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Sierra brings us back to the world of Krondor with the latest in computer role playing, Pagan Publishing offers their best for Call of Cthulhu fans, White Wolf begins the Year of the Reckoning, and TSR returns to The Tomb of Horrors. It's all here in our February games column. Bring a snack -- this could take a while.

Games and game accessories are listed by publication date; most recent first. Where available, links to SF Site reviews are provided. Click on the thumbnail image to get a look at the full size cover.

New Gaming Arrivals: February 1999
Return to Krondor
Sierra Studios (computer game, Windows, $49.95 US)
Release date: December, 1998

Before becoming a jet-setting, internationally renowned fantasy author with 12 million books in print, Raymond Feist dabbled more than a bit in game design. His publications from Midkemia Press -- including Tulan of the Isles (1981, written with Stephen Abrams) and Jonril: Gateway to the Sunken Lands (1982, with April Abrams) are some of the most collectible products in the industry. He's kept his hand in ever since, most notably with Betrayal at Krondor, the best-selling computer role-playing game he wrote with Neal Hallford for Sierra/Dynamix in 1994. The sequel has been long-awaited, and finally arrived just in time for Christmas. Developed by Cincinnati-based PyroTechnix (makers of the game Tanarus), Return to Krondor is also set in the world of Midkemia and offers many technological improvements over the first. But what we really care about is the story -- and it looks very solid indeed. Players assume the roles of five main characters -- including Squire James, also known as Jimmy the Hand, and William ConDoin, son of the magician Pug -- in a tale that revolves around the disappearance of the Ishapian Church's most sacred relic, the Tear of the Gods. Feist's novels of Midkemia include Magician, Rage of a Demon King, and his most recent, Krondor the Betrayal, which includes dialog and situations taken from the first game.
Art: Steve Prescott
Blood-Dimmed Tides (A World of Darkness Sourcebook)
Sean Jaffe, Clayton Oliver, Ethan Skemp and Adam Tinworth
White Wolf (sourcebook, 128 pages, $17.95 US)
Publication date: March, 1999

I gave this one only a glance when it arrived. An underwater sourcebook for White Wolf's modern era RPG line? Snooze. Bad call. The authors look at the unfathomed oceans of the world and see a dynamic gaming environment -- not to mention a natural setting for dark and terrifying encounters. A surprising and rewarding resource for White Wolf's entire The World of Darkness line, or indeed any modern RPG game. "Nobody said the ocean was a safe place. There are...things down there, things that slide effortlessly through the arctic chill and lightless void. Creatures that wait quietly for their time, the time of flood -- the time of Dagon. It's time to take a look at what's going on in the rest of the world. Blood-Dimmed Tides explores the seas of The World of Darkness, and lays bare the secrets of their denizens, whether the wraith-crewed ghost ships or the fae of the deep." See, you're interested already.
Design: Matt Milberger
Mind's Eye Theatre Journal, Issue #1
edited by Ken Cliffe
White Wolf (magazine, 80 pages, $7.95 US)
Publication date: March, 1999

"Because the Mind's Eye Never Blinks." Catchy slogan. The first issue of the Mind's Eye Theatre Journal celebrates the growing popularity of live-action role playing, and in particular White Wolf's expanding Mind's Eye Theatre product line. It contains live-action rules for playing Pumonca (What the heck is Pumonca? A feline tribe for the upcoming Laws of the Wyld West, apparently), fiction by game developer Carl Bowen, and arcane rituals of the Tremere clan. All in all a handsome package, with some exceptional photo work and page design by photographer J.P. Rhea and Art Director Rich Thomas. Well worth a look.
Art: Michael W. Kaluta
The Traditions Gathered II: Blood and Dreams (A Mage: The Ascension Sourcebook)
Nicky Rea, Phil Brucato, et al
White Wolf (sourcebook, 216 pages, $20 US)
Publication date: February, 1999

The Traditions Gathered sourcebooks collect essential Tradition books for Mage: The Ascension. The first volume was Songs of Science, released a few years ago. Blood and Dreams collects three more "vital character sourcebooks that define the very paths to magick and transcendence itself." How can you turn down a package deal like that? Contained herein are Verbena, Cult of Ecstasy, and Dreamspeakers, all now out of print. I could find no changes to the originals beyond the copyright page, so if you already have the original volumes you won't need this. But if you don't, this is a handy and economical way to pick them up.
Art: Bill Sienkiewicz
Guide to the Camarilla (A Vampire: The Masquerade Sourcebook)
Richard E. Dansky, et al
White Wolf (sourcebook, hardcover, 232 pages, $25.95 US)
Publication date: February, 1999

