Category Archives: Review

Review: Sheet Yourself

by James Lemon

Note: this review is for the iOS version; there is an older version for Android
Note 2: I was given a promo for this app in exchange for writing a review

There are numerous RPG-related apps for rules reference, character development and management, etc. available, although most seem to be for Pathfinder and the like, rather than OSR-focused games. The only OSR-focused one I’ve used until now is Purple Sorcerer’s Crawler’s Companion, a very useful as well as well-maintained and updated app. Today I’ll be taking a look at SparkNET’s Sheet Yourself, a system-neutral app to create and manage characters as well as spells, abilities, weapons, or pretty much anything else you’d need to keep track of.

When you first open the app, you’ll be prompted if you want to use iCloud to backup/sync your sheets. Next there is prompt for a short video that highlights the app’s features. At four and a half minutes it’s not terribly long, but you may want to skip and dive right into the app. The video can always be accessed in the app’s menu.

By default you’ll see a couple entries, one of each type of common things you’d likely create and want to keep track of in a game. You can tap on any of these to quickly see what information is shown for each sheet.

If you only want to view one category of items, you can tap the menu icon at the upper left and then tap which category to view. Slightly confusing is that in this menu there is a Menu button at the top; tapping this brings up the option to view the intro video, access SparkNet’s social media, and view your iCloud backups. This is also where you’ll add any new sheet types or campaigns by tapping the “+” at the upper right.

What’s nice about this app is that it’s truly system-neutral. It doesn’t assume you’re playing any specific game, and you can literally type in anything you want. This is also its downfall, as you’ll first have to type in everything. You’ll spend a lot more time setting up everything you’d need for your game(s), but once in you can easily re-use those items for any sheet in the app.

To create a new item you’ll tap the “+” at the upper right. By default it will set it as a Character type; to change this you’ll have to tap “Character”, the second-from-the-bottom button; this is kind of confusing, as I would think the type should be under/over the name at the top. Related is the naming; by default the name is also “Character”; for those new to the program you may think this is where the sheet type is set, rather than actually the name of this sheet/item.

If you want an image, you can tap the person icon (shouldn’t it be a generic photo/camera icon since you can set an image for a weapon, spell, or anything else as well?) to either choose an image or take one with your camera. Once you set an image however, you can’t remove it, only choose a new one.

You can also link the sheet to an existing campaign here. However once you link to a campaign there’s no option to un-link it (at least as far as I could tell); so if you need the sheet un-linked you’ll have to duplicate it and then delete the original.

If you need to email the sheet you can use the email icon at the upper right; it will compose an email with the sheet as an attachment (as a file with a .sheet extension); the email text provides links to the Sheet Yourself program on both iOS and Android. As a test I sent this email to myself to see if the file could be read with a text editor, but unfortunately it can’t be; so if you need your sheets and possibly hours of typing accessible outside of the program you’re out of luck.

As mentioned above, you’ll have to type in everything, at least at first. Luckily there is a duplicate/copy option, although it isn’t obvious. On the main screen, tap the pages icon at the upper right corner of the item you want to duplicate; you’ll be prompted and then tap “Yes” to duplicate the item; it’s a true duplicate, even in name (I do wish it’d add “2” or “copy” at the end of the name), so you’ll need to edit that first just to know which one you’re working on and don’t accidentally edit your original sheet. At least the duplicated item won’t be linked to any campaign if the original item was.

If you need to delete one or more sheets you’ll need to do it from the main screen by tapping the Pencil icon at the upper right. Be sure you really want to delete something, because once you tap the Skull & Crossbones icon on a sheet it’s deleted, no confirmation asked!

In general I’m not too big on relying on technology for my RPGs (beyond PDFs on a tablet), however like any aspect of technology I can see where this app can be convenient as well as a possible hindrance. As there’s no free version of Sheet Yourself nor any way to demo it I can’t tell you if it would be a helpful app or even a vital part of your game. I’ll be curious to see what future updates and fixes the app receives.

