Every Week It's Wibbley-Wobbley Timey-Wimey Pookie-Reviewery...

Monday, 31 August 2020

For Cultured Friends XI: The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 11

For devotees of TSR Inc.’s Empire of the Petal Throne: The World of Tékumel, 2020 is notable for the release of not one, two issues of The Excellent Travelling Volume, James Maliszewski’s fanzine dedicated to Professor M.A.R. Barker’s baroque creation. The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 11 was published in April, 2020—available direct from the author or the Melsonian Arts Council—and continues his exploration of one of oldest of roleplaying settings heavily influenced by the campaigns he has been running, the primary being his House of Worms campaign, originally based in, around, and under Sokátis, the City of Roofs before travelling across the southern ocean to ‘Linyaró, Outpost of the Petal Throne’, a small city located on the Achgé Peninsula, as detailed in The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 8.

As per usual, The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 11 opens an editorial from James Maliszewski. This highlights the gap between this issue and The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 10 and the reasons for it, before going onto focus on the importance of fiction when it comes to Tékumel. He notes, that like many a Petalhead, his initial exposure to the setting was to Man of Gold, M.A.R. Barker’s first novel, which really is an effective introduction to Tékumel. This is because the issue includes the first part of a short story by David A. Lemire, the first piece of fiction in the fanzine and a rare inclusion by someone other than James Maliszewski. The latter also explains why he puts out a call for submissions.

The opening gaming content in the issue is another entry in the ‘Additions and Changes’ series which examines the various non-human races on Tékumel and makes them playable. ‘Ahoggyá & Shén’ adds the four-sided and four-legged, barrel-shaped with a pair of eyes on each side Ahoggyá and the more humanoid, if slightly reptilian Shén with their mace-like tail. The former are the subject of some derision for their eight underminable sexes and stubborn refusal to acknowledge the Gods of Stability and Change—or even the concept of religion, let alone Stability and Change, but are renowned as fearless warriors. The latter only have three genders and do understand Stability and Change as ‘the one of Eggs’ and ‘the one who Rends’, and when in human society make actually adopt one of the gods of Stability and Change. In terms of Profession, both make poor magic-users and priests, but excellent warriors, such that outside of their homelands, all of the militaries of the Five Empires recruit Ahoggyá and Shén into legions of their own, but not together and their renowned antipathy means that they never serve alongside each other. This is another fine addition to the series, which with the inclusion of names, makes them both reasonably playable.

The influence of the author’s Achgé Peninsula-set campaign makes its presence known with the inclusion of ‘The Hokún: The Glass Monsters’, a centaur-like sentient species with a translucent exoskeleton and a hive mind thought to be found on the other side of the planet from the Five Empires. Their attitude to mankind varies—some may hunt and eat them, some may enslave them, and some may treat them as equals. This further highlights the weirdness of Tékumel and that there are wide swathes of the planet which remain unknown. The influence continues with a number of creatures in the ‘Bestiary (Addition)’. These include the Léksa or ‘The Glass Beast’—the riding beasts for the Hokún and actually a specially-bred mutation of the Hokún; the Nékka or ‘The Graceful Runner’, a herd beast left to run wild by the Hokún; the Qu’úni or ‘The Crustacean’, a semi-intelligent species found along the Achgé Peninsula, which is highly protective of its coastal lairs and regarded as a pest by sailors for their habit of swarming ships; and the Vriyágga or ‘The Wheeled Horror’, a terrifying combination of a central braincase suspended between two muscular wheels, the face on the braincase surrounded by four tentacles and with a maw of venomous feelers. Thankfully such creatures are rare, but they are horrifyingly weird. There is a nice inclusion of some commentary on the Vriyágga, just as there is on the Hokún, which adds a little context. With any luck, future issues will expand upon the lands of the Hokún, making them somewhere that group other than the author’s can visit them.

There are more monsters in ‘Demons of Sárku & Durritámish (Addition)’ which takes the reader to the Wastelands of the Dead, the plane ruled over by Lord Sárku to describe a trio of nasty demons. Thus sorcerers might entreaty the Blind Ones of Hreshkaggétl, minor six-limbed squid-like demons who reek of rotting flesh and revere Durritámish, cohort of Lord Sárku, for the mysteries and secrets they know of Durritámish, whilst none but the mightiest of warriors, sorcerers, or priests would want to face Srükáum, the Lord of the Legions of the Despairing Dead, the Castellan of the Citadel of Sighs, and the Warder of the Gates of Skulls, a skull-faced warrior in armour of copper and gold, who serves both Sárku and Durritámish as an ardent foe of Stability—especially if it involves combat! Lastly, Ssüssǘ, the Eater of the Dead, is a snake-like demon who oversees Lord Sárku’s hells and who is known to be able to grant great courage in others and great antipathy between two individuals.

Up until this point, The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 11 feels like it is all about the demons, monsters, and creatures, so ‘Amulets (Addition)’ is a welcome change of focus. Amulets are devices of the ancients and provide all manner of ‘magical’ effects. Thus the tiny hand-shaped Amulet of Uttermost Alarm shocks the wearer when it is within thirty feet of a temple, demon, high priest, or artefact of one of the Pariah Deities, whilst the Amulet of the Blessing of the Emerald Lady, a fine necklace of malachite beads, makes the wearer feel and look ten years younger, though wear it for too long and the effects become permanent. The fourteen or so devices are pleasingly inventive, a good mix of powers and abilities that provide flashy, as well as subtle effects.

The location—or dungeon—to be explored in The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 11 is The Tower of Jayúritlal, the ruined structure said to have been built by an Engsvanyáli (or possibly Bednálljan) sorcerer renowned as a traveller of the Planes Beyond. Consequently, Jayúritlal’s tower not only exists partly on Tékumel, but its location varies. Thus, it is easy to place as necessary in a Referee’s campaign, who is also free to develop the legend of Jayúritlal to suit her campaign. The tower itself is a tall narrow structure, amassing some thirty or so locations, and for the most is linear in its play. There is a pleasing feel of both age and the weird to it—whole missing walls for example with just a rope between levels, and it is very nicely mapped out by Dyson Logos. However, it does feel as if one too many rooms are blocked off by doors which require magical means to open, which may impede and even frustrate the players and their characters’ progress. Perhaps also, a discussion of possible suggestions and motivations for the Player Characters to visit the tower might have been a useful addition.