One of the most ambitious sourcebooks I've seen for any gaming system in a long time, Guide to the Camarilla is half of a two volume set (the companion volume is below) which details the two warring vampire sects of White Wolf's seminal RPG, Vampire: The Masquerade. More than just a comprehensive look at the Camarilla, this volume helps set the stage for a climactic confrontation involving the ancient vampire elders, the dread Antediluvians, the Sabbat, and more. "The Final nights are here. The proud Camarilla is beset by doubt, betrayal, and the rage of its enemies. The Masquerade has worn dangerously thin. In the bloody cauldron of the final nights, this might be the last time as well..." Includes details on the disciplines of the elders, the powers of the justicars, and the war on the terrifying Sabbat. Also available in a deluxe slipcased set with Guide to the Sabbat for $74.95.
Art: Bill Sienkiewicz
Guide to the Sabbat (A Vampire: The Masquerade Sourcebook)
Justin R. Achilli, et al
White Wolf (sourcebook, hardcover, 224 pages, $25.95 US)
Publication date: February, 1999

The companion volume to Guide to the Camarilla sports a stunning cover by comics legend Bill Sienkiewicz, and outlines the most intimate details, secrets and schemes of "the most reviled sect of vampires ever to walk the night." Are the Sabbat inhuman monsters seeking the total subjugation of humanity, or secret warriors in a ceaseless battle to free themselves from the tyranny of the dread Antediluvians? Depends on how you play them... This impressive volume weighs in with extensive detail on the terrifying disciplines at the sect's disposal, the antitribu (anti-clans) in their ranks, and their war methods against both the Antediluvians and the Camarilla. It also outlines the Sabbat's latest victories, including their successes on both the East Coast of the US and their usurped territories in the Old World. Sections include new bloodlines, disciplines, and the coiled plots which snake across continents and centuries. There's enough data and inspirational info in this book to fuel numerous new Vampire: The Masquerade campaigns -- and it undoubtedly will.
Art: Matt Wilson
The Fool's Luck: The Way of the Commoner (A Changeling: The Dreaming Sourcebook)
Buck Marchinton and Deena McKinney
White Wolf (sourcebook, 128 pages, $17.95 US)
Publication date: February, 1999

The introductory volume to White Wolf's Year of the Reckoning line of gamebooks (the successor to last year's impressive Year of the Lotus series) is a sourcebook for Changeling: The Dreaming that looks at the daily life of a commoner Kithain. Sounds a little pedestrian? Not when the underlying plots to overthrow the fae lords surface. Included is a complete history of the commoners, from the days before the Shattering to the age of self-rule during the Interregnum, to the modern era. Also comes with new merits, flaws and treasures, and two new commoner kith character types: the Spriggan and the Piskies. The opening short story, "Summer's Molt: A Faery's Tale," is uncredited, but is presumably by Marchinton and McKinney.
Trinity Field Report: Psi Laws (A Trinity Universe Update)
Bryant Durrell
White Wolf (sourcebook, 24 pages, $4.95 US)
Publication date: January, 1999

I like these field reports. They're compact, fully-realized snapshots of the Trinity universe, and each is nicely self-contained... and so deeply immersed in the gaming fiction that they can be read (and enjoyed) totally separately from the Trinity rules themselves. And all for less than the price of a paperback. The first two, Extrasolar Colonies and Alien Races, dealt largely with off-planet affairs and alien contact; this slim volume presents extremely useful information on how the various human cultures and legal systems view the psi-endowed minority (and, when need be, how to get around those same legal systems...) Well illustrated in color.
Art: Duncan Fregredo
World of Darkness: Demon Hunter X (A Vampire: The Masquerade sourcebook)
Jim Moore
White Wolf (sourcebook, 112 pages, $15 US)
Publication date: 1998

I'm usually not a big fan of White Wolf's comic intros for their sourcebooks, but the 8-page segment that launches Demon Hunter X, by Jim Moore and Leif Jones, is far above their usual efforts. And it also nicely captures the tone of the book itself. Are there things man was not meant to know, forces he was not meant to tangle with? You betcha. And in the other corner are the dedicated loners, the desperate brotherhoods, and the secret organizations chartered to hunt and destroy the supernatural terrors who prey on humanity. Included within are info on the history and traditions of demon hunting in the East, two new types of mortal monster hunters, and new powers, Traits and Toys (er, "equipment").
Art: Blair Reynolds
The Duelist: March 1999
edited by Mark Rosewater
Wizards of the Coast (magazine, 64 pages, $4.95 US/$6.50 Can)
Pokemon. Dozens of little monsters running everywhere. Cards, cartoons, and an insanely popular video game. Feeling left out, and want at least a clue to what's going on? The latest issue of Wizards of the Coast's The Duelist, the magazine for collectible card game enthusiasts, will fill you in without the shame of having to ask a pre-schooler. Plus a special section on The Magic of Urza's Legacy for Magic: The Gathering and features on Star Wars Special Edition and Rogue Squadron 3D.
Art: Blair Reynolds
A Guide to the Cthulhu Cult (A Call of Cthulhu Supplement)
Fred L. Pelton; edited by Pierre de Hammais
Armitage House (reprint, fiction, trade paperback, 150 pages, $9.95 US)
Publication date: October, 1998 (First Edition: 1996)

