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The Lair of the Leopard Empresses RPG
 
$25.00
Average Rating:4.9 / 5
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The Lair of the Leopard Empresses RPG
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The Lair of the Leopard Empresses RPG
Publisher: Mindjammer Press
by ypikaye [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 08/24/2023 07:50:32

With The Lair of the Leopard Empresses, Sarah Newton delivers a near-perfect version of the Monsters!Monsters! and Tunnels & Trolls game systems. The customization of the rules is perfect, in my opinion, and demonstrates the power of this system. But beyond that, the imagined universe is highly original, and stands right alongside Beast & Barbarians, which I think it ably complements. The presentation is clear and ultra-readable, as well as being beautifully illustrated maintaining the proposed universe (AI or not). Full of interesting ideas, rich and wild cultures, African color and leopards! I immediately wanted to mix the universe with B&B and use the extremely well-developed rules. Another Sarah Newton success story that makes me want to play.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Lair of the Leopard Empresses RPG
Publisher: Mindjammer Press
by Seth P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/18/2023 19:52:26

I've read all of the rules, mechanics, char creation, magic etc... parts of the book (a couple times) with only some of the setting still to read through and I'm loving what's here. Made a few characters and about to run them through some solo adventures, but i haven't played it yet so this is more first impressions than any review.

This is the best version of Tunnels & Trolls (even though it's technically MM) I've read. Better written and better explained, without the constant dad jokes, bad puns, cringy spell names and oddly conversational writing style. It also answers and fixes those rules ambiguities from the newest MM rulebook that aren't explained well so I'd say it's a better MM rulebook too, although the latest MM is the only one I've ever owned and read so can't speak for the previous ones editions. It's mostly written in a straightforward easy to read, clean neutral tone with lots of explainer breakout boxes and examples. It does still have minor instances of changing to a conversational tone and feeling out of place at times (like the start of the Stunts section: "Here we are at last! Let's talk about stunts! Here's the skinny"), but after a sentence or two it usually snaps right back and it's rare and minor.

The general page layout is great, very easy to read, with bold, red headers. It's really good, up there with Barbarians of Lemuria Mythic edition or one of the Legends of Steel books. I've only found one typo so far (and everything else is so solid I was surprised they missed it). However I don't love how they broke up the sections. I dislike when a game goes straight into setting, instead of straight into rules or character creation and after a brief "what is rpg" section this jumps in with an overview of Ximuia, timelines and calendar tables that feels like it should be at the back of the book with the rest of the setting fluff (especially if you don't want to use it).

The art is really good, very evocative and cohesive. There is a pretty good amount of it and none of it is bad. A definite step above what you usually see in a T&T publication. If AI art means we start getting smaller and/or indie publications with really good art instead of the terrible art they can generally afford I'm all for it, especially since bad art and presentation can really ruin what would otherwise be a good game.

The book itself is one of the most evenly built, straight and well bound Drivethru books I've received, unfortunately the paper is of a lower quality. And while it's full color everything (other than the cover) looks like Drivethru in ink-saving mode which is unfortunate for the price of the book. Everything looks slightly washed out or faded. The black type is easily readable, but it isn't dark and crisp as you would expect. It's the least colorful printing of all the full color books I've ever ordered from Drivethru which is a bummer since the artwork was obviously created super bright, colorful and vibrant. But that is all on Drivethru, not the quality of the work the creators put into the book. And it could also be that mine got shafted somehow and everyone else got a bright, colorful print, but I thought I should mention it.

Even with that I'd say it's the game I've always wished T&T could be, plus more. It's that classic ruleset, much better presented, well laid out and written with much better art and a more unique S&S-ish weird-fantasy sword & sandals setting which seems awesome and fresh in its own right. The ruleset they've built from those T&T/MM components is really, really good and I'm very happy to own it. It's one of those games that really makes you want to play it while you're reading it. Of the 86 books I've purchased and read from Drivethru this is the first one that prompted me to write a review... so there's that.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Lair of the Leopard Empresses RPG
Publisher: Mindjammer Press
by Dontrell H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 07/06/2023 14:22:01

Lair of the Leopard Empresses is a great game with an excellent story. It's what got me into Monster! Monster!/ Tunnels and Trolls and the fact that you can use stuff from other M!M! books is really cool. The only huge problem for me is the AI art. Now, I'm not a critic of AI art and I'm not complaining about the fact that it was used. I just personally didn't enjoy what was included in the book. Some of the art they used was kinda offputting and I actively went out of my way to avoid looking at it. Now, that's just my opinion. You may not share my opinion and maybe you like the art. Regardless of if do or don't, it's a good book and game and I highly recommend buying it for that alone.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
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The Lair of the Leopard Empresses RPG
Publisher: Mindjammer Press
by Jakob S. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/26/2023 18:39:49

Yay, one of my favourite authors and publishers is back on the scene - and doesn't disappoint!

