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Friday, 7 October 2022

[Free RPG Day 2022] How to Raise the Dead

Now in its fifteenth year, Free RPG Day in 2022, was celebrated not once, but twice. First on Saturday, 25th June in the USA, and then on Saturday, 23rd July internationally. This was to prevent problem with past events when certain books did not arrive in time to be shipped internationally and so were not available outside of the USA. As per usual, Free RPG Day consisted of an array of new and interesting little releases, which are traditionally tasters for forthcoming games to be released at GenCon the following August, but others are support for existing RPGs or pieces of gaming ephemera or a quick-start. Thanks to the generosity of David Salisbury of Fan Boy 3, Reviews from R’lyeh was get hold of many of the titles released for Free RPG Day, both in the USA and elsewhere.


How to Raise the Dead
is perhaps the most different—or at least most singular—of the releases for Free RPG Day in 2022. It is not a quick-start or a scenario for a roleplaying game, but a set of instructions booklet on how to build and paint a piece of terrain which can be added to a game 
and provide space in which the brave heroes can confront some undead in their natural environment—or is that their unnatural environment? This is at the doors of a necropolis, surely the tomb of some dark master or the entrance to a crypt network below a cemetery, but however it is used and brought to the table, the necropolis is sure to be the site for a confrontation between some brave adventurers and a band of armed and armoured skeletons or zombies before the adventurers dare to open to open the door to the necropolis and enter... Designed and written by Dave Taylor Miniatures, it shows a Game Master—or of course, a Dungeon Master—how to use a combination of Speedpaints Set from The Army Painter and miniatures and terrain pieces from Mantic Games’ Terrain Crate and Dungeon Essentials ranges.

In comparison to How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber, the release for Free RPG 2021, How to Raise the Dead is relatively short and focused. It starts off by stating that many a Game Master wants to present her players with an immersive experience and one way of doing that is not only to use the appropriate terrain and miniatures, but also make it look good. It acknowledges that this can be daunting prospect in terms of the preparation and painting required, and so the aim of How to Raise the Dead to help break down the barriers that might stand in the Game Master’s way. How to Raise the Dead does this by taking the reader through a step-by-step process, not once, not twice, but three times, each with a different set of miniatures or pieces of terrain, in order to show the prospective painter how it can be done in as uncomplicated a fashion possible—and of course, using the Speedpaint Set. The latter is not included in the release for Free RPG Day 2022, but ‘The Necropolis’ along with the How to Raise the Dead booklet is. To follow completely the guide included in its pages, the Game Master will also need the ‘DUNGEON DEAD’ from the Mantic Games Dungeon Essentials Range and the bare trees found in Mantic Games’ Gothic Grounds set. Of course, the Dungeon Master is free to use these or similar terrain and miniatures from other manufacturers, and the likelihood is that the guidelines in How to Raise the Dead would still apply.

The two piece of terrain which come up with How to Raise the Dead—the necropolis and sturdy iron gate—are chunky pieces. How to Raise the Dead addresses these two pieces first, showing the Game Master how to prepare, prime, and then apply a ‘zenithal prime’ the model. The latter involves priming a layer of black first, and then a layer of white from above so that the black remains uncovered in the shadows. Then the model is painted using the Speedpaint Set. This includes going over it with grey for the base stonework, adding colour to the roof to represent an oxidised copper roof, and then adding highlights to pick particular details. It is really is simple, showing how this can be done in just eight steps. If there is an issue here, it does not quite focus in on the details in the latter stages, but with some experimentation, the Game Master should be able to pick out these details.

How to Raise the Dead then proceeds to show how to paint a cadre of undead and a set of trees and trunks using the Speedpaint Set. In comparison to the earlier guide to painting the Necropolis and Gate, these two actually better illustrated and consequently, more clearly explained. In comparison to the advice given in How to Build a Boss-Fight Final Chamber from last year, the advice in How to Raise the Dead is clearer and easier to understand, and it is better aimed at the Game Master new to this aspect of the hobby. If there is an issue with the instructions, it is that How to Raise the Dead does not state what items the Game Master will need before setting out to work on the project.

The last two pages in How to Raise the Dead before a raft of adverts are devoted to quartet of scenario hooks written with the Necropolis model and the band of undead guarding it in mind. The four are divided between three fantasy ideas and one modern one.

In ‘The Tomb of Varan Tor’, the resting place of a paladin has been desecrated by the black dragon Rotslug and it is rumoured that he has risen as a Death Knight, whilst in the ‘Lost Mines of Draul’, the necropolis is actually an entrance to a mine where Dwarves in search of mithril found a metal so malign that it corrupted them and turned them into the undead. In both cases, the threat is rumoured to be on the rise, ready to step out of the Necropolis and spread their dread to the wider world. The Necropolis stands at the heart of ‘The Dark Depths of Forlakk Forest’ in the third hook, thought by some to be connected to the Feywild, but by others to the Shadowfell. There is certainly some corruptive force at the forest’s heart, but what? And does it represent a greater threat? The modern hook is ‘The Freaks Come Out at Night’ in which a would-be reality television star and his friends search the sprawling tunnels of hospital in search for the results of horrific experiments said to have been conducted by a renowned medical expert. It is not quite clear how the latter uses the Necropolis and that is disappointing.

Physically, How to Raise the Dead is decently presented with lots of photographs as illustrations. It is underwritten in places, both the instructions and the hooks, and it does need an edit in others.

Of all the releases on Free RPG Day 2022, How to Raise the Dead is the least useful—at least in the short term. It will take time for the Game Master to bring any of the contents to the table. Most obviously because she will need to have access to the
Terrain Crate and Dungeon Essentials ranges, as well as the Speedpaints Set. Then prepare and paint the terrain following by developing and writing a scenario, perhaps one of the story hooks in How to Raise the Dead, perhaps one of her own. In comparison, most of the other titles released for Free RPG Day 2022 are quick-starts and scenarios and so can be brought to the table much more immediately. And of course, because How to Raise the Dead is designed to make use of the Terrain Crate and Dungeon Essentials ranges, plus the Speedpaints Set, it is also very much obviously designed to sell both them and other terrain sets. The other releases are similarly designed to do that too, so that is no criticism, but with How to Raise the Dead, it is more obvious.


An Unboxing in the Nook of How to Raise the Dead appears here.

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