A mysterious little artifact indeed. Originally published as a (very) limited edition chapbook in 1996, this claims to be an unpublished 1946 manuscript by the late Fred L. Pelton, very nearly the definitive work of scholarship on the notorious Cthulhu Cults. "Drawing on sources as diverse as the Necronomicon and the Bible, Pelton committed to paper some of the first modern analysis of the cult's history and practices since the speculative work of the late Professor Angwell in the early part of this century." This edition includes the complete text of the Cultus Maleficarum. Worth reading for the section on catchy Cthuloid chants alone.
Delta Green: Alien Intelligence (A Delta Green Anthology)
edited by Bob Kruger & John Tynes
Armitage House (reprint, fiction, trade paperback, 194 pages, $11.95 US)
Publication date: March, 1998

Delta Green is the title of Pagan Publishing's ground-breaking RPG supplement for Call of Cthulhu (see below for more details). The name is taken from the covert agency born of the federal government's 1928 raid on the coastal town of Innsmouth, Mass. The secrets discovered that night were locked away in the most secret of government files, and Delta Green existed as a sanctioned government force for over forty years. It operated in the shadows and opposed the forces of darkness with grim determination and sacrifice, until a disastrous 1969 operation in Cambodia shut it down... officially. Kept alive through the secret agreement of its leaders, Delta Green continues its work without authority or support. Its agents work outside the system, facing inhuman creatures and enclaves of the vile Nazi Karotechia, pushing back the darkness for another day. Alien Intelligence is an original anthology of Cthulhu mythos stories containing "eight tales of cosmic horror and personal apocalypse," written by Dennis Detwiller, John Tynes, and others.
AD&D Tomes: Return to the Tomb of Horrors
Bruce R. Cordell
TSR (adventure, boxed set, 208 pages, $29.95 US/$39.95 Can)
Publication date: 1998

Gary Gygax's Tomb of Horrors dungeon module, first published over twenty years ago, was one of the great classics of adventure role playing: a fiendish death-trap designed to humble even the most arrogant and capable players, it was a masterpiece of diabolical design, and the first role-playing supplement to be enhanced with crucial visual aids (a major innovation at the time). The prolific Bruce Cordell, who's gone a long way to returning AD&D to the classic spirit of old with such fine adventure supplements as The Gates of Firestorm Peak and the Monstrous Arcana series, returns to the tomb of the demilich Acererak with a greatly expanded canvas: three booklets totaling 208 pages, players handouts, and -- to top it off -- a beautiful facsimile edition of the original Tomb of Horrors module from 1978. This is one of the most attractive and intriguing RPG products of 1998. Includes a forward by Gary Gygax, creator of AD&D. An adventure for characters level 13-16.
Art: Dennis Detwiller
Mortal Coils (A Call of Cthulhu Adventure Anthology)
compiled by Brian Appleton
Pagan Publishing (sourcebook, 204 pages, $20.95 US)
Publication date: 1998

Chaosium's Call of Cthulhu role playing game, based on the horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft, has attracted more creative publishers to its ranks than any game since the original AD&D (and it's a debatable point even then). But for my money, the company that consistently produces the most original, polished and downright diabolical work has been Pagan Publishing, the folks behind the magazine The Unspeakable Oath. Mortal Coils is a thick anthology of eight original adventure scenarios for Call of Cthulhu, including "A Murder of Crows" by John H. Crow, "God of the Mountain" by Michael Cisco, and -- my personal favourite -- "Mysteria Matris Oblitae," by Dennis Detwiller, in which a photo of the corpse of a bizarre creature sends the players on a journey to rural Mexico. Extremely well illustrated by Detwiller, Toren Atkinson, and Heather Hudson. Recommended.
Art: Blair Reynolds
Delta Green (A Call of Cthulhu Sourcebook)
Dennis Detwiller, Adam Scott Glancy, John Tynes
Pagan Publishing (second printing, sourcebook, 298 pages, $27.95 US)
First Edition Publication date: 1997

Pagan Publishing's early adventure modules for Call of Cthulhu -- including Walker in the Wastes and The Golden Dawn -- were well enough received, but it was the seminal Delta Green that really put them on the map. Contained within is nothing less than a secret history of the 20th century, exposing "the slow rot at the core of humanity, and the things from beyond space and time that lurk and titter in the shadows." Delta Green has been fighting against the true masters of the world since the 1928 raid on Innsmouth, Massachusetts. Stripped of official sanction following the horror of the 1969 Cambodia covert op, Delta Green is now an outlaw conspiracy working inside the U.S. government... accountable to no one, and with a resolve born of grim desperation. This massive sourcebook contains new skills, spells, weapons and Mythos tomes for Call of Cthulhu, a factual history of the U.S. intelligence and law-enforcement community, two scenarios, a short campaign, and much more. Highly recommended. Second printing. "Breathtaking... horror roleplaying will never be the same" -- Shadis magazine.
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