Wednesday, 13 September 2017

PDF Capsule Reviews

So I got the charity PDF Bundle and a few other things and thought Id review a few here. Even though I like superhero stuff I use my own content mostly and I kinda wish some of the M&M stuff was in a single book. Hydra co-op for the big win. All there stuff is gold and I have most of it now. I had a few things in the bundle but there were a few things on my wish list and some surprises. A few interesting design oddments too.

Finally got Delicious in the Dungeon vol 1 and 2 manga which is awesome and all of Agents of Atlas Comic.

Unholy Land
A really good hex crawl with interesting old school trimmings and fixings. Thought involves the birth of Jesus which is weird. In many ways this is a classic product and the same style would suit lots of ideas but this seems a odd choice. I cant help but like it even though I would never run a psuedo historical biblical dnd game. With dinosaurs. But this makes me kinda be willing to at least one. It is possible a Trex might chase you into Bethlehem on the first Christmas or you might see several zombie armies fight.

Wonderous Hoard of Dilimbbabar
This has some of the same talent behind Blood&Bronze RPG. It would fit in that game but is for Swords&Wizardry. Some great art and maps as I would expect from this team. It begins in the city Sippar so is totally Mesopotamian. I wish I had found this before. Full of blessing an curse mechanics that are good to adapt. Really good uses of mythology and highly original strangeness.

The Petal Hack

Is a version of Empire of The Petal Throne but has the advantage of being a very good simple emanation of this setting. A good introduction that explains basics of the world. Something the setting has needed for a long time as the world is a bit intimidating. For other gamers the magic items might be good especially for a setting with some tech. Good tribe generator table too. Simple encumbrance system.

Slumbering Ursine DunesEverything for this setting is great stuff. Im glad to have a few more of their things I did not have. I enjoy russian themed settings and the extra weirdness they add. Ive been following the blogs for years but its good to have in one place. A really good interesting setting with interesting factions, actually good mythology and great flavour. Some great paintings and maps too. Has two dungeons, a wilderness point crawl, spells, monsters and two character classes. Lots of intrigue possible and lots of strange stuff.

Fever Dreaming Malinko

This is a great Rus style city setting complete with factions, npcs and more. Im not a great fan of strictly following npcs in modules but the sample speeches are great and the characters are distinct and interesting. Lots of whimsical encounters to make memorable games. Several well mapped out locations and lots of connections to other products in the series.  Some great villains.

Mortzengersturm the Mad Manticore
This has fantastic retro design look and even if I wasn't a gamer I would enjoy looking at it. It would be a fun one off in a single session and you could possibly play with kids. Lots of wondrous locations and characters to meet and looks like lots of fun. I look forward to more from this team

They Came From Under The Waterless sea
This was a big surprise and possibly my favorite in the batch. A really interesting Island setting with magical means to explore the sea bed as if walking on land. Much like lots of stories of undersea fairy lands that makes underwater adventures easier and weirder. By the same genius as the Gnomes of Levenc has lots of memorable encounters.

Do Not Let Us Die in the Dark Night of this old Winter
A very attractive winter phase mini game to use in your fantasy setting or game in it's own right. Simulates keeping villages alive over a harsh winter allocating resources and overcoming random events. Could make a fun session to use in game. Very attractive - one of best gaming products ive ever seen and grimdark fun.

Strange Stars
Two books here. A fun SF setting with a bit of a guardians of the galaxy and 70s comic feel that you could add anything from any movie or comic comfortably. The books are very attractive. Id wanted them a long time and they don't disappoint. They are a bit light on text. It is more of a sketch of a setting but that's fine too. Over developed is often more painful or intimidating to deal with. Probably work well with the Whitestar Rules in the same bundle. Marvels star jammers and Rom would fit fine here or any races from anything you like. Probably the greatest strength. The front and back covers with choose your own adventure and atari games. It would have given me a wet dream as a teen. As I now prefer the guardians franchise to Starwars universes I was pretty pleased here.

Stark Space
A DnD based sf game with a pretty 90s dry sf setting. Suitable for aliens type stuff. Simple covers the basics and seems quite adequate. Art styles a bit of a mix but ok. Plenty of room to do what you want with. Not overly ambitious and refreshingly dry.

White Star
This has similar content to Stark Space but for more pulpy stuff like Star Wars or Strange Stars or Guardians of the Galaxy. The art is consistent and adequate. It has some humour which is a plus. I like the generic alien and robot classes. I don't know If I need a system like this and I kinda feel it is a descendant of TSRs Buck Rodgers. Id love to run a SF game and i had some last years but I generally go for more grit and use BRP or Ringworld. Im glad I finaly saw this and got to see what all the fuss was about.

Warren C Norwood's Double Spiral WarThis is a nice dry SF verse over a big area. i actually want to read the whole thing as it seems like a solid universe. Using some version of traveller but I cant keep up with the versions of that system.

Vacant Ritual Assembly Zine 1 and 2
A zine for LOTFP which I didnt know there was such a thing so a pleasant discovery. One of the best articles is a seaside village who hunt giant crabs which could be added to lots of settings. Lots of sweet titbits and will look for more issues.

