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Saturday, 3 April 2021

[Fanzine Focus XXIII] Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2

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, followed by the second issue a year later in September, 2020, again following a successful Kickstarter campaign.

Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2 is as physically striking as Delayed Blast Gamemaster #1. Its graphical design is all white art and text on matt black pages (a printer friendly version is also available), the effect being striking, almost jauntily creepy and oppressive in its artwork’s depiction of mad mages, wiggle cubes, undying angers, gnashing rock beasts, and more. Again, 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.

The concept behind Delayed Blast Gamemaster and thus Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2 is tables of inspiration accompanied by more tables. There are eleven such tables in the issue, ranging from ‘OneDSix Dungeon Characters’ and ‘FiveDSix Unusual Treasures’ to ‘OneDEight Dungeon Conditions’ and ‘OneDSix Pockets Picked’. Thus, 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 terminology, but other roleplaying games would work too.

For example, roll a five on ‘OneDEight Adventure Hooks’ and the Game Master has her adventurers encounter a ‘Grizzled Warrior Questioning His Career’. The veteran, the worse for wear from drink readily shares tales of his exploits, the type of exploits that the Player Characters are likely going to want to emulate, though somewhat ruefully since he seems to regret his career choice. However, his ramblings might contain a nugget of truth or two, necessitating a further roll of a four-sided die. For example, a roll of a three determines that he regales the party of the time that he and his companions were attacked by a giant whose mighty Warhammer crushed many of them, and the last time he saw the giant, it was wandering away with the possessions of those he had slaughtered. Could the giant still have their possessions, and just were they?

Alternatively, roll a fourteen on ‘FiveDSix Unwanted Treasures’—a sequel to ‘FiveDSix Unusual Treasures’ from Delayed Blast Gamemaster #1—and the adventurers find a small book bound in metal with pages of thick parchment, half full with the incomplete memoirs of a halfling merchant which tell of his life as a great lover and warrior. Similarly, ‘OneDEight Dungeon Oddities’ is another sequel to a table from Delayed Blast Gamemaster #1. It provides more monstrous encounters, such as the ‘Wizard’s Goblinoid’, a result of a roll of one on the table, which describes a goblin who really, weirdly enjoys being a Wizard’s familiar and knows a few cantrips, whilst a roll of five would give a ‘Wiggle Cube’, a very rare orange gelatinous cuboid with sufficient awareness to track down and take control of other oozes and slimes. Perhaps one of the most engaging table is ‘OneDSix Guards’, which describes the personalities of six town guards so making them more than just the local watch ready to step in when the party causes trouble!

With eleven tables, there are a lot of entries and ideas in Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2, which is the point. In comparison to the first issue, there is a better range of entries in Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2, including oddities, memorable weapons, adventure hooks, magic scrolls, dungeon conditions, and the contents of pockets picked. There are, however, a few tables and entries which are designed for single use only given their suggested rarity. The ‘Wiggle Cube’ from ‘OneDEight Dungeon Oddities’ is one such entry, whilst the ‘OneDSix Goblins’ table gives six strange, even singular goblins that it is advised that the Dungeon Master consult the table rarely lest their overuse lessen their impact. This slightly reduces the utility of Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2.

Rounding out Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2 is ‘Cave of Eyes’, a six-location set of caverns which comes with a background and some broad detail such that it needs to be fleshed out and detailed by the Dungeon Master. It is not a particularly interesting location as written and really needs that input, and perhaps it might have been more interesting if it had included suggestions as to which tables the Dungeon Master could roll on to further develop the cave complex. Otherwise, a table might have been more useful.

Once again, Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2 presents a plethora of things 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, Dungeon Crawl Classics, or The Fantasy Trip. Whatever your choice of fantasy roleplaying game, further inspiration is never unwanted and Delayed Blast Gamemaster #2 yet more.

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