I’m working on making keys for three dungeons right now. Because I have ADD and can’t just do one thing at a time, LOL.
Anyway, I saw a tweet this morning:
@goatmansgoblet's Rakehell: The Battlefield is a spectacular take on making a 'dungeon crawl' feel dynamic and inventive, by turning it into a literal field of battle the PCs move in and out of. One of the best takes on re-inventing the dungeon crawl.https://t.co/v8avzsoYsW
— Monkey's Paw Games (@nicholasmasyk) April 28, 2020
And just reading it made me think of something that hadn’t occurred to me before:
The “Jaquays” style dungeon has multiple loops, connecting different areas of the dungeon, rather than being (essentially) in a straight line. This style also includes multiple connections between levels, both consecutive (between levels II and III) and otherwise disconnected (between, say, levels III and V). There is an excellent article at the Alexandrian about this style of non-linear dungeon design.
Something about the tweet also reminded me of the Dungeon as Mythic Underworld article and pdf that changed my entire viewpoint on dungeons and design. (Sorry about all the background, but I wanted to share where the parts of this idea came from). There are a bunch of links on that blog post, I encourage you to check them out.
This is what I came up with:
The Underworld is a semi-sentient, supernatural, multi-dimensional organism/ecosystem that creates and populates cave and dungeon complexes from below. There are Underworld creatures that will never be seen or encountered on the surface. These creatures and caverns and traps are created by the Underworld Entity. We do not (and perhaps cannot) understand its purpose in creating and/or consuming denizens and explorers of the Underworld. It may or may not be related to the entities of the Outer Dark.
Every Mythic Underworld Dungeon should have an oozing, semi-organic orifice (A Darkswell) that generates monsters to populate the dungeon. Likewise, there should be a crevasse or pit or other opening that functions as a Darkmouth to consume invaders, whether directly or through being fed to it by the dungeon’s denizens. (This could explain why there are rarely any middens or other ‘waste-receptacles’ in dungeons, monsters don’t eliminate what they eat, their digestions are connected to the Mythic Underworld!)
The same power or force or energy that motivates the Mythic Underworld to create dungeons and their denizens is the same force that closes dungeon doors and re-sets traps behind a group of adventurers. This is why dungeon-bound creatures can see in the dark, rather than being blind, like “cave” versions of many creatures are. The Mythic Underworld itself acts like a “refresher”, cleaning, purifying and oxygenating the air, so the creatures can breathe fresh air. Of course, a bad fire can damage this capability, rendering areas unlivable and impassable for days/weeks/months, while it regenerates. Perhaps the Underworld even provides food and sustenance to otherwise trapped creatures.
A Detect Magic spell cast deep in the depths of the Underworld will reveal a subtle, distinctive aura, or signature, for all Underworld-powered artifacts (doors, traps, statues, pits, etc). This aura will be the same world-wide and instantly recognizable, once one knows what to look for. A similar, though distinctly different aura would be found to surround creatures/places/artifacts with power sources that originate from a different Outer Plane.
This Mythic Underworld not only connects all dungeons with magical similarities, but it could also create (temporary or permanent) connections between dungeons, even those separated by vast distances on the surface. This could allow tribes or factions of the Underdark to communicate, collaborate, even to reinforce one another. It’s unlikely these connections would be found by PC adventurer parties, but they could, and it would create even more opportunities for adventures.
The Mythic Underworld will sometimes even pull down a surface structure, indeed whole towns or villages, if the conditions are favorable, sucking it right into a cavern or even into the Darkmouth itself!
That should be enough for you to think about today. I look forward to your Comments and discussion!
From 1961, a novel by Poul Anderson. Weighing in at 220 pages, this old novel is a fraction of the size of the contemporary fantasy novel. But that just means the story moves faster, and there is a lot less fluff than in today’s offerings!
The classic tale of a modern man thrust “back in time” to a fantasy version of the Earth-that-never-was, Three Hearts and Three Lions is one of the required texts of the D&D “Scripture”. This book is likely the source of the Alignment system of the OD&D game, and definitely the source for the description of the Troll and answers the burning question, “Why are Giant Pike featured in the 1e Monster Manual?”