Rounding out the issue is ‘The Roads of Avanthár’, the first part of a short story by David A. Lemire. This describes the discovery of a great book and the efforts by members of the military faction to get it to the emperor in Avanthár, and their own rivalries. There is quite a lot going on in this first half and it will be interesting to find out how the events play on the second part in The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 12.

Physically, The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 11 adheres to the same standards as the previous issues. It sees the return of the card cover which The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 10 seemed to lack, and if the cover is not in full colour, that is not as much as a loss as it might seem. Otherwise, as expected, the writing is engaging, the illustrations excellent, the cartography is good, and it feels professional.

The Excellent Travelling Volume Issue No. 11 feels like a very monster focused issue, with Ahoggyá & Shén as Player Character options, the write-ups of ‘The Hokún: The Glass Monsters’, and both Bestiary and Demons articles—much of it influenced by the author’s Achgé Peninsula-set campaign. The issue thus continues the author’s exploration away from the Five Empires, expanding what we know of Tékumel, but still adding elements a Referee can include in her more traditionally located campaign.

[Fanzine Focus XXI] The Undercroft No. 11

On the tail of the Old School Renaissance has come another movement—the rise of the fanzine. Although the fanzine—a nonprofessional and nonofficial publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon, got its start in Science Fiction fandom, in the gaming hobby it first started with 
Chess and Diplomacy fanzines before finding fertile ground in the roleplaying hobby in the 1970s. Here these amateurish publications allowed the hobby a public space for two things. First, they were somewhere that the hobby could voice opinions and ideas that lay outside those of a game’s publisher. Second, in the Golden Age of roleplaying when the Dungeon Masters were expected to create their own settings and adventures, they also provided a rough and ready source of support for the game of your choice. Many also served as vehicles for the fanzine editor’s house campaign and thus they showed another DM and group played said game. This would often change over time if a fanzine accepted submissions. Initially, fanzines were primarily dedicated to the big three RPGs of the 1970s—Dungeons & DragonsRuneQuest, and Traveller—but fanzines have appeared dedicated to other RPGs since, some of which helped keep a game popular in the face of no official support.

Since 2008 with the publication of Fight On #1, the Old School Renaissance has had its own fanzines. The advantage of the Old School Renaissance is that the various Retroclones draw from the same source and thus one Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG is compatible with another. This means that the contents of one fanzine will compatible with the Retroclone that you already run and play even if not specifically written for it. Labyrinth Lord and Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay have proved to be popular choices to base fanzines around, as has Swords & Wizardry.

It has been four years since The Undercroft No. 10 was published in August, 2016, so it was something of a surprise to see the Melsonian Arts Council publish The Undercroft No. 11 in August, 2020. Previously leading way along with the Vacant Ritual Assembly fanzine in its support for Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay, the new issue marks a notable change in support away from that retroclone. It comes with content suitable for any Old School Renaissance fantasy roleplaying game, it actually includes content for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition. How the fanzine’s readership will react to that shift remains to be seen, but perhaps it marks the publisher’s acceptance of the influence and impact of the current version of Dungeons & Dragons.

Skipping past the editorial—since it is a secret and you are not meant to read it, The Undercroft No. 11 begins with a description of ‘The Aulk’, a strange grossly-fat slug thing which inhabits the Astral Sea and preys upon the memories of others. No one can quite agree on what the thing looks like, since it is often forgotten about or the memory of the encounter is quickly forgotten about—or actually eaten by the Auk. Written by the Chuffed Chuffer, this sounds like a rather banal beast, but if the Player Characters can actually find it and kill it, then they can harvest two things from it. First, Aulk Slim, its mucus trail said to enhance memory and illusion spells, and second, Aulk Crystals, small glass orbs—actually Aulk poo!—each of which contains a memory which can be experienced by holding it to your forehead. Such memories might be skills, spells, experiences, and more. There is plenty of gaming potential here if the Player Characters have to go on a ‘Hunting of the Aulk’ for a lost memory or clue.

Luke Le Moignan’s ‘Edicts of la Cattedral della Musica Universale’ presents seven heretical clerics. They include the Tithenites, who devote themselves to humble good  deeds, animal care, and beer-making, but revile Oozes instead of Undead and manufacture St. Tithenai’s Salt, a pinkish salt which works as Holy Water against such creatures; the Indulgencers, who believe that the spirits of the dead face a jury in the afterlife and so summon ghostly sinners to the mortal realms to work off part of their sentence; and the similar Venerators, who compel the Undead to participate in tea ceremonies and discuss their grievances, hopefully coming to terms that will redress their issues and so allow them to become restful dead! There are some interesting NPCs to be created out of these options, though for Player Characters, they present some equally as interesting roleplaying possibilities, but the descriptions do seem underdeveloped for that purpose.

For Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, the fanzine details three Dwarven archetypes. Written by Daniel Sell and Daniel Martin, these are the Circle of the Mole Rat, the Oath of the Hammerer, and the Dungeon Master. The Circle of the Mole Rat is a Dwarfen Druid Archetype which grants Blind Sight, tunnelling abilities, and even secrets answered via message drops by Mother Mole Rat. The Oath of the Hammerer is a Dwarfen Paladin Archetype which embodies Dwarven cultural justice, using hammers as a holy symbol to dispense justice, becoming intimidating and fearless, and ultimately being able to cast Branding Smite upon those that deserve justice. The Dungeon Master is a Dwarfen Ranger Archetype which hunts for monsters and creatures which the Dwarves keep as their exotic guardian beasts. Of the three, the latter again feels underwritten and perhaps the least interesting, but the other two lend themselves to inclusion in a Dwarven focused campaign.