Sarah Newton's Lair of the Leopard Empresses is based on the Monsters! Monsters! rules, which are based on Tunnels & Trolls, which means that they are from a family of RPGs I've only ever had the most fleeting contact with. My takeaway after reading most of the rules chapters of LotLE is that it's a system where the players have to start thinking out of the box, and quickly, if they find themselves outmatched. Your randomizers are usually 2,3 or 4d6, added to stats than can, even at the beginning, reach values like 30 or 50, so even a stellar dice-roll might often not allow you to come close to what a superior opposition has in store. I've decided to consider this a feature and not a bug, because at the very least, it is interesting and new (to me), and it really leans heavily into a "rulings, not rules" philosophy.

Combat will look strange to anyone not familiar with Tunnels&Trolls or Monsters! Monsters! (like me), It's basically both sides rolling all their attack/damage dice (which are the same thing), comparing the totals and the side with the lower total suffering the difference as damage to be freely distributed among them. There's special cases like missiles, spells, triggered effects and, most importantly, stunts to mix things up. Stunts are free-form with some guidelines and will probably often be about trying to distract the most dangerous opponents for a round so that you get a chance to chisel down on the others, weakening the opposition. The core system is as simple as it gets, but there's an extended combat example that shows how things can get pretty complex and tactical. (You should also definitely read the example to understand how missile damage worked - I feel that this is not made clear in the rules.)

Anyway, I came for the setting, not the rules (though I think I might stay for the rules), because it's by Sarah Newton, who has written Mindjammer and Chronicles of Future Earth, two settings that are practically exactly what I would have come up with and how I'd done it if I had the time, the talent and the discipline.

LotLE is your basic gonzo ancient world stuff with a decadent empire, lots of terribly dangerous places to visit and a few twists: For example, there's something along the lines of forest elves living at the bosom of nature, but they are more like jungle elves, and instead of being tree-hugging vegetarians, they love to eat other intelligend kindreds after having toyed with them a little. Okay, there's also proper forest elves, and while LotLE clearly is a Sword&Sorcery setting, it also has the Tolkien stuff - dwarves, hobbits (here they're called Hobbs) and orcs, some of them with nice little twists attached, others pretty much how you already know them. The overall vibe, though, is more Talislanta than Westeros and more Fafhrd then Frodo. It is also more Glorantha then Forgotten Realms: There's really a sense here that cultures, realms, species and languages are in flux. You won't play a fantasy viking who speaks fantasy viking, lives in the realm of fantasy vikings ruled by the fantasy viking queen and who prays to the fantasy viking god. There's a short historic overview at the beginning that makes it clear that rulers and cults have come and gone, that borders keep changing and that a realm or nation not always equals a culture. Admittedly, that also means that you'll have to dive a little deeper to make sense of the setting, but it's worth it. By the time you reached to Cults&Brotherhoods chapter (around page 100), this will already feel like a living, breathing, complex word. Luckily, the system supports mixing and matching of disparate character elements, because in the end, it's all about picking whichever 2 or 3 special abilities from your kindred, class and cults lists you like best. (Which means that you can even go classless by just picking from your kindred and cult lists.)

And while this is a big book (400 pages) with lots of setting material, Newton really excels at concise, atmospheric and flat-out funny descriptions of setting elements. Take this NPC description:

An ancient Leopard Cultist who never leaves the Empress' side. She has only two teeth: One tells the future, the other the past.

(I'll let that be the one glorious quote to represent the fun that is reading LotLE.)

I have only read about a third of LotLE yet (maybe half, if you count skipping ahead a few times), but it really makes me pump my fist - YES, that's how you do a proper fantasy RPG! Intertwine the setting with the rules, but don't lose yourself in point-buy micromanagement, trying to represent each and every character detail in the rules. (LotLE doesn't even have a skill system, and I strongly feel that it doesn't need one. It does have dozens of spell lists for different magical traditions.) Create interesting species, cultures and organizations for the characters to be part of, but don't box them in. Make the world feel like a real place by giving it a history that creates hybridity and diversity. Most of all, have FUN writing it and let it show.

Finally, LotLE feels very much like a played-in combination of setting and system. The setting clearly flows from a love of the rules system, but it's also obvious how the setting then has changed the system, and how actual play has lead to tweaks and clarifications. The result is a beautifully organic whole that really just makes me want to play it.

(This review is from my blog swanosaurus.blogspot.com)



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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The Lair of the Leopard Empresses RPG
Publisher: Mindjammer Press
by Richard H. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 05/22/2023 16:22:32

I've never come across the Monsters! Monsters! rules before, and am surprised by how ahead of their time they must have been when they first appeared - but the appeal of Lair for me is the setting and world-building. A Sword & Sorcery setting without the problematic elements they often have, it's an evocative and violent setting with potential for lots of different types of stories. Really excited to see where Mindjammer go with this new property.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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