Regarding Alignment, in this story we have a much simpler view of the world than AD&D’s 17 finely graduated variations on the themes of Law vs Chaos and Good vs Evil. It is more of a method of describing what side you are on in the great battle between Humans and the Faerie Realm. “Be thee for Law, or be thee for Chaos?” For Civilization and Order? Or for Wildness and freedom from responsibility? There is a multi-dimensional war going on, and you must take sides.
Personally, I find this to be a better system for mechanizing the worldview of your characters. In this way the conflicts become more clear-cut and the intrigues gain a grander scope. You and your companions are truly part of a larger struggle!
This business of Chaos versus Law, for example, turned out to be more than religious dogma. It was a practical fact of existence, here. … In this universe the wild folk of the Middle World might be trying to break down a corresponding painfully established order: to restore some primeval state where anything could happen.
Without spoiling anything, I think I can say that the fight scene Anderson presents between the “party of adventurers” and the troll is one of the best in all of fantasy literature. It reads exactly like a well-run combat encounter would be described afterwards. The only thing missing is a bit of Type D treasure…
Simply put, Three Hearts and Three Lions reads like it was written specifically for players of D&D, so well does D&D capture the flavor and essence of the story. If you haven’t read it, I urge you do do so. If you have, but maybe it’s been a while, pick it up again. You won’t regret it!
Please share your thoughts and memories of this book or other influences on your gaming experience.
Good afternoon, I wanted to share with you some of the blog posts that I really enjoyed this past week.
First up, Fen Orc has a good one about his supplement to the Zenopus Dungeon:
Holmes’ introduction to the dungeon links it to the mysterious fate of the wizard Zenopus, who created a Tower overlooking Portown, near to the sea, neighbouring the graveyard and above the ruins of an older, pre-human city. This triptych – the pre-human city, the graveyard, the sea – rings through the dungeon like the tolling of a bell. The sea hints at the wider geography of Holmes’ world, where rascally pirates kidnap beautiful noblewomen for ransom and hide them in sea caves where they are menaced by giant crabs; this is the world of adventure romance of H. Rider Haggard and Edgar Rice Burroughs. The pre-human city alludes the fiction of Robert E Howard and H.P. Lovecraft and the like, with their horror-inflected influence on fantasy. And the graveyard speaks for itself: horror served up straight, with a tincture of existential mystery: the “undiscover’d country” as Hamlet says, “from whose bourn no traveler returns.
Next, a beautiful piece from Daniel Ionson at Eudaimonic Geekery, on Primeval Fantasy:
Primeval Fantasy is much more than a primitive technological world looking like the early Dark Ages (or even earlier). It actively pushes away from the Modern world in every way, aiming at the psychological/sociological paradigms of Premodern people.
This isn’t about recreating versions of specific historical eras. While Primeval Fantasy certainly needs to be in a pre-industrialized world (at least pre-1400, and preferably far earlier, in my opinion), that’s not sufficient for obtaining the feeling we’re seeking in this subgenre. For example, the feeling can be achieved in a setting that resembles the year 500 AD in (what we now call) Britain because of the chaos in that time & place.
And finally, a piece from Sword & Shield (it’s an old one, but the codes check out), John Eric Holmes reviews Moldvay’s D&D:
Character alignment: This is the most difficult of the D&D concepts to get across. The new rules spend more space on alignments and do a much better job of explaining them, using practical examples. Alignment is Law, Chaos and Neutral. Good and Evil are not discussed as separate alignments at all, which I think makes better sense. The first Basic Set had one of those diagrams which said that blink dogs were lawful good and brass dragons were chaotic good. I never felt that this was particularly helpful. I am sure Gary Gygax has an idea in his mind of what chaotic good (or other “obscure” alignments, etc.) may be, but it certainly isn’t clear to me. Without meaning to be irreverent, I am also sure that Buddha knew what he meant by nirvana, but that doesn’t clarify it in my mind either. I think the new rules simplify the issue appropriately.
Thanks for looking I hope I helped you find a resource you needed.
When I was a little boy, I was a voracious reader (still am!). One of my favorite places in the whole world was a little room in the corner of my grandparents’ basement, where my uncles all took turns living, as teenagers. On one wall was a set of home-made bookshelves that were filled with science-fiction and fantasy novels from the 50s and 60s. I believe that by the age of ten I had read all of Heinlein, Aasimov and Burroughs. Before I even got to Tolkien, Howard, Ellison and Lovecraft.