S. Keilty’s ‘The Corpse Seller’ is weird monster NPC, a long-armed creature found only down dark alleys at night where it sells members of the undead tailored to willing buyers, reaching into its abyssal mouth to pull them forth. However, the bargain will be steep—an arm, betrayal, or worse. If a bargain is not reached, then the buyer will become one of the corpses! This is a nasty thing which might be difficult to add to campaign, but would be memorable if so added.

Lastly, ‘The Root’ by Luke Gearing—author of Fever Swamp—presents a force born of Chaos, almost primal, which constantly shifts and probes with tendrils for cracks which allow it to enter into our worlds. When it does, each tendril can take one of several different forms, from a fungal colony whose spores drive the infected to defend and become one with the colony whilst granting the secret to destroy it—if they can or are even willing, to Mind of a Willing Host which spread the Root as spoken language, written word, and meme. Could the glossolalia of a mystic be the vector for the Root’s influence? All six options are interesting and any one of them could form the basis of a campaign backdrop with some effort upon the part of the Game Master, perhaps an even larger one as the adventurers travel from plane to plane, world to world, dealing with different forms of the Root.

Physically, The Undercroft No. 11 is well presented with an excellent colour cover and an array of dark illustrations inside. It does need a closer edit in places though.


The return of The Undercroft No. 11 is certainly welcome, and despite the shift to support for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition for some of its content, it still presents oddities and weirdness just as the previous issues did. Thus Dungeon Masters can use the oddities and weirdness just as much as Referees can for the Retroclone of their choice. 

Sunday, 30 August 2020

[Fanzine Focus XXI] Monty Haul V1 #0

On the tail of the Old School Renaissance has come another movement—the rise of the fanzine. Although the fanzine—a nonprofessional and nonofficial publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon, got its start in Science Fiction fandom, in the gaming hobby it first started with Chess and Diplomacy fanzines before finding fertile ground in the roleplaying hobby in the 1970s. Here these amateurish publications allowed the hobby a public space for two things. First, they were somewhere that the hobby could voice opinions and ideas that lay outside those of a game’s publisher. Second, in the Golden Age of roleplaying when the Dungeon Masters were expected to create their own settings and adventures, they also provided a rough and ready source of support for the game of your choice. Many also served as vehicles for the fanzine editor’s house campaign and thus they showed another DM and group played said game. This would often change over time if a fanzine accepted submissions. Initially, fanzines were primarily dedicated to the big three RPGs of the 1970s—Dungeons & DragonsRuneQuest, and Traveller—but fanzines have appeared dedicated to other RPGs since, some of which helped keep a game popular in the face of no official support.

Since 2008 with the publication of Fight On #1, the Old School Renaissance has had its own fanzines. The advantage of the Old School Renaissance is that the various Retroclones draw from the same source and thus one Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG is compatible with another. This means that the contents of one fanzine will compatible with the Retroclone that you already run and play even if not specifically written for it. Labyrinth Lord and Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay have proved to be popular choices to base fanzines around, as has Swords & Wizardry.

Monty Haul is both a different fanzine and a misnomer. Published by MonkeyHaus Press, Monty Haul suggests a type of Dungeons & Dragons game or campaign in which the Dungeon Master is unreasonably generous in awarding treasure, experience, and other rewards. Monty Haul is not that—or at least Monty Haul v1 #0 is not that. Monty Haul is also that rare beast, an old style or Old School Renaissance not devoted to a retroclone, but to Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition

Describing itself as ‘A Fifth Edition 'Zine with an Old School Vibe’, Monty Haul V1 #0 was published in April, 2020 following a successful Kickstarter campaign as part of Zine Quest. It is written by Mark Finn—notable as the author of Blood & Thunder: The Life & Art of Robert E. Howard—as an update of his World of Thea setting originally run and written for Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. With ‘Welcome to Monty Haul: Do You Kids Want Any Snacks?’ he sets open his store, introducing himself and explaining his gaming history, why he chose Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, and what the aim of Monty Haul is—and in particular, what the purpose of Monty Haul V1 #0 is. Which is as a ‘Proof of Concept’ for the fanzine, the aim of which is rebuild his World of Thea afresh, with less inspiration taken from gaming settings and supplements past. It is a nicely personal piece which sets everything up.

Monty Haul V1 #0 gets started properly with ‘Critical Hits: An Old School Option’, designed to create special combat effects when a natural twenty or critical hit is rolled. Inspired by the viciousness of S1 Tomb of Horrors and Grimtooth’s Traps, with a roll of a six-sided die, the Dungeon Master can determine where the strike hits, for example, in the midsection and then another for the effect, such as a hit in the kidneys, which inflicts extra damage, forces a Constitution check to avoid being knocked prone, and then make all actions at Disadvantage for several hours. Critical head hits also have chance of causing confusion too. The mechanics are short and generally nasty, but not all of the effects are lethal, and once a Player Character has suffered one critical hit, he cannot suffer another (or at least until healed).

However, ‘Familiars: An Old School Inspired Alternative’ is rather disappointing because it does not deliver on its promise. The problem is that the author is himself disappointed at the options for familiars in Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, and does not quite counter that. The familiar is presented as companion and conduit for for the spellcaster, and even a storage for some cantrips, but the suggested list of familiars that a Player Character might summon is just ordinary. It really would have good to have explored the ‘weird-ass’ options he found lacking. Likewise, ‘Interlude: My Balkanised World’, the author’s introduction to his campaign world is also disappointing, but because of the lack of context. It is only a very light introduction, giving descriptions of the five city states of Highgate, Rocward, Dimnae, Riverton, and Farington, but not the world itself. The only nod to that is the fact that founders of the five cities were forced to flee south when the Old World was beset by a great evil, through a mountain pass, which was subsequently blocked by a massive wall and a city before it. The lack of context is not helped by the lack of a decent map.

