is pretty standard stuff, with good ideas taken from various games and cobbled together into a medium crunch system with many options for neat bells and whistles to take place, as in the case of Boosts and Karma.

The way Karma is created is also neat as it encourages missions going south quickly due to the Ninja’s inherent personality failings before rallying to victory as the Karma gained is spent on Dramatic Editing to save their bacon.

Now that we’ve got the basics out of the way, let’s take a peek at combat!

Initiative

In an interesting take on the standard Initiative system, Ninja Crusade has a static value for Initiative that doesn’t change. Ties are rolled off to determine who moves first within the same initiative, but the initiative values themselves don’t change.

This sort of saves time from rolling off… time that is now spent rolling for something else called

Dynamic Actions

These represent the ninja’s ability to think on the fly and react to factors as their arise as opposed to waiting for their turn to come around. Rank provides characters with a number of Dynamic Actions, as well as a number of dice to roll each Round to gain further Dynamic Actions.

It’s a neat subsystem I’ve yet to see anywhere else, and I do like that the Ninja Crusade systems people have managed to incorporate it without taking up table time by moving the initiative roll’s time slot over to here.

Dynamic Actions are spent on a menus of various actions ranging from counter-attacks, boosting (or lowering) initiative or deflecting an attack.

Battle Actions

In a neat little treatment, Ninja Crusade treats social (or Mental) combat in the same way as normal combat. But rather than creating two entirely different systems, they harmonized the two by generalizing actions to the following:

  • Inflict Harm
  • Plan Attack
  • Affect Composure (Mental Only)
  • Disarm
  • Initiate Grab
  • Break Grab
  • Knock back (Physical Only)
  • Knock down (Physical Only)
  • Mold Ki
  • Retreat
  • Sprint / Rush (Physical Only)
  • Use Jutsu

In response, the target can then choose their defence (which is also split along Mental and Physical)

  • Block / Parry
  • Brace
  • Catch (Physical Only)
  • Dodge / Evade
  • Find Cover

Once both characters have chosen their action and defence, the GM determines the Skill Combos for each, and they roll off.

Damage is determined by how much the attacker rolls over the Defender. Some attacks have a base amount of damage that occurs on top of any other factors.  Boosts and Dynamic Actions can be spent to further increase damage.

Conditions

In order to stave off death, players may opt to take on Conditions, this is a tradeoff of taking instant damage in exchange for a longer-term penalty. It’s a great roleplaying opportunity, and while I am a little wary of having multiple players each nursing up to 4 conditions each, when used in moderation it can be fun.

Overall, the combat system is a bit involved and multi-layered, and those not used to a middle to high level of complexity in rules might find themselves losing track of the fiddly bits. In any given moment you’re tracking Gifts, Dynamic Actions, Karma, Boosts, Jutsu and Actions.

What it does promise however, is a game with a lot of interesting avenues for cinematic ninja battles. I would definitely advise more than a few sample sessions of the combat system to get players to learn all the nooks and crannies as the system will shine if everyone is proficient at it.

Overall, big kudos to the Ninja Crusade team for putting this together. It’s unique, but not overly difficult to learn, and I’m glad they really stuck their necks out to try new combinations of what might feel like familiar rules to deliver the experience they wanted.

Next up, a look at Ninja Crusdade’s Setting, and Antagonists!


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Today we’re tackling the last parts of the Conan book, with a quick glance at the remaining chapters!

The Hyborean World

This is the dense setting chapter that talks about the world that Conan inhabits. Remember when I said way back at the start of this series that the RPG book is probably the most extensive treatment of Robert E. Howard’s worldbuilding? Well, that shines through in this chapter.

Each of the regions in The Hyborean World is given exhaustive treatment, with a discussion of geography, cultures, the people, customs and conflicts of each. Needless to say each of these is also filled to the brim with plot hooks and adventure ideas that could launch a ton of campaigns. GMs can zoom in and have a solid series of adventures around a given region like Aquilonia, for example, or do the Conan thing and go whole hog on a travelling campaign where the characters find themselves in new and exotic locales in every adventure.

Gamemastering

This chapter is where the book breaks character to address the GM directly. In it, they relay the tasks and duties of a GM, and try to convey as many tips and tricks as possible to emulate the pulse-pounding thrills and chills of Conan’s pulp adventures.

In addition, there is also a long section talking about Momentum and Doom, and how to best use these resources to manage pacing and tension in a game.

Perhaps the most interesting section in this chapter is what happens between adventures. Whenever the characters aren’t off slaying creatures and escaping mummified sorceror-kings, they’re busy living their lives. This is tackled with mechanics for Upkeep and Carousing. This isn’t just simple task of wine and wenches, but an opportunity to engage in traditionally downtime activities like meeting with a patron, engaging in trade or gambling. These then become a source of adventure seeds and misadventures, giving the players a sense of the passage of time while engaging in (mostly) non-sword swingy pursuits.

Vultures of Shem

This is the introductory adventure found in the Conan RPG. It’s a brisk adventure that kicks off in a very pulp-y fashion, but to avoid spoilers I’ll refrain from talking about it in much detail. Needless to say, it starts with quite an opening, and depending on the decisions that the characters take they’ll run into all sorts of interesting (and despicable) characters, and have more than a few run-ins with the supernatural. It’s very appropriate given the source material and a great way to re-orient players away from the habits and expectations of other Fantasy games.

