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What I'm Backing on Kickstarter:
Codex Egyptium

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Weekend R&R: Amazing Adventures

Troll Lord Games has had it's share of challenges in the past few years.  Castles & Crusades is their biggest line and the Player's Handbook has now gone on to a 5th printing (not to be confused with a new edition of the game).  With underlying mechanic known as the Siege Engine, TLG has tried to put out other games to use this game mechanic as a backbone but has, thus far, met with mixed success.

While there are fans of StarSiege, Tainted Lands, and Harvesters -- there are many others that don't share the same opinions on these games for a variety of reasons.  StarSiege suffers from poor organization/presentation took a few departures from what was 'recognizably' the C&C game.  Tainted Lands also suffered in terms of organization and, any extended campaign may end up requiring some of the C&C core books giving it the feel of being more of a setting than it's own thing.  Lastly, Harvesters was good but had more of a feel of an adventure module with some new monsters and races than an actual standalone game.

However, with Amazing Adventures, TLG truly did things right here.  Everything you need is actually in this book.  It is very recognizable and anyone familiar with C&C will know how to play this game.  As far as rules and presentation is concerned, it is also very approachable for a 'new' game.

What is Amazing Adventures? Simply put, an RPG focusing on adventures in the 'pulp era'.  We're talking of stories typically depicted from the 30's give or take a decade.  Think of 'the Shadow', 'Doc Savage', or 'Flash Gordon' or turn towards the hard boiled detective, 'Philip Marlowe' for inspiration.  Indiana Jones certainly takes its queues from the pulps of the era.  Or, you could go a bit darker, and consider the writings of H.P. Lovecraft.  Simply put, there is a lot of inspiration to draw from if considering such a game.

The book comes to just over 200 pages and presents 8 character archetypes, options to customize your character such as traits and backgrounds, and a variety of rules to make this genre of play more accessible (like fate points, sanity rules, and basic vehicular combat).  For those of you who are curious, these characters types are: the Arcanist, the Gadgeteer, the Gumshoe, the Hooligan, the Mentalist, the Pugilist, the Raider, and the Socialite.

White I personally love Amazing Adventures, some may not like it because it is so close to C&C.  What does this mean?  Well, it's a game that follows a very familiar class and level based system as one would find in C&C and other D&D type games.  The game also uses hit points in a similar manner leaving one wondering if a wound track might have been a better option.  Of course, by keeping this the same, it means porting existing C&C material into Amazing Adventures extremely easy and something has to be said for that.  Frankly the complaints leveled against Star Siege simply won't apply here and, even vehicles have 'hit points' and, given the nature of the genre, the traditional hit point system can work depending on other considerations such as melee attacks, magic, and firearms (normally a non-issue for a fantasy type game).

The inclusion of firearms in a framework used in a D&D type game have had a few different approaches.  Sometimes it's handled by increasing damage or damage multipliers or allowing for exploding damage dice.  If trying to run a gritty and realistic / deadly level of combat, the present hit point system is problematic when dealing with characters of higher levels who also happen to have a lot of hit points.  However, as far as the pulp genre is concerned, this isn't so much of a problem.  It is 'believable' and perfect acceptable to have a hear take a few gunshot wounds and keep on going.  What the author has done here is acknowledge that some firearms have a rate of fire but there is a cumulative recoil penalty per shot fired.  Some weapons are better for accuracy and there are others with are worse.  However, the damage per bullet is no worse than damage from something like a sword and, within the context of hit points, this ends up working well enough.  For those weapon that have a higher ROF (10+ shots per round), this is a burst and the targets can do a Dex Save for half damage from such an attack.  Let's face it... a Tommy Gun can do a lot of damage but this simple rule will mean that the would be hero won't be cut down automatically in their first gunfight.

Now, if you are willing to accept that this game uses the same mechanics overall that C&C and other D&D inspired/derived games do, there is one thing that some people might be less happy with.  You will have MANY spells simply carried over from C&C.  In a couple of cases, these have been renamed but, more often than not, they still have the same names and same effects (Magic Missile is renamed to Arcane Bolt but Fireball is still Fireball).  Of course, you don't have 'Arcane Magic' or 'Divine Magic' but rather 'Int based Magic', 'Wis based Magic', and 'Cha based Magic' -- a choice determined when you create an Arcanist character will determine what you have access to.  Unlike C&C though, spell casting is mana point based though you still have the various spell levels ranging from 0 through to level 9.  Suffice to say that it is an interesting re-organizing of spell lists.  Now, using all these spells as a base isn't necessarily a bad thing and some people will no doubt enjoy this but part of me thinks that it is a wasted opportunity to really develop a more specific and streamlined spell selection appropriate to the genre and possibly re-usable for C&C.