Fortunately, Monty Haul V1 #0 gets back on track with a slew of new character options. These start with ‘New Cleric Domains for City Campaigns’, which add more civilised options to a city state type campaign and so also contrast with more ‘savage’ options for the wilderness of a Swords & Sorcery setting. The Domains are Justice—bringing the ‘Judge, Jury, and Executioner’ to a campaign, and Civilisation—or essentially the ‘city’ Domain. These are both really flavoursome, though Justice more than Civilisation, providing numerous benefits and skill Proficiencies as well as spells. For example, the Civilisation Domain grant the Friends, Message, and Mend Cantrips and Advantage on Charisma skill rolls to influence a single person, at First Level. At Second Level, Domain grants the Ease Emotions spell, Proficiency with Insight and Perception skills at Sixth Level—double within the city walls; bring the power of the people and increase the damage of weapon strikes at Eighth Level; and at Seventeenth Level be able to walk through any door and out another. Of the two, the Justice Domain is the more obviously playable, but both are good and it would be fantastic to see the Civilisation Domain be developed city by city, to make Clerics of each city different.

‘The Divine Archaeologist: A Rogue Archetype’ is a cross between a tomb raider and a church sanctioned thief. In the Five City-States the many temples feud for worshipers and possessing the right artefact rather than leaving it in the hands of a rival and/or heretical temple is way to attract worshipers. The Archetype combines knowledge of history and forgotten lore—noted down in the Divine Archaeologist’s notebook with spells and thievery skills, and even divine intervention, for a much more nuanced Rogue character type, almost in the mode of Lara Croft or Indiana Jones, and could be a lot of fun to play. (It would also work in a setting which has a tomb raiding profession, like: Tékumel: Empire of the Petal Throne.)

‘New Backgrounds for your City-States’ adds exactly that. Six new Backgrounds, from high to low. They include the Exterminator of vermin—though no little yappy dog, the Pilgrim, and the Bureaucrat, followed by three types of Nobles. These are the Dilettante, the Disgraced Noble, and the Knight Errant. These open up the options for the Noble Background given in the Player’s Handbook, and are more nuanced. All six come with suggested skills and tool Proficiencies, equipment, languages, features, as well as suggested Personality Traits, Ideals, Bonds, and Flaws. These are all very nicely done and really expand the character options available and allow the players to create interesting characters beyond their Classes.

Rounding out Monty Haul V1 #0 is a ‘Noble House Random Generator’ which again expands upon content given in an official supplement—in this case Xanathar’s Guide to Everything—and provides more detail and nuance. With a few rolls of the twenty-sided die, the Dungeon Master can create a complete noble family, from history and current trade to family tree and noble house personality traits. In general, this would work in any setting which has noble houses or families—and of course it complements the three new Noble Backgrounds in ‘New Backgrounds for your City-States’—and not just the Five City-States. 

Physically, Monty Haul V1 #0 is neat and tidy, with some decent artwork—both rights free and new. The maps are disappointing, especially given that the author is trying to present his own campaign setting. Another issue is that the table of contents does not quite match the titles of the articles as they appear, but a nice touch is that the author provides a little commentary at the start of every article.

Monty Haul V1 #0 is a curate’s egg, some good articles, some bad. However, the bad are more disappointing and the good are excellent adding more flavour through their mechanics and descriptions than in the background material. Certainly, the new Backgrounds would suit many a setting other than the Five City-States. However, there is not much in the way of a Swords & Sorcery feel to Monty Haul V1 #0, more Italianate city-states than the Hyborian Age. That is no bad thing, but it may not necessarily be what the author is aiming for.


Overall, as a Proof of Concept, Monty Haul V1 #0 is decent support for a Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition campaign, especially in the character options. It proves you can have as good a fanzine for the latest version of Dungeons & Dragons as you can for the Retroclone of your choice.

Saturday, 29 August 2020

[Fanzine Focus XXI] Kraching

On the tail of the Old School Renaissance has come another movement—the rise of the fanzine. Although the fanzine—a nonprofessional and nonofficial publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon, got its start in Science Fiction fandom, in the gaming hobby it first started with Chess and Diplomacy fanzines before finding fertile ground in the roleplaying hobby in the 1970s. Here these amateurish publications allowed the hobby a public space for two things. First, they were somewhere that the hobby could voice opinions and ideas that lay outside those of a game’s publisher. Second, in the Golden Age of roleplaying when the Dungeon Masters were expected to create their own settings and adventures, they also provided a rough and ready source of support for the game of your choice. Many also served as vehicles for the fanzine editor’s house campaign and thus they showed another DM and group played said game. This would often change over time if a fanzine accepted submissions. Initially, fanzines were primarily dedicated to the big three RPGs of the 1970s—Dungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, and Traveller—but fanzines have appeared dedicated to other RPGs since, some of which helped keep a game popular in the face of no official support.

Since 2008 with the publication of Fight On #1, the Old School Renaissance has had its own fanzines. The advantage of the Old School Renaissance is that the various Retroclones draw from the same source and thus one Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG is compatible with another. This means that the contents of one fanzine will compatible with the Retroclone that you already run and play even if not specifically written for it. Labyrinth Lord and Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay have proved to be popular choices to base fanzines around, as has Swords & Wizardry.

Kraching is a little different. Penned by Zedeck Siew—author of Lorn Song of the Bachelor
and drawn by Munkao, it is the second title published by the A Thousand Thousand Islands imprint, a Southeast Asian-themed fantasy visual world-building project, one which aims to draw from regional folklore and history to create a fantasy world truly rooted in the region’s myths, rather than a set of rules simply reskinned with a fantasy culture. The result of the project to date is four fanzines, each slightly different, the first of which is marked with a ‘1’ and is MR-KR-GR The Death-Rolled Kingdom. This described the Death-Rolled Kingdom, or the Dismembered Land, which sits on the lake and was once the site of a great city said to have been drowned by a thousand monsters, located far up a lush river. It is ruled by crocodiles in lazy, benign fashion, they police the river, and their decrees outlaw the exploration of the ruins of MR-KR-GR, and they sometimes hire adventurers.

What set MR-KR-GR The Death-Rolled Kingdom apart from its setting is the combination of art and text. The latter describes the place, its peoples and personalities, its places, and its strangeness with a very simple economy of words. Which is paired with the utterly delightful artwork which captures the strangeness and exoticism of the setting and brings it alive. Kraching is just the same and like MR-KR-GR The Death-Rolled Kingdom, it is systemless, having no mechanics bar a table or two—MR-KR-GR The Death-Rolled Kingdom has more—meaning that Kraching could be run using any manner of roleplaying games and systems. Where MR-KR-GR The Death-Rolled Kingdom described a kingdom though, Kraching—marked with a ‘2’—details a village and its forest environs.