Module Review: The Zombraires Estate

by dymondy2k

In this review we will be running through The Zombraire’s Estate by Russ Westbrook. This is one of the modules contained in AA1 – Adventure Anthology. The adventure is recommended for characters of Levels 3 through 6. It contains a single map of The Estate and the surrounding area. There is no included wandering monsters but due to the small size of the adventure they really aren’t needed. It also includes a few included plot hooks to get a DM started.

Long ages ago, when the village near the marsh was settled (on order of the king, being all villagers were disgraced and exiled refugees), a family of Magic Users known as the Wrenwalds served as the settlement’s overlords. The Wrenwalds weren’t particularly good or kind, but they did protect the villagers from the ravages of the marsh’s beasts, and as long as the heavy and oppressive taxes rolled in, nobody died from Magic Missile. One day in the reign of Lord Justin Wrenwald III however, this all came to an end. One night while the family reveled with friends, the Swamp Witch Julieann demanded entrance as an honored guest. Seeing the ugly Hag (and fearing not the stories of her horrible power) the lord laughed in her face and ordered her put off the grounds. For this insult the Swamp Hag cursed the family, and horrible magics rose from Dark Realms. Many simply died; others transformed into living death, and the very estate itself took on the taint of Evil. A few villagers who served on the grounds escaped to the village to tell the awful tale, and since that night the villagers have avoided the grounds like the plague. It is said the ghosts of the dead still haunt the grounds, and the sounds of life can be heard from within, but that if anyone goes there, they never return. The current governor has done nothing to alleviate the people’s fear of the old ruin, and has decreed that anyone going to the ruins and not returning shall be deemed a suicide.

Setting the Hook
In the adventure before this, two of the adventurers died from a blast from a White Dragon. Their patron, the Wizard Elias Firebrand called in a favor with the high cleric of Chordax to raise them. As payment for this, she asked the party to look into the strange going ons at the Wrenwald Estate in the Norwood forest.

Fitting it In
It really didn’t take much to take the back story and work it into my campaign. I just stuck the town and estate into the northern section of the map. The only thing I did was make the Wrenwalds agents of the new Barony and the townspeople loyalists to the old government. Its obvious from the back story they aren’t really nice people so I stuck with that. The adventure never defined what happened when the Zombraire died so I decided that the curse was tied to him, so when he was destroyed, the curse over the surrounding land was lifted. So when the adventure was done, I bent the stronghold rules a bit and let my players keep the estate for themselves. It helped bleed some of the excess gold from them to get the place fixed up and to add a temple to Chordax there. I also had them petition the Duke to allow the town of Wrenwald to pay taxes directly to him at a much lower rate then they were paying the Wrenwald clan. They also presented the mayor of the town with the magic pitchfork they found.

Also it needs to be noted that although the swamp witch laid the curse on the Wrenwalds she doesn’t play into the adventure at all. I had a few of the NPCs that were local to the area know some rumors about her and she may tie into another adventure in the future.

The Playthrough
The players were all around level 3 when they went through this. The adventure was challenging to them and they took enough punishment that they needed to rest as soon as they could get into an area they could secure. However two of the toughest encounters in the adventure actually went really easy for them. The wraith in the main room was taken down pretty quickly due to some great rolls by everyone the first round of combat. The second was the Zombraire itself. I even allowed him to cast one of his spells ahead of time, but once again some great rolls by the players reduced him to ash pretty quickly.

Wrap Up
Let me state for the record that this was one of the most bizarre adventures I ever ran but the players LOVED it. It has alot of horror elements which give it a very creepy feel, but then some of the other elements such as zombie chickens and undead cows also give it a campy ‘Evil Dead’ feel as well. When the players opened up the stall and saw zombie milkmaids milking zombie cows and getting zombie milk, you could see the ‘What the Heck?’ look in all their faces before they all started laughing. Well that was until the cow attacked them. As stated earlier the players were around level 3 when they started and it gave them a good challenge without being extremely difficult. I would suggest that players be at the lower end of the recommended levels when running this. I think that a level 6 party would walk through this adventure too easily unless additional challenges were added.

Module Review: Crooked Rock Tower

by dymondy2k

In today’s review I will be taking a look at Crooked Rock Tower, one of the 3 adventures contained in Chris Gonnerman’s BF2 – Fortress, Tomb Tower series. The adventure is recommended for characters of level 3-6. It contains maps for the tower and 3 distinct dungeon levels. There is no included wandering monster tables for the adventure.