That said, beyond the magic, you also have a section on psionics.  Admittedly, this is something I avoid in my fantasy games and never liked but, this fits right in with the genre once again and thus, perfectly acceptable.  I'm happy to say that psionics are not just another spell list selection but rather abilities usable with a successful ability check.  All pretty cool stuff and, in this case, it won't break the game or end up being another type of spell caster.

Overall, I am very happy with the game.  The book truly includes everything you need and there are no additional book requirements but the compatibility is there to easily port in whatever else you feel is needed from C&C.  The presentation of the book itself is nice and clean and the layout seems decent enough.  As for the game itself, there is enough little things added in and a few interesting yet simple tweaks to make this its own game rather than a C&C product with the serial numbers filed off.

Now with all that in mind, imagine some of those classic TSR modules like the Tome of Horrors tweaked somewhat to have a party led by a Raider infiltrating these ruins or even take Expedition to the Barrier Peaks and give that a bit of a pulp flair.  It might work a bit *too* well.  ;)



  1. With regard to the Hit Point issues you mention Die Hard is the answer. John McClane has a ton of HP and takes minor wounds throughout the movie (any of them). No name bad guy goes down with one shot because he's got 4 HP. Hans Gruber had to take the 20d6 damage for falling off a building to die.

    Also, real life, when firing automatic weapons, even if you hit with the first round, you are unlikely to hit with a second. The mechanical action of the bolt being forced back and they way people hold weapons will drive the weapon up and to the right (might be left for lefties). Bursts should increase the chance to hit, but not the damage. Perhaps roll a second damage die (distinct from the 1st) and if they tie, the second round has hit and done damage as well. This makes more powerful weapons less likely to get a second hit from a burst.

    1. Hopefully to quell your fears, I've long been both a hunter and a sport shooter, and have fired my share of semi-automatic weapons.

      Okay, okay, I'm a gun nut. There, I said it.

      I can't say I've ever fired full auto ones, but I have enough close friends in the military who critiqued my handling of those rules. I think they're pretty close to accurate without interfering with the fast play of the game.

  2. Die Hard is a great example!

    The firearms rules are certainly simple and but effective. I covered them quickly but, given some of what you say, you'll be happy to know that some of what you are talking about have been taken into account.

    If a character draws and fires hist Browning .25 which has a RoF of 3, the first shot would have no penalty, but the second would be at -4 and third shot would be at -8 due to recoil. A slug from this pistol is 1d8 damage.

    A Tommy Gun also has a rate of fire of 3 *or* you could choose to go full auto. It also suffers from recoil similar to the Browning Pistol for single shots.

    However, for automatic fire (a burst is 3 or 5 shots), a +3 or +5 bonus to hit is imparted. Additionally, when rolling to hit, for every 5 points above the targets AC, an additional bullet strikes the target.

    Firing bursts of 10 or 50 shots is considered an area of effect in a 5' or 10' path up to the range of the weapon (or solid target). Rules for multiple hits are resolved as with 3 or 5 shot bursts. This is considered, 'spraying the target'.

    So, in short, there is a bonus to hit with any sort of automatic fire but recoil may deter multiple single shots.

    The Thompson Sub-Machine gun will do 1d12+2 per bullet but given the rules for automatic fire, likely won't be hit that many times even if caught in a burst spread and, if they are unlucky, the Dex save for half will help against multiple shots should the target be caught really unawares. ;)

    Does this mean that everyone will be carrying sub-machine guns? Likely no given that these are certainly not common. In the list of firearms, the Tommy Gun is the only Automatic weapon listed and, depending on the exact time period, won't be something that easy to find either. Either way, the ammo capacity of a drum is 100 (30 in a box) which means the temptation for a player to hit his targets in a spray of bullets won't necessarily happen as often as they would like.

    As an aside, shotguns using shot as opposed to slugs impart a +2 bonus to hit but deals half damage for any range beyond point blank. Those unlucky enough to be hit by shotgun with shot deals double damage. Shot from a Shotgun is very much like the area effect burst from automatic fire.

    Hmm... the more I read over the firearms rules, the more I am getting excited to play this game!

  3. Really looking forward to this book.

  4. Hey, I just saw this now. Thanks so much for the great breakdown and review of Amazing Adventures! I'm flattered!