Sunday, February 23, 2014

Spreading the Love Around with some Reviewage and Digressions

I buy a good number of low-cost (but high quality) RPG things every week. I try to limit myself to about 10 to 20 bucks weekly, and usually try to pick up a good deal when I can... I hope I'm not running people out of business with my thrift!

Anyways, I saw mention on one person's blog that there wasn't a review out for his thing yet, and frankly I am amazed since it's all kind of fun. at least on paper.

Just looking at my queue in RPGNow, it appears I have about 666 things to review if I were going to do it right, including a lot of Crawl! stuff, many of the things by Purple Sorcerer and Purple Duck, Goodman Games modules and a wide range of little tiny indy things. I wonder if maybe it must be hard to survive and thrive in this industry because I imagine that each little thing has a niche... You pour your heart and soul into things and it turns out of course the other 4 people in the world who love EXACTLY the same subset of Mechanoid Cowboy Schoolgirls Dungeon RPGs Feminist Narrative Gaming are of course going to buy it but the whole rest of the RPG world is focused on their own stuff.

Alright, here goes (in no particular order) - all the stuff on here came from RPGNow, I think.

Go Fer Yer Gun! by Beyond Belief Games

I was interested in incorporating some Wild West/Frontier elements into my DCC game, in the vein of Spaghetti Westerns.  I'm not sure if this thing was free at the time, but since I picked it up it's gone down to free.  You could do worse than to head over and grab it.  It has some pretty good character classes that fulfill most of the American and Italian Western traditions, and I'm finding with only a little bit of mental gymnastics they could be incorporated into almost any OSR game.  I think they must be based on some version of d20, which makes it pretty easy to drop them into a Flailsnails thing if they are so inclined.  I am having visions of PCs with Colt revolvers mowing down bad guys for a couple of scenarios and then having the tables turned when the cultists hire/incorporate gunslingers into their own crews, gunslingers who happen to be undead or something.  I don't know, Weird West.  The good thing about this work is that it doesn't have any Fantasy or Weird or Steampunk elements on top already, and it has stats in the back for a wide range of real frontier men and women from the American West.  Hey YMMV - it's free.  The production values are pleasingly simple and it's well-made, and the combat is not as wonky as (for example) Boot Hill or GURPS: Wild West or whatever it was...  I like this, and it's too bad these micro-publishers aren't all switched over to a PWYW model, since... I digress again.
I try not to gush whenever I read or review something by Daniel Bishop, and the Crawl! series in general is pretty great.  Daniel's practically running the show on a small corner of the DCC universe and it seems he doesn't slow down, or if he does slow down then he must have a backlog of stuff waiting to be published... (note: I think this is actually the case).  Disclosure:  I love H.P. Lovecraft - like many of the people who might read this blog, Ol' Granpa landed on me in my formative years, after I got some references in the Deities and Demigods and found him in my High School library in maybe the 10th grade.  So it goes for many of us, yeah?  This story is so common, and creative people know HPL so well that the popular culture is inundated with Cthulhu references and He Who Sleeps in R'l'yeh A-Waiting is cutesy-fied and belittled and now Mythos elements are creeping up on Primetime TV!  I don't do TV so I can't watch it, but it's for the best since I don't need my Sanity blasted any further.  If I were paranoid, I would say... but anyways I digress.

This funnel adventure draws upon one of my favorite hair-raising Lovecraft stories that doesn't itself contain Mythos elements, and then pops that story into the context of a Weird Fantasy world.  I won't tell you which one, but if you gobbled down lustily all of Lovecraft's works in your youth like I did, I imagine your ears will perk up like mine did in about 5 seconds and your hairs will be on end in short order.  In fact, it appears that Bishop anticipates this and maybe it happened even in playtesting since there is reference to a way to handle stubborn players who won't get with the flow of the fiction...  An attempt to curb a lifetime of player knowledge, probably, in a subsection of the population whose fandom would never allow them to eat something from those generous woodsy folks who never come into town except to buy salt and nitrates.

