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Your Guide to Free RPG Day 2019: Quick Reviews

Egg Embry

Explorer
For Free RPG Day 2019, I was able to get lay hands on nine of the offerings (as review copies and items picked up by my partner-in-RPG-crime from Giga-Bites Tabletop Gaming Café [2018 Power Retail Award - Outstanding Organized Play Program and 2019 GAMA Power Retail Award - Outstanding Marketing] and Raven’s Nest Games). I want to thank every game store that stocked Free RPG Day products and every publisher that produced these quick starts and adventures.

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DUNGEON CRAWL CLASSICS ROLE PLAYING GAME: QUICK START RULES & INTRO ADVENTURE from Goodman Games
  • PAGE COUNT: 48 black and white pages plus a full-color cover
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Quick start rules and an adventure
  • NOTE: Read an EN World forum review of this system here.
This book goes above and beyond (as most DCC books do) in giving you all of the details. Without breaking down this gonzo OSR ruleset, pages 1 to 37 of the book detail how to make and use characters in combat within DCC. A cleric, thief, warrior, or wizard who is a dwarf, elf, or halfling, you get the rules as to how to build them all; that is to say, this isn’t a quick start, it’s a start. Pages 38 to 40 present the adventure, “The Portal Under the Stars”. Since this is a flipbook, at that point you turn it over to the eight-page adventure, “Geas of the Star-chons". There’s a lot of meat to this product, enough that you’ll get more than a single use out of it as you can build characters and try out their version of fantasy.

THE WITCHER: EASY MODE from R Talsorian Games
  • PAGE COUNT: 32 full-color pages including cover
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Quick start rules
  • NOTE: Richard Jansen-Parkes (Winghorn) reviewed the full ruleset on EN World (here).
Are you interested in R Talsorian Games’ The Witcher RPG? I highly recommend this streamlined view of the game to determine if it’s the one for you. Don’t be thrown by the cover (a parrot carrying a dagger), this is a desperate game of combat against supernatural evil based on the Witcher video game franchise (more so than the novels). Pages 1 and 2 give an overview of the world of the Witcher. Page 3 explains how to read the character sheets of the six pre-generated characters on pages 4 to 9. What’s interesting about this taste of the Witcher RPG is the option to choose a Lifepath for your pre-gen. This series of charts explains the background of your character so your pre-gen is unique to you. Pages 11 to 22 discuss how to play the game, the mechanics of skill checks, combat, magic, and crafting and even a page giving GM advice. Pages 23 to 26 are an adventure entitled “Still Waters” followed by a map and two NPCs and a monster. There’s a lot here and it really gives a solid overview of the larger Witcher game.

MODERN AGE QUICKSTARTER: THREEFOLD from Green Ronin Publishing
  • PAGE COUNT: 34 full-color pages plus 5 pre-gen characters and a quick reference sheet plus a full-color cover
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Quick start rules
  • NOTE: Charles Dunwoody reviewed the full ruleset on EN World (here).
For this one, let’s start with the production values. Unlike the other physical products I reviewed that were saddled stitched (stapled), this book is perfect bound (pages glued so it has a spine). As with every book, the layout, writing, and art are AAA, but the construction makes this book standout from the other offerings.

Within the book, pages 1 to 10 roll out the idea of the Modern AGE and how the cinematic version of the system (as opposed to the gritty or pulpy versions) works in a streamlined fashion. Page 11 discusses the Metacosm of Threefold. This quick start is an evolution of the Modern AGE RPG Quickstart including a nod to that book’s adventure, “Burning Bright”, that expands the setting of that adventure, Earth and Vigrith, from parallel worlds to “one of countless planes of reality in the Threefold Metacosm”. This book serves as the first taste of the Modern AGE multiverse setting that offers options for sci-fi, fantasy, and horror through multiple worlds of play. At Origins Game Fair 2019, I interviewed Modern AGE Developer, Malcolm Sheppard, and Green Ronin Sales Bard, Will Sobel, about Modern AGE: Threefold setting. Their plans for the first original Modern AGE setting are ambitious and going to maximize the engine while offering every type of world in a fashion that can be blended together or kept separate as the GM decides.

Pages 12 to 34 are the adventure, “Burning Brighter”. This adventure is longer than the other adventures I looked at from Free RPG Day 2019 (though, since I am not reviewing them all, it may not be the longest). There is meat as the adventure guides you through multiple planes of existence to let you feel what Threefold will offer. Closing it out, there are five pre-gen characters and a quick reference sheet to help with the adventure.

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PATHFINDER MODULE: WE BE HEROES? from Paizo
  • PAGE COUNT: 16 full-color pages plus a full-color cover
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Adventure module
  • NOTE: Read EN World forum reviews of this edition of Pathfinder here.
This is an interesting piece of history, it’s a module for the Pathfinder Playtest Edition. Paizo continues to support the Playtest as a full release, but I wondered why they supported PF 1.5e as opposed to PF 2e six weeks before the new release? I asked Aaron Shanks, Paizo PR Manager, “We Be Heroes is for Pathfinder Playtest rules because Free RPG Day occurs before the August 1 launch of Pathfinder Second Edition. The adventure was written long before the new rules [for PF 2e] were finalized.”