I learned about Dungeons & Dragons when I was in 7th grade, probably 1982. My friends had been given the Basic rules by older brothers that were going off to college. We fell in love with it all, the idea of this kind of game was so far beyond anything we knew. Better than a movie or a TV show or a book. Our imaginations were boundless and the sky was the limit!
We all took turns running Hack’n’Slash – Monty Haul – (and after we found Expedition to the Barrier Peaks!) – Sci-fi mashup campaigns. So much fun. After college, when I had my own place and a job (that paid money!) I started playing again, ran two campaigns for two different groups, but both in the same world. they lasted about two years. Of course we did all the usual stuff: trying new classes from Dragon Magazine, tossing in ideas from Rolemaster and MERP, stealing powers and spell ideas from Champions. Then, as today, it was our table and we played how we wanted.
Then I got into miniature figures and tabletop wargaming. Played and played and before I knew it, 20-some years had gone by!
I haven’t played much of anything over the past few years, with moving around the country and jobs and all. But recently we moved, yet again, and I took a minute to look in some boxes I’d been lugging around for years. There was my old PHB and DMG and Greyhawk Gazeteer! So many memories. Why not take a look and see what is what with the hobby?
What a Difference a Generation Makes
So here I am now, all these years later, and I’m digging into the D&D I never really knew and understood. Playing catch-up on twenty years’ worth of game theory, scholarship and creativity. And also playing catch up on some other reading I’d never gotten around to: some of the resources in the old DMG – Appendix N.
I have to say, I love these old books, not only because they aren’t 600-page epics like the modern novel, but because I can read them and see their influence on so many other books, authors, and ultimately, the game of D&D itself. So, I took a look at that list and started gathering the books I hadn’t read, purely in the order in which people were discussing them online. Then, Oh! Look! Jeffro Johnson has a whole book about the books of Appendix N! How very meta.
I ordered it and when it was delivered on day 32 of the Plague Quarantine, I shared a pic on Twitter. One of my peeps asked if I’d share my thoughts as I went along… and that sounds like fun. So here we are!
As I read through each section of Johnson’s tome, I’ll pop in here and leave a few sentences on the Appendix N tag, with my thoughts and reactions. I have not read all of these books (and I must say I’m jealous of Jeffro Johnson!), yet, so how about if I start with the books I have read, then we’ll come back and discuss which books I should read next, based on what Johnson has to say in his review and analysis.
The first book and commentary I’m going to look at will be Three Hearts and Three Lions, by Poul Anderson, starting off this series on Monday.
Who are these people? What did he mean with his dying words, “I will be avenged”? Who is in charge of this town? Why are horses so expensive here?
I guess the answer depends on who you ask, because it’s always about “who you know”, right?
Roll a d30!
- The Order of the Red Gauntlet – an organization of bonded professional caravan guards
- The (Province name) Drover’s Guild – the people in charge of driving carts and wagons full of trade goods from one place to another
- The Altar of (god of healing) – a coalition of traveling healers
- The Shield of (god of war, defensive avatar) – network of men-at-arms that set up unofficial “Town Guards” for neighborhoods or business districts
- The Pillar of Truth – secretive band of clerics/priests, fighters and assassins who act as vigilantes in areas where justice enforcement of the Law is lax
- Knights of the Bronze Sigil – band of cavalry-based fighters promoting the cause of cheesemakers
- Spice-roasters guild – just what it sounds like
- Brotherhood of Cabinetmakers
- Stonemason’s Lodge – school and guild for art of architecture and masonry
- The Way of the Forge – keepers of the secrets of Blacksmithing
- College of Medicae – non-magic-wielding herbalists and surgeons
- The Iron Band – a mercenary company from the north, known for siege tactics