Heroes of the Age

This is the Kickstarter Backer character chapter, and they present a wide range of interesting characters that can be tossed into any Conan campaign. While whether or not they’re good is largely a matter of taste, many of them are pretty interesting, and I can spot a few that would make for interesting encounters in my campaigns. (If you’re the kickstarter backer who wrote up Hast, well done!)

Review

Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of set off to become the definitive Conan RPG. While many have tried before them, Modiphius has managed to pull off this claim, coming up with a game that contains what could be best described as the very essence of Conan’s adventures.

Art & Layout

The artwork in the book is phenomenal, and well used, each one conveying the manic vibrance and urgency of Conan’s pulp adventures. While there was still a few instances of a naked lady being sacrificed in an altar, most of the other artwork showed sensibly-dressed women in situations of empowerment and adventure.

The layout is crisp and clean, and made reading the book a lot more pleasant. Callout boxes with and tables were used with consistency and an eye towards clarity, and even with the textured printer-unfriendly version, the background didn’t interfere with the ability to clearly read the text.

As a PDF product, the entire thing was bookmarked and searchable and quite snappy on my laptop (though perhaps a little less so on my mobile phone.)

System

Modiphius’ 2d20 House System feels like a perfect fit for Conan’s adventures, and the genius of the Momentum and Doom mechanics lie in their ability to affect the mood of the game and amplify tension.

Combat is crunchy, but every rule exists to support the fiction. Conan isn’t a place where combat is heroic. It’s visceral, practical and fraught with danger. Even if the player characters are meant to be exceptional individuals, there’s never a sense of an encounter being a cakewalk since the GM is always waiting in the wings with Doom in hand.

Conclusion

Would I recommend Robert E. Howard’s Conan: Adventures in an Age Undreamed Of to others? By all means, yes. If you’ve never played a different kind of Fantasy RPG, then you owe yourself to try this game.

If you’ve ever enjoyed Conan in any iteration, from the movies, the cartoon, the videogames or the stories then you owe yourself to try this game.

I’ve always had a strong preference for games whose rules are structured to promote a given feel and mood while simulating the “physics” of the fiction. The Conan RPG does this in a stellar fashion, with a crunchy set of mechanics that emulate the world of savage adventure inhabited by Conan in a way that I imagine will be very, very difficult to outdo.

The Conan RPG is now available for purchase in PDF format from DriveThruRPG for $24.99


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After taking a peek at Sorcery, we’ll be going over the various threats and monsters that players can expect to run into in the Conan RPG.

Creature Categories

The RPG has five different categories for the encounters that the GM can throw at his players:

  • Minions – The most frequently encountered opponents, Minions fight with the normal rules, but do not have hit locations. They only roll 1d20 on tests and Stress equal to half the associate attribute, rounded down. They may not attempt Reactions or sacrifice armor or shields to ignore wounds. New Minions can be added to a scene by spending one Doom per Minion as long as there is a logical and plausible reason for reinforcements to show up.
  • Toughened – Are the category of a serious threat. Exceptional individuals among various lesser creatures tend to fall under this category. Toughened creatures act and fight with the same rules as player characters.
  • Nemesis – This is the most powerful category, representing “boss” type characters. These fight with the same rules as player characters, with multiple Harms and the ability to sacrifice armor and shields to ignore wounds.
  • Horrors – This category of encounter represents creatures called to being with a Summon a Horror spell.
  • Undead – This category represents creatures summoned by Raise Up The Dead spell.

Groups

Like the cultists in our Combat example, many adversaries work in groups. These are defined as either Mobs or Squads. Mobs are a disorganized rabble, while Squads are usually lead by a Toughened or otherwise exceptional leader.

Special Abilities

Creatures being what they are, possess a host of special abilities that allow them to exhibit immunities to certain types of damage, carry their own personal stash of Doom, cause characters to suffer mental damage upon seeing them, or even have alternate modes of movement, such as flight.

A Host of Horrors

As this point, the book offers a dizzying array of threats and opponents for our heroes. These range form mortal threats like Cultists and Savages, to Wild Beasts, Monsters and Horrors from Beyond. Finally, the list ends with a quick rundown of Characters of Renown, including the stats for celebrated characters such as Conan the Barbarian, Belit, Queen of the Black Coast, Valeria of the Red Brotherhood and Thoth-Amon of the Ring.

The Conan RPG has a huge selection of threats (as it should!) and any GM worth his salt will find something of use here. Each of the creatures presented could be the seed of a new adventure, and with a little elbow grease, anyone can come up with encounters here that feel like they were ripped from the pages of Robert E. Howard’s pulp stories!

Next up, we’ll be taking a look at Game Mastering Conan the RPG, and we’ll wrap up this Let’s Study series with a review of the game now that we’ve had a chance to go through all of it.

If you’d like to follow along with this series, The Conan RPG is now available for purchase in PDF format from DriveThruRPG for $24.99


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I don’t think it’s possible for us to run a Conan RPG without having at least a little combat in it. Okay, a lot of combat. But you get what I mean, right?

Anyway, now that we’re familiar with the rules, and we have a sample character let’s jump in with both feet on the combat rules for Conan.

It’s another long one so check out the whole article after the break:

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