Kraching lies five days to the west on foot, the route lined with wooden posts carved with cats—snarling tigers, sulking tabbies, and sleepy tomcats, each of them watching you warily. Cats are found everywhere in Kraching, on the streets and in the houses, worn as hats, on the seat of the local ruler such that he has to perch on the edge of his seat, and of all sizes—from kittens to tigers, and carved everywhere. Even the local god, Auw, a six-legged panther with a human face has been carved as a statue which stands at the centre of the village, scratched by many cats and burned by many offerings. The villagers are famed for their skill in woodcarving, the wood they take from the surrounding forest possessed by spirits so bored their want is to be carved into masks and worn in the theatre. Thus, they will get to see the world, and many have gone on to have illustrious careers!

Both the details and the secrets of Kraching are revealed at a sedate pace. The Player Characters may encounter Neha, a Buffalo-woman who sells silks, fine tools, and pearl jewellery in return for crafts, forest goods, and the occasional adventuresome youth; priests who come to Kraching to commission idols of their gods in the forest’s holy rosewood—blasphemous acts cannot be performed in the presence of such idols; and whether a tabby or a tiger, no cat in the village is tame, all are wild and can only be distracted. This can be best done with a magical wand, ball, or chew toy, that is, a cat toy! Along the way, the relationship between the villagers and the cats they revere and honour is explained through the stories of Auw, from ‘Auw the Woodworker’ who carved cats to drive out soldiers who had come to cut the forest down and so filled it with felines of all sizes, to ‘Auw the Suitor, who would have cruelly taken a woodcarver, but she cleverly carved a tigress with which to capture his ardour and so force him to reign in his cruelty. It all builds a simple, but beautiful picture of the village and its surrounds.

Unlike MR-KR-GR The Death-Rolled Kingdom, there are no the tables for creating encounters and scenarios in Kraching. Instead a handful of scenario seeds are scattered across its pages, such as Neha the Buffalo-women having lost her Ari the Bookkeeper, her counting spirit, in the village or Mahi needing adventurers to escort her apprentice who has been sent to deliver an idol to a distant temple whose priesthood has suffered a schism. None of the seeds amount to more than a line or two, so a Game Master will need to do some development work, and further their number fits the sparseness of the descriptions and of the village itself. Kraching is a quiet, sleepy place and to have fulsome encounter tables might have made it feel too busy. Plus of course, it leaves plenty of room for the Game Master to add her own content.

Physically, Kraching is a slim booklet which possesses a lovely simplicity, both in terms of the words and the art. Together they evoke visions of a very different world and of a very different fantasy to which a Western audience is used, but the light text makes it all very accessible as the art entrances the reader. For the Game Master wanting to take her campaign to somewhere a little strange, somewhere warily bucolic in a far-off land, Kraching is a perfect destination.

—oOo—

As much as it would be fantastic to see MR-KR-GR The Death-Rolled Kingdom, Kraching, and the other two—Upper Heleng and Andjang—collected in volume of their own, they are currently available here.

[Fanzine Focus XXI] Wormskin Issue Number 8

On the tail of the Old School Renaissance has come another movement—the rise of the fanzine. Although the fanzine—a nonprofessional and nonofficial publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon, got its start in Science Fiction fandom, in the gaming hobby it first started with Chess and Diplomacy fanzines before finding fertile ground in the roleplaying hobby in the 1970s. Here these amateurish publications allowed the hobby a public space for two things. First, they were somewhere that the hobby could voice opinions and ideas that lay outside those of a game’s publisher. Second, in the Golden Age of roleplaying when the Dungeon Masters were expected to create their own settings and adventures, they also provided a rough and ready source of support for the game of your choice. Many also served as vehicles for the fanzine editor’s house campaign and thus they showed another DM and group played said game. This would often change over time if a fanzine accepted submissions. Initially, fanzines were primarily dedicated to the big three RPGs of the 1970s—Dungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, and Traveller—but fanzines have appeared dedicated to other RPGs since, some of which helped keep a game popular in the face of no official support.

Since 2008 with the publication of Fight On #1, the Old School Renaissance has had its own fanzines. The advantage of the Old School Renaissance is that the various Retroclones draw from the same source and thus one Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG is compatible with another. This means that the contents of one fanzine will compatible with the Retroclone that you already run and play even if not specifically written for it. Labyrinth Lord and Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay have proved to be popular choices to base fanzines around, as has Swords & Wizardry.


The Wormskin fanzine, published by Necrotic Gnome is written for use with Labyrinth Lord and issue by issue, details an area known as Dolmenwood, a mythical wood, an ancient place of tall trees and thick soil, rich in fungi and festooned with moss and brambles and rife with dark whimsy. Wormskin No. 1 was published in December, 2015, and was followed by Wormskin No. 2 in March, 2016. Both issues introduced the setting with a set of articles rich in flavour and atmosphere, but lacking a certain focus in that the region itself, Dolmenwood, was not detailed. Fortunately, in March, 2017, Necrotic Gnome Productions released Welcome to Dolmenwood, a free introduction to the setting. Further, Wormskin No. 3 and Wormskin No. 4, published in July, 2016 and Winter 2016 respectively, improved hugely upon the first and second issues, together providing a better introduction to Dolmenwood, giving some excellent answers to some very good questions about the setting before delving into what is the biggest secret of Dolmenwood. Published in the winter of 2017, Wormskin No. 5 looked at how the region might be explored, whilst also presenting the region around ‘Hag’s Addle’. Wormskin No. 6 focused on the area around Prigwort, as well as detailing ‘The Fairy Lords of Dolmenwood’ and the ‘Unseasons’ that beset the region, whilst Wormskin No. 7, published in 
the autumn of 2017, added both personal names and honourifics to Dolmenwood as well detailing further hexes under the eaves of the extensive forest.