- Tigers of the East – a mercenary company from the southern jungles, known for speed and guerilla warfare
- The Sapphire Banner – a mercenary company from the east, famous for cavalry exploits and an astonishing loyalty
- The Ebon Mask – a mercenary company from the west, known for savagery and led by a merciless (magic-user)
- Mask of the Dawn – a mercenary company from the east, known for unbreakable phalanx formations
- The Echo of Salvation – a penitent group of monks, known for healing psychological wounds and the insane
- Rav Onor – a secretive group of Rangers that patrol the ____ region, protecting the villages from _____
- Screaming Serpents – makers of traps and poisons for protecting property (both cargo and real estate)
- Harvesters of Sorrow – group of undertakers that collect plague- and disease-victims’ bodies for burial
- The Chalice of Fire – group of magic-users specializing in fire-based spells and magicks
- The Windseekers of (island archipelago) – a group of magic-users specializing in magicks of weather and elemental air
- The Hammer of (sun-god) – group of clerics/priests/paladins/fighters dedicated to hunting and destroying demons
- Hearth-keeper’s Guild – in larger cities, a group of professional cooks specializing in preparing food for large groups on a regular basis
- Daughters of Xinari – a network of female were-fox spies in the western cities
- The Indigo Mist – a loose network of assassins from the eastern provinces
- The Scroll of Shadows – a religious brotherhood of evil warriors and clerics seeking to build influence in the cities of the north
- The Anvil of (god of death/the underworld) – enbalmers and entombers of evil or cursed beings
- Song of the Spring – a group of Druids in the south, protectors of the (forest) and its creatures
- Cry of the Raven – wandering clerics of (god of harvest) who organize and lead Harvest Festivals
The World of Weirth is going to be a low-magic, low-fantasy style game. This means I’ll need to keep the number of magical weapons to a minimum. I’m also going to be incorporating the idea of the Master of Dungeons from Fen Orc’s blog, which will be a fun way to relieve PC’s of any items that turn out to be excessive, or too disruptive of play balance. With that in mind, d30 Thursday presents:
|d30 Roll||Weapon Type||Material||Decoration|
|1||Dagger||Iron||Twisted Vine Pattern|
|2||Handaxe||Steel||Knotted Twine Pattern|
|3||Mace||Bronze||“Celtic” Knot Pattern|
|4||Spear||Obsidian||Lightning Bolt Pattern|
|5||Battle Axe||Damascine||Braided Rope Pattern|
|7||Short sword||Petrified Wood||Engraved Lion|
|8||Longsword||Iron/Silver Alloy||Engraved Tiger|
|9||Greatsword||Sky Stone Ore||Engraved Wolf|
|10||Scimitar||Alfensteel*||Oak Leaf Design|
|11||Dagger||Deep Iron||Maple Leaf Design|
|12||Hand Axe||Wyvern Sting||Fern Leaf Design|
|13||Mace||Adamantine||Cherry Blossom Design|
|14||Spear||Dragon Bone||Skull Carving|
|15||Battle Axe||Narwhal Horn||Pommel Decoration: Fist|
|16||Warhammer||Dragon’s Claw||Pommel Decoration: Eagle|
|17||Short sword||Manticore Tail-spike||Pommel Decoration: Falcon|
|18||Longsword||Roc Talon||Pommel Decoration: Geometric Shape|
|19||Greatsword||Mammoth Ivory||Pommel Decoration: Gemstone|
|20||Scimitar||Gorgon Horn||Pommel Decoration: Ivory Carving (roll again)|
|21||Dagger||Catoblepas Tusk||Pommel Decoration: Stone Carving (roll again)|
|22||Hand Axe||Demon Bone||Pommel Decoration: Pinecone|
|23||Mace||Giant Bone||Beehive Design|
|24||Spear||Basilisk Horn||Frog Design|
|25||Battle Axe||Antler||Snake Design|
|26||Warhammer||Titan Bone||Dragon Design|
|26||Short sword||Green Treant Wood||Manticore Design|
|28||Longsword||Astral Steel||Basilisk Design|
|29||Greatsword||Giant Serpent Fang||Pinecone Design|
|30||Scimitar||Unicorn Horn||Star Design|
For this set of tables, your PCs may need to know someone already in place in a settlement. Or they may need to be “sent” off ti find an NPC, and you aren’t sure who or what they are.
This d30 table determines the basic role of the NPC. I’ll leave Class and Race choices up to you, as each setting will have its own quirks. Likewise Gender is unspecified.
The City sub-table breaks things down a little further, as there tends to be more variety in a larger population.
The Personality Stereotype Chart gives a basic outline of the NPC’s Persona
Roll a d30!
