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

Saturday, 9 May 2020

[Fanzine Focus XIX] Delayed Blast Gamemaster #1

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 be 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

Delayed Blast Gamemaster is a fanzine of a different stripe. Published by Philip Reed Games following successful Kickstarter campaigns, Delayed Blast Gamemaster is a fanzine dedicated to supporting roleplaying fantasy games, but a particular style of fantasy roleplaying games—Dungeons & Dragons. Yet the issues are entirely systemless, which means that their contents can be used in Dungeons & Dragons, any of the fantasy roleplaying retroclones you care to name, and most fantasy roleplaying games with a little effort. Published following a successful Kickstarter campaign as part of the inaugural Zine Quest, the first issue of Delayed Blast Gamemaster was published in  September, 2019.

What strikes you first about Delayed Blast Gamemaster #1 is its graphical design. It is all white art and text on matt black pages. Now before anyone complains that this might be ink heavy when comes to the printing out of the PDF, the fanzine is sold in both heavy and light ink formats. The effect though is striking, almost jauntily creepy and oppressive in its artwork’s depiction of skeletal archers, oozes, and overly ocular creatures. The text is both heavy and large, so is a lot easier to read than it otherwise might have been.

As to the concept behind Delayed Blast Gamemaster it is simply that of inspiration scattered subject by subject across nine tables. So ‘OneDTen Urban Locations’, ‘OneDSix Forgotten Spellbooks’, FiveDSix Unusual Treasures’, ‘OneDEight Dungeon Oddities’, ‘OneDSix Magic Shields’, ‘TwoDSix Potions’, ‘OneDSix Warped Monsters’, ‘OneDTwelve Adventure Hooks’, and ‘OneDFour Dungeon Doors’. So all that the Game Master has to do is pick a table or subject, roll the die, check the relevant entry, and use it as inspiration to create something of her or adapt the entry to the roleplaying game of her choice. The most obvious choice to adapt the entry to, is of course, Dungeons & Dragons, due to the similarities in language, but other roleplaying games would work too.

For example, roll a three on ‘OneDEight Dungeon Oddities’ and you get a Necromancer’s Chest, a combination trap-monster. It is simply a necromancer’s chest which he has trapped with several ghosts. Disarm the trap or use the key and of course, a Thief opens the chest without any problems; fail and two or more ghosts are unleashed to hunt the Thief and alert the chest’s owner! Roll a four on the ‘OneDSix Warped Monsters’ and the result is the Skeletal Mage, which simply suggests giving a standard skeleton monster a spell or two or more, all to add a simple twist on a classic monster. Roll a seven on ‘OneDTen Urban Locations’ and you have found yourself at Pies (and Lies) which describes a pie shop which sells cheap, moderately tasty, meat pies. The shop also does a nice sideline in rumours and secrets, which its owner and his family either sells off to the underworld or uses to blackmail the subject of those rumours and secrets.

Now there are a lot of entries and ideas in Delayed Blast Gamemaster #1, which is the point. Perhaps though, the design of the oddities and monsters dwell a little upon Oozes and monsters like the Mimic, with entries such as the Mimicspawn, Oozegoblin, and Weremimic, but the author at least is upfront about his fascination with such creatures. The main issue is that there no index, either of the entries or the tables. Otherwise, the fanzine is well written, easy to ready, and easy to use. Physically, there is a certain heft to it both in terms of production values—which are high for a fanzine—and its feel in the hand.

Delayed Blast Gamemaster #1 is simply lots of ideas a Game Master can bring to her game. She will need to do some work to bring them into her campaign, but the ideas will work with Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition as much as they would with Old School Essentials Classic Fantasy , and whatever your choice of fantasy roleplaying game, further inspiration is never unwanted.

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