Chaos Gods come to Meatlandia
I was avoiding this as I was worried it might be too similar to my own work but curious. It turns out despite similar themes it is not like mine. It is in many ways trying to be adult, gonzo and transgressive but for me the elements didn't all come out right. The setting is pretty horrible and irredeemably unsavable from the point of the poor inhabitants. the population figures of ten million for a pre industrial society seem off. The encounter tables are busy but don't really feel like the super dense poverty pit it ought to be. Most of the factions are not of interest to me. Still feels like a faux generic medieval culture. Men with hoods. Despite the incongruent elements there are  some interesting ideas worth stealing. The race of head spider things that ride a race of headless humanoids. Some spells that make animals into anthropomorphic talking humanoids. Carnomancers that drink worm juice and evolve into horrible worm people. Some of the encounters are interesting. I could imagine printing up sections and going over good bits with a highlighter. I get the impression there is an attempt to be gonzo or humorous but not to my taste or the elements have not come together seemlessly. So a flawed product but has some ideas which is better than some products.

The Horrendous heap of 16 Cities
One of those truly original modules with great characters, encounters and bizzaro stuff. A giant trash heap is fed by gates to 16 cities and the locals drown in a wonderland of filth. I wish i wrote this. Not in the bundle but get it.

The Gnomes of Levenc
A great adventure that has cuteness and horror intermingled. Quite twisted and nothing like anything before it. Its like the magic of smurfs meet cannibalism. I don't want to give anymore away.

Misty Islands of the Eld
I got this in a previous bundle it fits in with others by same writers and has some of the best art in the new osr. A pointcrawl on a Island with evil tech elves invading the world and villains in several sister modules. Originally I was gonna stick it in my Planet Psychon but now Im thinking of running all the linked modules together and awaiting upcoming frogs one.

The Fungus Forest
I love mushrooms in DnD and this has great mushroom lore and a huge cave complex. Petty much perfect to fit in my games as is and even expands my excessive shroom lore projects. It is a basic idea solidly done.

WormskinNot part of the bundle but no7 out and it is awesome. Expanding the Dolmenwood setting, Get them all. Better than most companies and not vanilla for the herd. Ive got several and need more of a fix. Maybe if i say the makers are friggin geniarses they will let me download more for free.

Schoolgirl Sidekicks
Id never considered having schoolgirl sidekicks before and probably shouldnt. Hard enough not buying vinyl figurines and I had to break up my sailor moon shrine. Thought there were rules against underage sidekicks for decades.

A few disappointments
Im not begrudging anyone's creativity more my taste. Madness of the Rat king sounded cool I mean what gamer doesn't think the Nutcracker rat king is freaking awesome but this turns out to be a alchemist and lots of tactical maps and dry blocks of text. I wanted it for a while and as I don't use miniature scale maps in play mostly not very useful to me. So not what I wanted.

Legendary Beginnings a Feast of Flavour - at first the cover art of goblins had me interested but pixelated fonts worry me. The new mastered Star Trek TOS had this too and I prefer the original paintings to digital add ons. Anyway the book professes to be all ages then has huge blocks of text that do nothing for me and artwork that suggests it is for children. By all ages I would want something a kid could run and complexity and density of text is pretty intimidating. It is overdesigned and some of the visual styles are incongruent between crude and cartoon and digital slickness. It is going for a young child fairy tail vibe and as a educator of children I wouldn't use it or even salvage anything from it. I liked ad on back cover but im pretty sure i would be disapointed.

Plague of Storms I think a bit over written and didn't do much for me either. Some of the Illos remind me of Jim Holloway occasionally and i liked dog men about the best thing I can say.

Lame mythology and suck boring demons a big turn off.

Unconvincing pseudo medieval societies and bad mythologising are a let down. If your myths are boring and your societies are boring your fantasizing wrong. If there is no suffering there can be no heroism.

Token transgression not part of organic whole is mostly a failure. I like a sightly nasty edge and lots of good oldschool products have it. As I am nice for a living it is cathartic. I have to be a paladin all day and it is nice to have a break.

I think from looking at the stuff i don't like I have decided old early 80s TSR style is pretty good. Compact, not to long winded, uses the map and keys rather than explaining the obvious. Lots of the better OSR stuff has good brevity and simple layouts. Also some are very entertaining writers who can do gonzo without making a silly mess. Bulletpoints, spacious layouts, black and white design I think help readability. Looking like a text book is a good thing. Writing like you wish you were writing a novel or using too many words and describing too much is not such a great thing. Im reminded Shadows of Yog Sothoth the first Great Cthulhu sourcebook which had lots of scenarios and minimal information to run them. More modern ones are so convoluted and have too many entities somehow working together. As they get more complex they mistakes get worse. Everything is so tight it breaks under pressure of players. Simple content lets the game master do more. When everything is so tightly scripted the effort to use a product becomes more not less. At least for me.

I might do capsule reviews of some of my all time genre classics to show what I like.

1 comment:

  1. So much cool stuff! Drat! Curses! (insert your favorite comic book villain's expletive here...)
    I missed this bundle by 6 hrs...sigh.


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