- City – Tavern keeper
- City – Storyteller/Busker
- City – Street Urchin
- City – Socialite
- City – Minor Noble
- Town – Blacksmith
- Town – Mercenary Sergeant
- Town – Fence
- Town – Merchant
- Town – Tailor
- Village – Sheriff
- Village – Capt of the Guard
- Village – Innkeep
- Village – Wise Woman
- Village – Parish Priest
- Hamlet – Mayor
- Hamlet – Brewer
- Hamlet – Miller
- Hamlet – Horse Breeder
- Hamlet – Retired Magic-User
- Mercenary Captain – Archer
- Mercenary Captain – Footmen
- Mercenary Captain – Cavalry
- Ship Captain
Social Strata descriptions are taken from Alexis Smolensk at Tao of D&D https://tao-dnd.blogspot.com/search?q=exemplary
City Contacts Sub-table
- City – Tavern keeper – Choose or roll for Social Strata of customer demographic
- City – Storyteller/Busker – Choose or roll for Social Strata of customer demographic
- City – Street Urchin – Choose or roll for specific background
- Thief – Burglar
- Thief – Pickpocket
- City – Socialite – Choose or roll for specific background
- Goodwife Adherent
- Goodwife Zealot
- Goodwife Celebrity
- Noble Political personage
- Noble Religious personage
- Noble Celebrity
- City – Minor Noble (in this context a Functionary is one who holds a position purely due to social strata or nepotism, a Professional knows what they are doing and are recognized for it)
- Military Functionary
- Political Functionary
- Religious Functionary
- Military Professional
- Political Professional
- Religious Professional
Personality Stereotype Chart
Roll or choose for the basic personality traits of the NPC
- A clean, well-spoken, middle-aged person with a tendency towards cruelty or callousness
- A foppish, hostile adult person with a tendency towards carelessness
- A nondescript and diplomatic adult with a greedy and suspicious nature
- A malevolent, youthful dandy with an abrasive personality and wastrel attitude for money
- A young, unkempt, yet kindly person with a modest nature
- A rough old person of a studious nature, courteous and truthful to all
- A dirty and opinionated middle-aged person, vociferous in their dislikes
- An immaculate young person, foolhardy yet fond of pranks
- A hedonistic, unkempt adult with an overbearing personality and brilliant intellect
- A dirty, neurotic young person with inquisitive attitude and an abrasive, covetous nature
Sometimes people do things without realizing they do them, like crack their knuckles or pinch their eyebrow. These little quirks and tics can make an NPC memorable.
Anthony Owens shared a bunch of them, that we can adapt for D&D.
Roll a d30!
- Carries a large coin which he or she is always playing with in their hand.
- Is a habitual sniffler even when he or she is healthy.
- Regularly looks up at the sky to check the position of the sun/moon and comments on it.
- Always knows the direction he or she is traveling.
- Corrects people when they use colloquial speech.
- Is never seen without a feather in their cap.
- Whistles a jolly tune at random times, without realizing.
- Ends declarative sentences with in interrogative inflection?
- Is a mush mouth/mumbler.
- Is an incessant fidgeter and is always touching his or her face or head.
- Is unable to digest proteins correctly and gets very ill if too much protein rich food is consumed.
- Compulsively interrupts people telling stories to interject facts about the story that he or she only knows because they have been told the story before, not because they were involved with it.
- Makes up random lies about unimportant things for no reason.
- Has a weakness for rescuing stray animals.
- Gets physically angry when people mispronounce a certain word (e.g Illinois, precedent as president, especially as expecially).
- When stressed or lying, speaks from the corner of his or her mouth.
- Profusely sweats even when at rest.
- Is unable to take advice from anyone because he or she thinks that they know it all.
- Uses mundane items as toys (e.g. bottle caps, straws, chopsticks).
- Cannot drink anything that hasn’t been blessed.
- Walks in the middle of any aisle, sidewalk, or other shared walkway causing people to have to move around him or her.
- Drags his or her feet.
- Wears only (pick a color) socks/hose.
- Has several hidden body piercings or tattoos that regular clothing conceal.
- Always stands with his or her hands behind their back, sometimes in an “at ease” position, though he or she was never in the military.
- Doesn’t eat green things.
- Has the ability to speak in a cartoon-like voice which sounds little or nothing like his or her real voice.
- Is thrifty nearly to the point of obsessive or compulsive nature.
- Is always at least ten minutes early/late to any meeting or appointment.
- Always has change in his or her pocket to give to beggars or homeless.
The World of Weirth has no “traditional” goblinoid creatures. No Goblins, Hobgoblins or Bugbears. Rather, what the people of Weirth think of as Goblins are small, clever anthropoids who like to take things apart and put them back together.