Chris has included a very deep back story for the adventure so instead of just repeating it verbatim here I will try to summarize it. The area the tower is located on has a very long and varied history. The first is the rock itself. It contains an ancient Lizardman temple where a sword of great power was buried thousands of years ago. During the adventure the party will run into a group of Lizardman looking for the sword. Long after the temple was lost to time, A wizard came to the area and built the Crooked Rock Tower as well as the dungeons below it. He turned one of the levels into a manufacturing facility where he created a race of clockwork men. He lived there for several years before he suddenly disappeared. A few years later another wizard came to the tower in search of the clockwork men he thought might still be hidden within. He tortured the remaining clockwork man he did find, to get it to reveal where the army was hidden, but the creature would not tell him. During one of these tortures, the wizard killed a woman in hopes of making the clockwork man talk. When it didn’t, he spared the life of her child and made it a servant instead. When the child became an adult it turned on the wizard and killed him before fleeing the tower. It has remained empty since.

Setting the Hook
The characters were hired by a lumber company owner to investigate a string of kidnappings at a lumber camp called Mosquito Marsh. When they arrive at the camp they find out the kidnappers are Lizardmen and that night repel an attack by a band of Lizardmen. They get word of a man in camp who followed the last band to a tower deep in the forest. They pay him to lead them to its location and from there the adventure starts.

Fitting it In
Chris created these adventures for his own campaign setting of Glain so I did have to do some major tweaking to get it to fit into mine. I located the tower deep in the Mirewood, a forest/swamp that fits in well with the Lizardmen. I kept the deep back story about the Lizardman and the sword the same. However I expanded on the Lizardman currently in the keep. They are searching for the sword to cement the clan chief as ruler over all other Lizardman clans. I also kept most of the Clockwork Wizard in as well, except I tweaked him to have some tie-in to my own custom race, The Soulforged. I did remove the manufacturing facility level from the adventure, because I am considering using it as a standalone piece later on. so I made the secret door behind one of the jail cells in room 11, lead to the temple instead. I also had the party find some of the abducted villagers in the tower basement. The other major thing I did was make the elevator mechanism work, just because I thought it was a cool addition. I just made the thing loud as hell when it ran.

The Playthrough
The adventure through the tower itself, was pretty uneventful except at the top level where the party was ambushed by 8 lizardmen. At first the Lizardmen were more interested in capturing the adventurers as more slaves so it was the first chance I got to use some brawling and wrestling rules from the core rules. It turned into a good fight and with another nasty fight with Lizardmen in the basement, the players actually had to return to the camp to heal for a few days.
Now in the first level dungeon Chris created the ‘Count Down Trap’ in Room 14. This was very ingenious and has a very cool ‘Lost’ countdown clock vibe to it. But while my players headed back to town to heal I knew the Lizardman Clan Chief wouldn’t just be sitting around so I did some random dice rolling to have them wandering around this level. And lo and behold, they found both the Stirges in Room 13 and the trap in 14. So when the party returned to the ungeon they found 13 dead stirges and one dead Lizardman in Room 13 and some very starved and dehydrated Lizardmen in Room 14. the party had found a set of numbers earlier and talked the Lizardman through turning the dials. This freed them but they were in no condition to fight so the party locked them up in cells in Room 11.
One thing I learned is that Chris loves Golems and constructs and the temple level is full of them. This level single-handedly gave my players a serious butt whupping, especially Room 35, where they lost the cleric. Even though Chris didn’t mention it in the adventure I decided that by destroying the drummers, the metal Godzilla Chris put in this room would become inanimate.
One of the other cool rooms in the temple level is Room 29. A mummy trapped here by a God as punishment for her misdeeds. The party had destroyed the mummy earlier in the adventure so this gave me a cool idea. I decided that I would raise the cleric, but he would no longer be a cleric of his old god, but of the God that trapped the mummy here in the first place, Vordane, The God of Retribution. It was all very cool, the armor changed color etc. So when they finally found the Sword Sashra, there was a loud explosion and the sword was gone, but now the Cleric’s mace pulsed with the same light as the sword. So I basically made the sword into a mace with a new name, Vorhaze.