Wormskin Issue Number 8 was published in February 2018, and exposed further secrets of Dolmenwood, presented a further guide to travelling in the region, and added further monsters. It feels like a relatively short issue, just containing four, reasonably lengthy articles, but all four do add to the setting. The issue opens with ‘The Sisters of the Chalice and the Moon’, an examination of witches and the witch cults to be found in Dolmenwood. The witches of Dolmenwood worship and become companions, guardians, and wives to otherworldly wood-gods known as Gwyrigons, and are highly secretive about their beliefs and practices. Their tenets are given as well as their initiation rites, how they live, their powers and abilities, schemes and goals, rumours about them, and their relationship with the factions also in the region. So they are cast spells like Magic-Users, gain certain powers from the Wood-gods—these are detailed in Wormskin Issue Number 7, can craft potions, talismans, and charms, and so on. For the most part, these are fairly typical abilities accorded witches, and since no mechanical details are given, the Game Master could easily refer to The Craft of the Wise: The Pagan Witch Tradition for the game stats. The relationships with other factions is just as useful, such as the Elf Lords’ view that the witches’ communion with the daemon nobles of the Otherworlds as discourteous, treacherous, and disgusting, whilst the witches claim fairies to be selfish and false; that the Duchy of Brackenwold and Barony of the High Wold tend to pointedly ignore the witches—since some of their family members might actually be witches, whilst the witches see both as ephemeral and irrelevant; and the witches seeing adventurers as useful when they need a task done that they themselves cannot do. Overall, it is good to a faction like the witches covered in such detail, and for the most part they are going to remain as NPCs, so the Game Master will need to provide the mechanics and rules herself should one of her players want a witch character.

In the course of eight issues, Wormskin has described a lot of the hexes, roads, and locations in Dolmenwood and since the region is quite a wide area, the Player Characters are going to be doing a lot of travel throughout the wood. Which also means that they are going to be staying out in the forest overnight on a regular basis. This is where ‘Camping in Dolmenwood’ comes into play, which provides rules and guidelines and charts for camping wild in the woods. This covers finding a suitable campsite, setting it up—fetching firewood, building a fire, fining water, foraging, hunting, and more, activities they might undertake during the evening, setting watches, and sleep. It all looks a bit mechanical, but with the roll of a few dice—including a thirty-sided die to determine a particular campsite and its features—a Game Master and her players can determine where and how well the Player Characters are camping, and from that derive a bit of roleplaying and party interplay. How often a Game Master wants to use these rules depends how much she wants to make travel a strong feature of her campaign (for example, it is a strong feature of The One Ring: Adventures Over The Edge Of The Wild), but can also be used to reinforce the fact that Dolmenwood does not being weird and eerie when the Player Character beds down for the night.

‘Strange Waters’ lists thirty different types and forms of water, their appearance, taste, and effect if consumed to be found in Dolmenwood—whether at the end of the day when setting up a campsite. For example, a shallow, muddy pool decorated by lilies and inhabited by amphibians whose surface is a perfect mirror and which tastes perfumed, but if drunk, instils an insatiably lascivious urge to remove your clothing! With thirty options for each element, the Game Master can use this table to make some of the waters to be found in the forest weird and hint at some the magics which run through them.

Rounding out Wormskin Issue Number 8 is more ‘Monsters of the Wood’. This entry in the department has a mycological theme with the inclusion of the Brainconk, Jack-o’-Lantern, Ochre Slime-Hulk, Pook Morel, and Wronguncle. These are all predatory fungi, some even sentient, such as carnivorous Brainconk which creep down from their current treetop homes to latch onto sleeping victims and slurp out their brains, and Pook Morels, which are tiny, but which project psychic horrors upon their victims who drop their possessions. These the Pook Morels scoop up and scamper back to their lairs to hide! All five of these fungi are accompanied by superb illustrations which will be sure to highlight their creepiness when shown to the players.

Physically, Wormskin Issue Number 8 is as well presented as previous issues. It is well written and cleanly and simply laid out. The artwork is good too, a mix of colour and black and white, which captures the weird and dreamy feel of Dolmenwood.

Of course, if you have previous issues of Wormskin, then Wormskin Issue Number 8 is absolutely worth adding—a major faction, something to engage the players and their characters with, a little of the weirdness to be region’s waters—literally, and new monsters. There is a nice sense of scale to the issue too, moving from the overview of the witches and their place in Dolmenwood, then getting smaller and smaller down to the mycology.


Sadly, Wormskin Issue Number 8 is the last issue. This is not as bad as it sounds, since Necrotic Gnome is planning to create a definitive Dolmenwood supplement, one which would best showcase the setting’s promise first hinted at with Wormskin Issue Number 1. Looking back at the eight issues, the ultimate problem with them is their ‘partwork’ structure, resulting in an incoherent feel. It meant that there would be several issues before there was a real introduction to the setting and articles which asked the most basic of questions about the region. What it felt like was needed is to take all eight issues and then split their articles up and assemble in some sort of order. With any luck, the forthcoming Dolmenwood setting supplement will address these issues, for the Wormskin fanzine has never been without flavour or atmosphere, just organisation.

Friday, 28 August 2020

[Fanzine Focus XXI] Crawl! Issue V: Monsters

On the tail of the Old School Renaissance has come another movement—the rise of the fanzine. Although the fanzine—a nonprofessional and nonofficial publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon, got its start in Science Fiction fandom, in the gaming hobby it first started with Chess and Diplomacy fanzines before finding fertile ground in the roleplaying hobby in the 1970s. Here these amateurish publications allowed the hobby a public space for two things. First, they were somewhere that the hobby could voice opinions and ideas that lay outside those of a game’s publisher. Second, in the Golden Age of roleplaying when the Dungeon Masters were expected to create their own settings and adventures, they also provided a rough and ready source of support for the game of your choice. Many also served as vehicles for the fanzine editor’s house campaign and thus they showed another DM and group played said game. This would often change over time if a fanzine accepted submissions. Initially, fanzines were primarily dedicated to the big three RPGs of the 1970s—Dungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, and Traveller—but fanzines have appeared dedicated to other RPGs since, some of which helped keep a game popular in the face of no official support.