No Appearing 20-200
Armor Class 7 (due to size and speed)
Move 6” (1”)
% in Lair 40%
Treasure Type Lair C
No of Attacks 2
Damage/Attack 1-4 or by weapon
Special Attacks Mob or Unravel
Special Defenses n/a
Magic Resistance Standard
Size S (2’ tall)
Psionic Ability n/a
A “Goblin” is a small creature that looks like a Spider-monkey with three arms. They are covered in soft, short, black hair except for their faces, hands, legs (from the knees down) and prehensile tails (where the bare skin is dark gray).
Their snouts are a bit like a tapir, with a stubby “trunk”, large ears and trumpet-like sense organs above their large, black eyes. These sense organs are for communication, Goblins can sense and generate sounds far above and below normal human hearing.
The right arm is large and muscular, with an incredible grip (STR 15) and a curious wrist-lock that can stiffen the hand into a “hook”. The fingernails on the right hand are very thick and tough, almost like claws. On the left they have two arms, the upper, outer arm is longer than the right arm and has very long, slender, dextrous fingers. The inner, smaller arm has shorter fingers with “suction cup” ends, rather than nails.
Goblins have a tribal society, with elaborate social customs determining a leader, or “Goblin King”. This is not always the strongest, and Queens are as common as male leaders. They tend to inhabit underground places, or will construct above-ground “barrow” villages, often near the walls, outside a fortified Human settlement. They dislike full daylight, attacking at -1 when in sunlight. Goblins have normal infravision (60’ range).
Goblins are not exactly intelligent, they have limited language skills, but they are exceedingly clever with their hands. They can take apart and re-assemble anything, usually better than they found it. They are inborn weavers and sculptors, they are also talented wood-carvers and -craftsmen.
They will flee rather than fight, unless they heavily outnumber a foe. They will usually have javelin-like weapons, or short bows, or small knives nearby to use as weapons (rather than hunting implements). Females with kits will attempt to flee from violence with their offspring, yet if cornered, or if a kit is injured/killed, they will fly into a murderous, berserk rage. Goblins prefer to attack from range, but if trapped will attempt to swarm and overbear a foe. If a group of six or more goblins are able to clamber onto an opponent, they will begin to disassemble any armor or protective gear, having it off in 10d6 seconds. They will fight to overbear and subdue as a (number of Goblins)+2 HD creature. A victim of this subduing damage will find themselves flat on the ground, stripped nearly naked, and bound like a lamb for slaughter. Goblins have an innate spell-like power of Mending/Unraveling, it is not a spell so there is no save.
Despite their small size, a Goblin’s right arm is very strong, like a very strong Human, with a crushing grip and a specialized wrist joint that can twist to “lock” the fingers into a hook. When they do this they are able to hang by their right arm for an essentially unlimited amount of time.
Their left arms and hands are much more delicate and dextrous, able to manipulate very small, delicate items, pick locks by touch, and create amazingly detailed carvings or sculptures. With their Mending/Unraveling power they are able to fix pretty much any broken, non-magical item except glass or silver. This takes d10+10 minutes for basic items, up to 90 minutes for difficult/complex/very broken items.
Goblins often dwell on the outskirts of a human settlement, in order to collect broken items and refuse, which they will then fix, or make something new with, and secretly give to “deserving” humans later. (i.e., leaving an item on a doorstep at night)
Some Goblin tribes, possibly more advanced (or just corrupt) take coins in exchange for items they have repaired or constructed.
(Goblins are bio-engineered “technicians” of an advanced, extra-terrestrial civilization. They were crew on a spacecraft that crash-landed on Weirth centuries ago, and have spread out over most of the world.)
Journal: Quarantine day 8 Social distancing is taking its toll. I can’t stop scrolling online Social Media Apps!
Wait! What’s this? A pretty cover and Oh! some wicked creative ideas! BRB
Not having a job for a bit has a silver lining: I’m getting caught up on TONS of reading, especially gaming stuff I just haven’t had time to get to. And I have been pretty lucky. In addition to picking some really cool books (REH’s original Conan stories, The Witches of Wenshar – Barbara Hambly) I’ve been able to grab some fun indie pubs, modules and zines.