Wrap Up
As I mentioned earlier this module took some work to fit into my campaign. Not all of it was the the fault of the adventure, I just saw an opportunity to expand some of the pieces into something greater later on. Chris’ modules are always the most challenging that I run, because sometimes the smartest thing to do in his adventures is to not fight. Plus he always throws in something that puts the players on their toes, either a puzzle or something else that involves using your wits to figure it out. I would recommend that they party be on the higher end of the level requirements because there are a couple of fights that were touch and go for the party and I believe they were all around level 4 when they went through this.

Module Review: Night of the Necromancer

by dymondy2k

Greetings everyone. My name is Dave Gerard, known around the BFRPG community as DymondY2K. I will be writing a new column for the blog where I take a look at some of the  adventures offered on our downloads site. I will be giving a quick overview of the module, how I fit it into my campaign setting and how it played. I will then give some pointers on the good and the bad as well as tweaks on how to run it.

To kick things off I will be reviewing Night of the Necromancer. It is one the adventures contained in the AA1 – Adventure Anthology One. It is written by Raymond L. Allen and is intended for character levels 3-5. It contains a straight dungeon adventure as well as some encounters that occur in the town and includes maps of both areas. There is no included random monster tables.

The characters arrive at the village of Stull and spend some time in the village before nightfall. While in town the party may learn that many families on the outlying farms have already packed their belongings and left due to the recent and seemingly
unstoppable advance of the undead. That evening they participate in defending the village from an attack of zombies that are originating from under the mausoleum of Bruk Stull, the founder of the village and the forefather of the lumbering operations in the area. This is a small dungeon where an “eco-necromancer,” Thaen Ygmay, has made his lair. The characters must enter this dungeon, defeat the necromancer and his foul undead, and destroy the Orbs of Necromancy that are allowing haen to create and control so many undead at once.

Setting the hook
I took the entire town of Stull and plopped it into a small corner next to the Bramblewoods to keep with the theme that it is a lumber town. The players had just finished up another adventure and were heading down a main thoroughfare so I begin to have them come across refugees heading east. I gave them the impression of bags and carts being packed in a hurry and a strange haunted look in their eyes. Once they questioned the refugees they found out about the undead stirring in the town of Stull. This was enough of a hook to get my players to change direction and head towards the town. I had the townspeople point them towards the mayor.

The play through
This is the first module I ran that had a few encounters with a sense of real urgency. I mean skeletons are attacking school children for gods sakes! I had to improvise their movement speed as they ran through the town to get to the school yard. It was frenetic and I could tell that the players were truly invested in saving those kids. Then as soon as they could catch a breath, another attack by zombies at the lumber mill. And the another at the Mayor’s house. And in the end it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, people died, setting the tone for the exploration of the mausoleum the next day. The dungeon crawl piece of the adventure has no surprises but is well done. The players definitely wanted some payback on the necromancer and his cleric side kick and got some when they found him. Sometimes adventurers seem to take all the right turns and they found the main villain the first day they were down there. They spent the next day backtracking through the dungeon to find the necromatic orbs and destroyed them after a tough encounter with some ghasts.

Wrap Up
As I mentioned earlier this was the first module I ran with my group where there was a real sense of urgency to some of the encounters. This in turn made the players emotionally invested in this town and its people. This carried forward to them eagerly wanting to go into the crypt to find the person behind all of this. Sometimes things don’t go in the order they are supposed to so the party ended up killing the necromancer and the cleric before they even found out about the Orbs of Necromantic Power. But I used the encounter with the students of necromancy as way to convey that information to the players, with one of the students actually being helpful (Garrett). After the adventure and back in the town, Raymond did such a good job of painting the town as being run down that my players picked up on it and wanted to know why. This kicked off one of the coolest PC/NPC interactions I’ve ever been part of and created the first real story arc of my campaign. I had to change very little to get this to fit into my campaign. I think all I did was change the references to some of the Gods to those that exist in the world.

I really liked this adventure and think it would be a great one to run right around Halloween. Not just because of the undead, but because they just aren’t in the crypts, they are overrunning the town as well.