I think that this'd be a great way to get a funnel group started in a low-magic Weird Fantasy campaign, or even as an interlude in a normal campaign, maybe to set events up for a party of ass-kickers to find what's left of the first group...  The TPK would be satisfying but not a foregone conclusion, although it does appear (on paper) to be pretty dangerous.  I've not played it yet but I found that, like the story it's based on, the more I read, the more I knew for certain what was coming next until the inevitable conclusion hits with a horrendous wet smack, or a dribble of unidentifiable fluid from the rafters above...  This anxious expectation is IMHO the whole hook of this adventure; the wide-eyed grinning certainty and terror that you know for sure what is happening already and that finding the truth is the only inevitable outcome, and maybe if the gods are with you, your hero can put a stop to it...

The art is great and moody, and suitably horrific - even the maps!  I wouldn't probably want my kid to get her hands on it until she's about 13 or 14, but YMMV.  Not for the faint of heart, for sure.

Also, by the way, if you want a hair-raising rendition of the story this adventure is based on, you really can't do better than to listen to THIS on a lonely car-ride home some dark and stormy night. Whatever you do, don't pull over or get hungry while you're listening, or it'll cost you serious Sanity.  I'm not joking, I've read this particular story a thousand thousand times, in fact you could say the copy I own sometimes just falls open to this page, and when I heard this thing on my iPod I almost pissed my pants.

Unlikely Heroes: OSR Races by Nordic Weasel Games

I say this a good deal:  I don't like elves.  Not the ones I see today, anyway; things were different for elves back in the old days.  One thing I like about DCC is that they are given to you mildly different, mechanically (but not by much), and slightly alien.  From the get-go, you're aligned to something else and the normal world doesn't fit you correctly.  This is different from the usual contemporary rendition of elves as this gauzy ubermensch with beautiful hair, THANKS PETER JACKSON.  I may hate Legolas simply because I came up on the Rankin-Bass thing in which the elves really did look alien and unsettlingly different from humans, and not just like supermodels with pointy ears...  Anyway, I digress.

This is geared toward OSR games, and it's ostensibly for people like me, who don't mind Chocolate in their Peanut Butter and Rice Noodles.  OK, bad metaphor, but you'll find in this a Catman, a towering pacifist Rockman Warrior, Werewolves, Bugmen, Skaven-type Ratties, Weird Dwarfs, Androgyne Treepeople, Cosmic Elves, a variety of half-human races, and (most interesting, to my mind) a smattering collection of normal human subtypes.  I haven't incorporated it into my game at all, but I like it on paper, since I went on a Talislanta bender a couple of weeks ago (by the by, all that stuff is free!) in the interests of thinking about class and race differently.  It's pretty reasonably priced, and a good resource for a game that needs something slightly different.  It is well put-together, simple, and clean, with few typos and a scattering of public domain art.  Nothing too out of the ordinary, here, and it highlights that most gamers want bilateral symmetry and roughly humanoid shape in their fantasy RP.  Which reminds me, I need to work on that "WEIRD-ASS ALIEN RACES FOR FANTASY RP" thing, essentially a crib of stuff from Star Frontiers and some other more gonzo sources...  Alas, I have no originality in me, since there is nothing new under the suns.

Shorty Monster's guide to Historical weapons in RPGs by Shortymonster

I don't know, this one kept coming up as a recommendation for me, and the price was right, and then I had it on my wishlist to take a look at.  It's very brief at 12 pages, put together in a simple way, and very informative.  Shortymonster is evidently a history buff, and this is all background and no mechanics.  He has some pictures culled from open sources (I think) and you will think of things differently - particularly the use of two-handed swords and sling bullets - after you read this. It's worth it at the price it's offered at.  And it's good to support a wide range of biodiversity in publishers, I think.  My favorite part?  The information on the Murder Strike and the making of sling bullets.

That's all for now: next review will be The Croaking Fane and the wide range of stuff I've collected for the ASE (not that either of these will need reviews from me, but they are pretty fun)

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