Last month I did a crappy review of What Ho, Frog Demons from Chris Kutalik. I haven’t done any kind of book review in years! So I’ll try to be more thorough with this zine review of The Phylactery, from Planet X Games.
Let me start with saying this is not a sponsored review, but I did get a “review” copy of the PDF when the Kickstarter pledges went out. Based on the quality of this offering, I am sorry I missed out on the KS, and will be trying to get my hands on a print copy shortly…
This is exactly what a zine should be, creative, irreverent, and useful.
We have great art from Ed Bickford, Lawrence Hernandez, Adrian Landeros and Je Shields (sigh, another rabbit-hole of, um, research). I thoroughly enjoy the full-page Throne of Chaos piece and depictions of various slimy, gooey creatures that are a theme of this booklet.
What’s in it?
Welcome to THE PHYLACTERY, a Kickstarted zine funded solely by the OSR community! This lil’ judy is jam-packed with all sorts of ideas, plot hooks and interesting, crunchy bits that you can use to jumpstart your heroic fantasy RPGs. We’ve tried to give it the heart and feel of the old school RPGs we grew up playing ourselves back in the day but with our own Grindhouse aesthetic.
We go in assuming you already have the core books to play your favorite games and instead jump right into as much OSR-inspired material as we could pack in here. Within these pages you’ll find new adventures, quirky NPCs, wondrous magical items, all new monsters, fell locations, relics from beyond the mists of time and all sorts of resources for your tabletop games.
Indeed. The issue starts out strong with an artifact, the Throne of Chaos. Containing some wonderful, whimsical effects, this is one of my favorite sections. Stash this treasure in a dungeon when you’re ready to mix things up for your party!
Next up, almost two dozen pages of adventure hooks based on descriptions of monsters, NPCs and magic items. “Forbidden Demon Cults from the Outer Void” reveals three new Eldritch Horrors for your campaign. There is plenty here for hours worth of terrorizing, er, challenging your PCs. I’ll be keeping this list handy for when the Rogue says, “I’m going to talk to that dude in the corner, sitting by himself.”
The zine also includes adventures ready to drop into your own campaign. “Corpse Garden of the Myconid King” has an interesting origin, and could be run either in Horror- or a Gonzo-style. I think it would make an awesome campaign-starter for some low-level (3rd-5th) characters.
“Utos, the Isle of the Shattered Moon” is a fun wilderness adventure setting that would be perfect for a shipwreck or a stop-over while a PC party traveling by sea needs to flee from some pirates. It offers a fantastic opportunity to drop in a little extra Cosmic Horror like Robert E. Howard’s The Black Stone (link to a free PDF, if you haven’t read it, I urge you to do so ASAP) or Queen of the Black Coast.
The third “adventure” is a hex-crawl map with eight locations for exploration and clever PC challenges. These are loaded with ideas for expanding your campaign setting or simply as a succession of one-shots. All of the maps are clear, professionally drawn, and have a great deal of character. The artwork in general is fantastic, which helps establish the theme and embellishes the NPCs.
The zine finishes with four new monsters, with complete stat-blocks, high-quality illustrations and descriptions. New monsters always come in handy.
Overall, I would rate this zine as a five out of five. I should really come up with some sort of categories for these reviews…
Anyhow, follow Planet X Games on twitter and check out their products on Drive-thru RPG.
Hobby Progress 2019
Dec 29 - 106
Cultists and Zealots - Complete
Overland Travel Encounters - Complete
Grimdark Greyhawk and the Faerie Realm - Outline
Order vs Entropy - An Alternate Alignment System
- Appendix N
- Astonishing Sworsdmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
- Gaming Community
- Grimdark Greyhawk
- Kings of War
- OSR – Old School Rules
- Periodic Review
- Personal Updates
- Pulp Alley
- Social Media Networks
- Warhammer 40k
- Warhammer Fantasy Battle
- World of Weirth
- June 2020
- May 2020
- April 2020
- March 2020
- February 2020
- January 2020
- December 2019
- November 2019
- July 2019
- January 2019
- February 2018
- January 2018
- November 2017
- June 2017
- May 2017
- February 2017
- January 2017
- December 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- January 2016
- November 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- September 2014
- December 2013
- September 2013
- August 2013
- January 2013
- December 2012
- November 2012
- October 2012
- September 2012
- August 2012
- July 2012
- June 2012