Playing with their Free RPG Day Pathfinder theme – We Be Goblins! – they task their signature goblins to be heroes with a mission that means the survival of their tribe as they fight off an undead army that includes zombie pigs, and a group of knights. A 1st-level adventure, pages 2 to 11 cover the mission while 12 to 15 offer four pre-gen goblin heroes (ranger, barbarian, bard, and a druid, all 1st level). For the adventure, you’ll need the Pathfinder Playtest Bestiary for most of the monsters (save the zombie pigs and the knight guard NPC).

To Paizo’s credit, this is a full product and they did not spare any production value. Great art and layout and a solid adventure. With only six weeks left in the Playtest rules lifecycle, Paizo put forth a solid product even as they prepare for PF 2e.

PATHFINDER ADVENTURE CARD GAME – STORYBOOK: WE BE HEROES? from Paizo
  • PAGE COUNT: 8 full-color pages
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Adventure module for Pathfinder’s card game
Based on the PATHFINDER MODULE: WE BE HEROES?, play the same adventure using Pathfinder Adventure Card Game instead of the Pathfinder Playtest ruleset. It’s not quite an RPG, but a neat addition to the Pathfinder library.

STARFINDER: SKITTER CRASH from Paizo
  • PAGE COUNT: 16 full-color pages plus a full-color cover
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Adventure module
  • NOTE: Christopher Helton reviewed the full Starfinder ruleset on EN World (here).
This adventure is a continuation of the 2018 Free RPG Day product, Starfinder: Skitter Shot. Just as Pathfinder focuses on Paizo’s goblins, Starfinder’s adventure lets you play skittermanders, cute, furry, six-armed aliens. In this case, it’s designed for 3rd-level skittermanders. The book offers five maps and several statted NPCs for the adventure but could be lifted as a resource for your home Starfinder game. Pages 12 to 15 feature four pre-gen skittermanders. Artistically, the book is a triumph with multiple highly detailed images. If you’re looking for a fun SF one-shot, this is an excellent option.

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Official INTRO MANUAL – Outbreak: UNDEAD.. Zombie survival role playing game SECOND EDITION from Renegade Game Studios
  • PAGE COUNT: 40 full-color pages plus a full-color cover
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Quick start rules
  • NOTE: Sean Hillman (SMHWorlds) reviewed the full ruleset on EN World (here).
Outbreak: UNDEAD is a simulationist zombie apocalypse RPG that involves rolling to generate advantages or disadvantages and then spending them. For those curious about the game, this intro manual summarizes the game’s rules and feel. A major draw for this game is the “proprietary SPEW-AI (Strength Perception Empathy and Willpower-Assessment Inventory) players can create themselves as characters and test their mettle and skill in a world of apocalyptic terrors. To learn more details on how to create yourself as a character, or make your character sheet online, go to spewai.com”. Violent and deadly, this is a game where you are striving to survive, and combat will only lessen your odds. This offering is a beautiful book with copious amounts of art and layouts as they detail how to play the game. Pages 1 to 7 give a rundown of the rules, 8 to 21 are an adventure (“The Tri County Precinct”), 22 to 35 features seven pre-generated characters, and 36 to 40 are the gear you might grab. It’s a great version of a deadly zombie apocalypse and, if you’re considering the game, this product will answer all of your questions.

KIDS ON BIKES presents... STRANGE ADVENTURES! THE HOUSE ON POPLAR COURT from Renegade Game Studios
  • PAGE COUNT: 20 black and white pages plus a full-color cover
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Adventure module
  • NOTE: Sean Hillman (SMHWorlds) reviewed the full ruleset on EN World (here).
Did you ever want to play Monster Squad? While this is not Monster Squad, there’s enough to let you know that “wolfman’s got nards”. You play one of five pre-generated characters as you fight against Creature from the Black Lagoon, Frankenstein’s Monster, The Vampire, and The Werewolf across eight locations as you’re assisted and hindered by nine NPCs. Pages 11 to 20 feature the three acts of the adventure as you investigate a haunted house full of monsters. This adventure includes a recommendation to download the free quick start rules if you do not have the core rulebook.
On the back cover is a teaser image for an upcoming Renegade project, Teens in Space. I like their literal look to the future with a sci-fi RPG where you’ll play teens.

MYTHIC D6 QUICK START from Khepera Publishing
  • PAGE COUNT: 16 black and white pages (one blank) plus a full-color cover
  • PRODUCT TYPE: Quick start rules
As a short quick start, pages 1 to 4 cover the core mechanic (d6 dice pools formed of an Attribute plus a Skill, count 4s and higher as successes against a Target Number, there’s a Wild Die that can lead to Critical Failures or Exploding successes). Pages 5 to 9 is a short adventure entitled “Mannequins for Dummies” to introduce the system. Pages 10 and 11 explain the PC/NPC stat abbreviations. Pages 12 and 13 are the NPCs/monsters while 14 and 15 are pre-gen characters. It’s a tight package that requires you to have RPG experience and fill any knowledge gaps (for example, combat is given an overview in the examples instead of spelled out in the rules). That said, veteran players will pick it up quickly and, at 16 pages, it has a lot packed in and delivers a playable game and an excellent taste of the Mystic D6 system.
 

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