Game: Signs & Portents #1
Publisher: Mongoose Publishing
Review Dated: 21st, August 2003
Reviewer’s Rating: 7/10 [ Good ]
Total Score: 7
Average Score: 7.00
Money. Not your money – but theirs. Mongoose’s money must go in as subsidies as to ensuring a rock bottom price. That’s the only way I can see Signs & Portents being possible. The magazine, issue one anyway, is super cheap. US$ 4.95 gets you 72 shiny, glossy, full colour pages. You get a free copy of the 24-paged The Slayer’s Guide to Minotaurs and that alone costs US$9.95.
Okay. There are a few adverts in Signs & Portents but it’s a magazine, that’s what you’d expect. There are a few adverts if you discount Mongoose Publishing products. You can’t count adverts for Mongoose Publishing because Signs & Portents is a Mongoose magazine designed entirely to support Mongoose products. The British company has over 80 books, I read, which include numerous popular D&D flavoured d20 products, Judge Dredd,Slaine, Armageddon: 2089 and Babylon 5. There’s more coming. Signs & Portents tells us that Conan will dominate the release schedule in 2004 – and I believe it. The title might not quite be the biggest (although it’ll be close) but I know Mongoose will give the book all the supplement support it could ever need. There’s Lone Wolf coming and Macho Women With Guns is almost on us. A magazine solely for Mongoose products isn’t a luxury, it may not quite be a necessity either but it’s certainly more than just plausible. There’s enough products for it to support (and enough Q&A to address).
I know Macho Women With Guns are almost upon us (in the good way) because they kick off the start of the magazine, in the Eye on Mongoose section, and for the new releases this month. With the Quintessential Ranger and Quintessential Ultimate Prestige Classes II coming out for the D&D core and other products also due out at the same time it’s sure to be a rich month for Mongoose.
If you dismiss news of new products as just adverts and want something more solid then you may get your wish as early as page four. Questions and Answers deal with those typos that pop up just where you don’t want them. In this issue the Q&A section runs through the Quintessential books and gives rules for those paragraphs which might have been missed out from the original books by mistake.
If you can get away with it it’s well worth reading Tales from Mongoose Hall. It’ll make you laugh. There’s a slim chance that you’ll not get away with reading this section, it’s an account of the Mongoose’s gaming group’s own B5 adventures. It involves a Mr Anderson and some missing scientists. Huh-oh! My spoiler alert sounded. Mongoose have a pre-written adventure on the market that also involves Mr Anderson and some missing scientists! Even if this is an unlikely coincidence your players may think they have inside information and this will likely affect their gaming. If you don’t laugh at the antics of the outlandish group then, like me, you may will giggle when you discover Dan at Mongoose plays a character called Daniel and only a few centimetres below this revelation “Ian’s Top Roleplaying Tips #48” urges players never to use their own name for characters!
I thought the roleplaying tips were serious, but it’s hard to be sure given tip #155 encourages us not to have fun. “Try to pause, hold back and stop enjoying yourself. Remember you’re there to roleplay, not have fun.” Oh! Don’t mix dry humour with real tips. I’m not smart enough to sort them out. I get confused!
Taking The Long Walk will be pounced on by any Judge Dredd fan. The section describes the city under MegaCity One and the troggies found there. Better still, the chapter offers up the prestige classes for Judges who have taken their retirement by Taking The Long Walk to the dangerous undercity. The Long Walk was in the Judge Dredd film, wasn’t it? Most players should appreciate this section even if they’re not 100% familiar with the comics.
Not to be outdone, the preview of the Minbari Federation Fact Book has The Alyt prestige class for those Minbari military officers. Later on, near the end of the glossy magazine, you’ll find Whispers in Darkness. Whispers in Darkness is a full pre-written scenario (set in 2258).
I feel the urge to explain the joke in “The Nukie Brown” WarMek company. Signs & Portents describes and stats this company as well as offering rules for a new 80mm Autocannon and the customised Birdshot Meks these “defensive assassins” use. The real life city of Newcastle produces vast quantities of a popular drink called “Newcastle Brown Ale” which is commonly referred to as “Newkey Brown”. We’re left to wonder whether this was the inspiration of the company’s name – but I’m sure it was.
There’s a second chapter for Armageddon: 2089 players. Signs & Portents has a few pages of armour upgrades. I think magazine extras like this add a whole new dynamic to games like Armageddon. You’ll either see this as fresh and welcome new material or you’ll start to complain that you have to access the magazine in order to get the latest Mek stuff.
If you’ve not explored off the beaten fantasy track then Signs & Portents won’t short change you (although it is worth noting that none of Mongoose’s core rule sets are vanilla D&D fantasy). There’s a six page and fully usable preview of Encyclopaedia Arcane: Tomes & Libraries. Here’s an obscure fan-boy fact, the cover for this Encyclopaedia Arcane shown in Signs & Portents is totally different from the one shown on the Mongoose Publishing website.
We don’t quite have a preview of Conan – The RPG, it’s only due out in 2004, that’s still ages to wait and I guess there’s nothing concrete to ‘preview’. What Signs & Portents offers instead is a bullet listing of author’s notes and comments. We can expect weapons to break all the time (since they do so in the books) and for there to be no divine magic (it was never clear whether there really are Gods in the novels). Hopefully we won’t get the whopping great typo that has nearly a whole column cut off mid sentence and re-printed. Ouch.
There’s a similar “works in progress” for Lone Wolf. Even though this project is further away than Conan. So far away that I can’t find it’s ISBN number. I think the teasers here are more complete and precise. We’re promised something of a d20 lite and in a way I think this license will benefit from the changes made in D&D 3.5.
Signs & Portents’ submission for Macho Women With Guns is printed on pink paper! That’s not macho! This snippet explains the cynically wacky history of the campaign setting and if you’re not quite convinced that the game will be another other than half naked women with large, er, guns then the illustrations will put you straight!
Tucked away between all these Mongoose teasers and corrections are several articles. The biggest article is a rather academic piece that applies commercial System Analysis and Design methods to scenario design! If you have the time to draw lots of flow charts then the Story Engine could well be for you. There’s a few new feats, spells and magic items (you can’t carry the d20 logo without introducing one of the above, I think) and an article from Jonny Nexus which discusses roleplaying and James N. Frey. Huh? No, me neither – the article explains who James N. Frey is.
Signs & Portents’ lure will depend on how many Mongoose products you have. I have loads and so I really appreciated the magazine. I also greatly appreciated the huge subsidies that Mongoose must pay into its production. Even if you’ve only got a few Mongoose products it seems worth paying the fiver.
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