Since 2008 with the publication of Fight On #1, the Old School Renaissance has had its own fanzines. The advantage of the Old School Renaissance is that the various Retroclones draw from the same source and thus one Dungeons & Dragons-style RPG is compatible with another. This means that the contents of one fanzine will compatible with the Retroclone that you already run and play even if not specifically written for it. Labyrinth Lord and Lamentations of the Flame Princess Weird Fantasy Roleplay have proved to be popular choices to base fanzines around, as has Swords & Wizardry. Another choice is the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game.

Published by Straycouches Press, Crawl! is one such fanzine dedicated to the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. Since Crawl! No. 1 was published in March, 2012 has not only provided ongoing support for the roleplaying game, but also been kept in print by Goodman Games. Now because of online printing sources like Lulu.com, it is no longer as difficult to keep fanzines from going out of print, so it is not that much of a surprise that issues of Crawl! remain in print. It is though, pleasing to see a publisher like Goodman Games support fan efforts like this fanzine by keeping them in print and selling them directly.

Where Crawl! No. 1 was something of a mixed bag, Crawl! #2 was a surprisingly focused, exploring the role of loot in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game and describing various pieces of treasure and items of equipment that the Player Characters might find and use. Similarly, Crawl! #3 was just as focused, but the subject of its focus was magic rather than treasure. Unfortunately, the fact that a later printing of Crawl! No. 1 reprinted content from Crawl! #3 somewhat undermined the content and usefulness of Crawl! #3. Fortunately, Crawl! Issue Number Four was devoted to Yves Larochelle’s ‘The Tainted Forest Thorum’, a scenario for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game for characters of Fifth Level. Crawl! Issue V continues the run of themed issues.

As the title suggests, Crawl! Issue V: Monsters is all about monsters in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. To that end, its seven articles do several things, such as adding Class-like features to monsters, adding a monstrous Player Class in the form of the ORC, providing a cheat sheet for creating monsters quickly—and more. Published in February 2013, Crawl! Issue V: Monsters is no mere menagerie of new creatures to kill and loot—though it does include a few new creatures—but in general a collection of ideas to help the Judge handle her monsters, from creation to making them interesting.

Crawl! Issue V: Monsters opens with Reverend Dak’s ‘Monsters with Class’. This provides a means giving monsters one of the four core classes in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game—the Cleric, the Thief, the Warrior, and the Wizard. It does this by applying a simple template. So to make a Goblin Thief, the Judge would decrease its Hit Dice by one, increase its Reflex and Fortitude Saves by one, and give it the Sneak Attack, Trickster, and Trapper abilities equal to a member of the Thief Class four Levels higher than the Goblin’s Hit Dice. It is a quick and dirty method, but it adds quick abilities to the monsters, and it does one more thing—it hints at the possibility of playing monsters as Player Characters! Now it does not follow through on that, but the possibility is there. However, Shane Clements’ ‘Orc: A monstrous class’ does follow through in detailing the Orc as a playable character type, adhering to the ‘Race as Class’ model of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game. There is definitely an Old School Renaissance feel to the design in making the Orc nasty, brutal, and (probably) short. Orcs are Chaotically-aligned fighters, preferring to use two-handed weapons and the power necessary to wield them. The Orc can also enter into Rages to gain bonuses to his attack bonus and damage, as well as movement, Hit Points, Fortitude Saving Throws, and more. For the most part, this looks very much like the Barbarian of the traditional Dungeons & Dragons, but again, point to the possibility of monsters as a Player Characters. (As an aside, it would be fun to do that with Goblins for something like In The Shadow of Mount Rotten.)

‘Quick Monster Stats’ by Jeremy Deram provides a ‘cheat sheet’ for creating and adjusting monsters very quickly. It is similar to the earlier ‘Monsters with Class’ in allowing similar options, but broadens the types of monsters it covers by type, from Aberration, Animal, and Beast to Shapechanger, Undead, and Vermin. It is not immediately obvious quite how it works, so it could have done with an example or two, but once adapted to, it should help the Judge fairly easily. Sean Ellis’ ‘Consider the Greenskins’ attempts to tackle the hoary old issue of how to make your monsters unique—or least less generic. It gives three different takes up three types of ‘Greenskin’, the Goblin, the Hobgoblin, and the Ork. So for the Goblin suggests that they are patron-bound to demons and often to come to work as go-betweens between demons and the mortals who truck with each other; the Hobgoblin is not as warlike as portrayed elsewhere and prefers to serve others, but his thieving tendencies often get him into trouble; and the Ork serves as warriors. Unfortunately, for all of the efforts upon the part of the author to make these creatures (more) unique, there is very little here that does this—especially for the Ork. There is potential here, but ‘Consider the Greenskins’ is underwritten and underdeveloped and just not that easy to bring to a game.

Jeff Rients—author of Broodmother Skyfortress—provides ‘Quickie Wandering Monster Tables’, something that the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game actually lacks. These run from Level 1 to Level 5 and enable the Judge to use some of the roleplaying game’s weirder shaped dice. In general, the Judge will need to generate some Primeval Slimes and Type I Demons if using these tables. Rounding out Crawl! Issue V: Monsters is an actual quartet of monsters. These include Brad Littman’s ‘Fung-Eye’ and ‘Stonecrawler’. The ‘Fung-Eye’ is a carnivorous fungus which has stalks ending in eyes that blink in a disturbing fashion and can daze those who walk into areas they carpet—dazed victims become food, whilst the ‘Stonecrawler’ is a Primordial creature resembling a massive, if flat boulder, which it turns out, is incredibly difficult to nudge into action. It might be worth it though, for the Stonecrawler’s Black Adamantine heart can be ground up for amazing benefits if consumed, such as a permanent +5 bonus to Armour Class and Fortitude saving throws. Lastly, Colin Chapman’s ‘Hounds from Hell: A Pair of Monstrous Canines’ offers two nasty types of dog. The Blood Hound is a vampiric dog capable of gliding short distances on the membranes between its front and rear legs, and from its high perch ambush and feed upon its victims with its tubular, bloodsucking tongue. The Gloom Hound is a silent, hairless, white dog which lives and hunts in packs deep underground, often able to spot the invisible through its sense of small and its echolocation ability. The Blood Hound has never been domesticated, but supposedly, the Gloom Hound can be. Nicely, both of these alternate dogs come with a scenario seed for the Judge to develop for her game.

