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Friday 7 January 2022

Friday Fantasy: The God With No Name

The God With No Name
 is a dungeon within the body of remains of a giant beast or god. Published by Leyline Press this is a setting more recently seen in Genial Jack Vol. 2 from Lost Pages and Into the Würmhole, the Free RPG Day release in 2021 for Vast Grimm. Instead of the dry, hard rock walls of caves and worked stone of corridors and rooms, such dungeons possess an organic, moist, often pulsating, and even fetid environment. However, they may also have calcified and fossilised over time, leaving behind an organic imprint of caves and tunnels. The God With No Name combines elements of both—the organic and the calcified. It is also noticeable for its format. Like The Isle of Glaslyn before it, The God With No Name manages to fit an adventure onto the equivalent of four pages and then present it on a pamphlet which folds down to roughly four-by-six inches. It contains all of the room descriptions on one side and the maps and various tables on the other. It is the very definition of a clever little design. Ultimately however, it is a design which places constraints on the scenario.

The God With No Name is designed for use with Old School Essentials Classic Fantasy and ostensibly details a network of tunnels and caves mined by ancient Dwarves for its very pure salt deposits. It is still said that not all of those deposits have been mined out, but the mine has long been abandoned and it is said that the local Mountain Folk revere the mine as a god. The valley below the mine is said to be infested with trolls and the mine full of secrets. There is a truth to a great many of the rumours about the mine… The mine consists of two levels, a longer main tunnel and a shorter cliff tunnel. The entrance to the main tunnel is at ground level, the entrance to the cliff tunnel above in the cliff face. Above that is a small tower. It is depicted in both cross section and a floorplan with cartography by Dyson Logos.

The long abandoned mine has in parts the feel of Tolkien’s Moria, a sense of mystery and age, but there is also something squamous to it too, as well as something of the film Alien, for parts of the mine—or rather ‘The God With No Name’—are still alive and the shadows seem to move… This is because the god is not merely dead, but slumbering, even if for time immemorial, and the shadows are infested by the Void Doppler, the shadow child of ‘The God With No Name’ who stalks the living in search of body parts so that it can be reborn and walk under the sun. It leaves behind secretions of the void, and those void secretions spread as the Player Characters delve deeper and deeper, blocking off access to parts of the mine, including the way back out…

In addition to the descriptions of the mine’s locations and maps, The God With No Name is supported with a set of tables which provide rumours, encounters outside and inside the mine, and the contents of unmarked rooms. The table of rumours also works as a set of hooks to involve the Player Characters as there is no given set-up or hook to the scenario, and the table of valley encounters as a means to expand the adventure and flesh the scenario out a little more. The size and isolated nature of The God With No Name also means that it is relatively easy to drop into a Dungeon Master’s campaign.

There is scope in The God With No Name for some nasty, horrifying sessions of play, as the Player Characters are hunted from the shadows and their body parts are stolen one by one. However, the scenario is not without its issues, which either stem from its physical design or its tone. Physically, the fold up pamphlet design of The God With No Name means that its content feels constrained and having the descriptions on one side and the map on the other—when folded out, let alone folded up—does mean that in actual play, the scenario is not as easy as it should be to use. The scenario has no set-up or hooks for the Player Characters to get involved, so the Dungeon Master will have to create those, though she can, of course, make use of the given rumours table. Perhaps the biggest issue with the scenario is the tone and genre. Although this is a dungeon adventure, it is very much a ‘you’re locked in a room with a monster’ horror scenario a la the film Alien, its horror is not just of the dark and the shadows, but also of the body. As a body horror scenario, it creeps up on both the Player Characters and the Dungeon Master, and whilst it should be doing the former, it should not be doing the latter. Some warning to the prospective Dungeon Master should have been given upfront. Also, the scenario does not state what Player Characters Levels it is designed for, but the nature of the monsters encountered—trolls in the valley and the Void Doppler in the mine—suggest at least Fifth and Sixth Levels.

Physically, The God With No Name is a piece of design concision. It is compact and thus easy to store, but format does not make it easy to use. It is not illustrated bar the front cover and as to the cartography, Dyson Logos’ maps here are not his best, or even his most clear. The scenario does require a slight edit though.

Its compact size and content means it needs a little development upon the part of the Dungeon Master, but The God With No Name is creepy and not a little weird. If the Dungeon Master wants a short—two sessions or so—body horror scenario for her campaign, then The God With No Name certainly delivers.

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