Physically, Crawl! Issue V: Monsters is neat and tidy. The few pieces of artwork are decent, and the writing only needs a slight edit here or there. As an issue though, Crawl! Issue V: Monsters feels more utilitarian rather than inspirational. That in part is down to the inclusion of not one, but two means of tweaking monsters which cover some of the same ground, and the fact that the one article which discusses new interpretations of standard humanoid races, ‘Consider the Greenskins’, is underwhelming. However, both ‘Monsters with Class’ and ‘Quick Monster Stats’ are useful. ‘Orc: A monstrous class’ is perhaps a bit more interesting, and it would have been nice to have seen the inclusion of other Orcish or Goblinoid Classes to really push the monstrous theme in a different direction. Overall, Crawl! Issue V: Monsters is not a great issue of the fanzine, but neither is it a bad one either. Rather it is just lacking a certain something.

Monday, 24 August 2020

Miskatonic Monday #51: Prison for a Thousand Young

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was a Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.



—oOo—

Name: Prison for a Thousand Young

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Jessica Gunn & Skippy

Setting: A Correctional Centre in 1950s USA

Product: Scenario
What You Get: Eleven page, 5.15 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Sometimes escaping one prison means ending up in another.
Plot Hook: 
 Escape is your only hope of getting out of here.
Plot Support: Five handouts/maps/Mythos tomes, five NPCs, and four pregenerated inmates (investigators).
Production Values: Tidy layout, needs another edit, but double-page spreads.

Pros
# Focused one-shot

# Different time, different setting
# Good mix of stealth, action, investigation, and roleplaying
# Potential convention scenario
# Horrible flashback scenario?
# Easily transported to other times and places

Cons

# Linear plot
# Double-page spreads
# Difficult to work into a campaign

Conclusion
# Good mix of stealth, action, investigation, and roleplaying
Different time, different setting
# The Shawshank Redemption meets Shub-Niggurath

Miskatonic Monday #50: Leptis Magna

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was a Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.


—oOo—

Name: Leptis Magna

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Marco Carrer

Setting: 1930s Libya for Pulp Cthulhu: Two-fisted Action and Adventure Against the Mythos

Product: Scenario
What You Get: Eleven page, 606.96 KB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Imperial ambitions don’t always end in glory, sometimes they end in gore.
Plot Hook: 
 Exemplary service got you noticed, a special mission could get you sent home—a fine reward. 
Plot Support: Three NPCs, multiple Mythos creatures, and four pregenerated Italian Regio
Esercito soldier player characters.
Production Values: Tidy layout, scrappy art, and needs localising.

Pros
# Different time, different place

# Scenario for Pulp Cthulhu

Cons

# Linear
# Just following orders
# No investigator agency
# How are you with the fascist regime? 
# Pulp Cthulhu or Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition—does it matter?

Conclusion
# Just following orders
# More novel than scenario

Sunday, 23 August 2020

Miskatonic Monday #49: Hidden Within

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was a Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.


—oOo—

Name: Hidden Within

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Avery M. Viers

Setting: Jazz Age Toledo

Product: Scenario
What You Get: Thirteen page, 820.88 KB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Blue murder in the doghouse
Plot Hook:
 When family members suddenly turn giggly, obese, and standoffish, something strange must be going on.
Plot Support: Four NPCs, two Mythos creatures, one Mythos tome, and one handout.
Production Values: Tidy layout, needs another edit, and functional map.

Pros
# Bloody body horror

# Charnel house horror
# Decent mix of investigation and combat
# ‘Aliens’ in Toledo?

Cons

# Bloody body horror
# Potentially too combat focused?

Conclusion
# Decent mix of investigation and combat
# Charnel house horror-oneshot

Miskatonic Monday #48: Nightmare in Providence

Between October 2003 and October 2013, Chaosium, Inc. published a series of books for Call of Cthulhu under the Miskatonic University Library Association brand. Whether a sourcebook, scenario, anthology, or campaign, each was a showcase for their authors—amateur rather than professional, but fans of Call of Cthulhu nonetheless—to put forward their ideas and share with others. The programme was notable for having launched the writing careers of several authors, but for every Cthulhu InvictusThe PastoresPrimal StateRipples from Carcosa, and Halloween Horror, there was a Five Go Mad in EgyptReturn of the RipperRise of the DeadRise of the Dead II: The Raid, and more...

The Miskatonic University Library Association brand is no more, alas, but what we have in its stead is the Miskatonic Repository, based on the same format as the DM’s Guild for Dungeons & Dragons. It is thus, “...a new way for creators to publish and distribute their own original Call of Cthulhu content including scenarios, settings, spells and more…” To support the endeavours of their creators, Chaosium has provided templates and art packs, both free to use, so that the resulting releases can look and feel as professional as possible. To support the efforts of these contributors, Miskatonic Monday is an occasional series of reviews which will in turn examine an item drawn from the depths of the Miskatonic Repository.



—oOo—

Name: Nightmare in Providence

Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Justin Fanzo

Setting: Jazz Age Lovecraft New England

Product: Scenario
What You Get: Thirty-three page, 2.0 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Sometimes it really is possible to get lost in movies.
Plot Hook: Occult experts
—the investigators—are asked to look for a missing Nickleodeon owner and a missing wouldbe star. 
Plot Support: Two gods and eleven handouts.
Production Values: Plain layout, needs another edit, and ordinary maps.

Pros
# Linear like a silent movie

# Verbally challenging
# Lunar cameo

Cons

# Linear
# Minimal roleplaying
# Pointless puzzles
# Overeggs the Sanity losses

Conclusion
# Linear
# Minimal roleplaying

# Pointless puzzles