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

Monday 31 July 2023

Miskatonic Monday #209: Deer Camp

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 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.


Name: Deer Camp
Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Edward Kabara

Setting: Thirties Michigan
Product: One-shot
What You Get: Twenty-nine page, 4.14 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: Assault on the Cabin in the Woods 28 Hours Later
Plot Hook: A hunting trip turns on the hunters.
Plot Support: Staging advice, one pre-generated Investigator, one Mythos tome, three Mythos spells, and two Mythos monsters
Production Values: Plain.

# Short survival horror scenario
# Straightforward, tightly plotted 
# Easy to adjust to other time periods
# Suitable for one or two Investigators
# Makes use of the Chase rules
# Xylophobia

# Needs a slight edit
# Exact relationships between pre-generated Investigator unexplained
# Makes use of the Chase rules
# No NPC stats
# No Maps
# One pre-generated Investigator (multiple times)

# Short survival horror scenario which is easy enough to run, but needs further development to be even easier
# Physical chase scenario that is easy to adapt to other time periods

Jonstown Jottings #80: Desire for Knowledge

Much like the Miskatonic Repository for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, the Jonstown Compendium is a curated platform for user-made content, but for material set in Greg Stafford’s mythic universe of Glorantha. It enables creators to sell their own original content for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, 13th Age Glorantha, and HeroQuest Glorantha (Questworlds). This can include original scenarios, background material, cults, mythology, details of NPCs and monsters, and so on, but none of this content should be considered to be ‘canon’, but rather fall under ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’. This means that there is still scope for the authors to create interesting and useful content that others can bring to their Glorantha-set campaigns.


What is it?
Desire for Knowledge is a scenario for use with RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha.

It is a twenty-three page, full colour, 5.63 MB PDF.

The layout is clean and tidy and artwork decent. The player handouts are functional rather than interesting. The floorplans are attractive, but could benefit from clearer labelling.

Where is it set?
Desire for knowledge is set in Jonstown.

Who do you play?
Desire for knowledge is designed to be used in conjunction with the Player Characters from the RuneQuest Starter Set. However, it easy to use other Player Characters as well. Useful Player Characters include Lhankor Mhy initiates, Shamans, and anyone skilled in Spirit Combat. The adventure would be interesting, if socially challenging for a Seven Mothers initiate. Having a Player Character who can read is a necessity.

What do you need?
Desire for knowledge requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and the RuneQuest Starter Set. The Glorantha Bestiary and The Red Book of Magic will both prove to be useful.

What do you get?
Desire for knowledge is a short, investigative and exploration scenario set in Jonstown as described in the RuneQuest Starter Set. In fact, it is easy to run as part of the scenarios contained in the RuneQuest Starter Set. The Player Characters are hired by a Lhankor Mhy sage, Janast, to recover a scroll from the townhouse which during the city’s occupation was home to a minor Lunar official who had an interest in sorcery. Unfortunately, following the Dragonrise, the townhouse was burned and loot and the official killed. It is now ghost-infested and Janast wants someone better suited to exploring the house and recovering the scroll than himself.

Desire for knowledge initially looks like a mini-dungeon, the Player Characters required to explore the partially ruined, burnt out building. The floorplans are compact enough that they could placed on the table and the scenario run with miniatures (full-size floorplans would actually make a nice addition to scenario so that the Game Master could print them out and use them in this way), although unlike ‘Gringle’s Pawnshop’ from Apple Lane, there are no scenes of mass combat involved, and what combat there is, is more incorporeal than corporeal. The scenario benefits from methodical exploration and investigation, and Player Characters who take a bullish approach may miss some of the subtleties to the scenario. There is definitely much more to the scenario than at first sight and good roleplaying will elicit this from the various inhabits of the house—both incorporeal and corporeal. The best encounter is with a Trollkin hiding out from the hairy little demon found elsewhere in the townhouse, which turns out to be something quite benign and loveable instead!

Is it worth your time?
YesDesire for knowledge is an entertaining, but compact investigation-turned mystery that is easy to add to a campaign using the RuneQuest Starter Set or set in Jonstown which calls for good roleplaying as the Player Characters work its twists and turns.
NoDesire for knowledge is too location specific and its investigation-turned mystery may not suit groups who prefer a more action-orientated approach to solving situations.
MaybeDesire for knowledge is location specific, but other cities have been occupied by the Lunars and it could easily be relocated to one of them.

Sunday 30 July 2023

A Pendragon Starter

The starter set for any roleplaying game is always designed as an entry point into that game. It has to do three things. First, it has to introduce the game—its settings and its rules to both players and Game Master. Second, it has to showcase the setting, the rules, and how the game is played to both players and Game Master. Third, it has to intrigue and entice both players and Game Master to want to play more and explore the setting further. A good starter set, whether City of Mist: All-Seeing Eye Investigations Starter Set, the Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay Starter Set, the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set, or the RuneQuest Starter Set, will always do that, whereas a bad starter set, or even a mediocre starter set, such as the Sixth World Beginner Box for Shadowrun, Sixth Edition, will not. Whilst a starter set is always designed to introduce a roleplaying game, it has another function, depending upon when it is published. A starter set published as a roleplaying game’s first—or one of its first—releases introduces the game and setting to everyone. A starter set published later or deep into a line’s run, when there are multiple supplements and scenarios available as well as the core rulebook, is designed to introduce the game, but not to those who are already playing it. If there is content in its box that veteran players of the game and fans of the setting will enjoy and can bring to their game, then that is an added bonus. Ideally though, it is intended to introduce the game and setting to new players, at the time of its publication providing a means of getting into both when the range and number of books and supplements available might be daunting and there might not be an obvious point of entry to the prospective player and purchaser. The Pendragon Starter Set reintroduces the classic roleplaying game, Pendragon, and introduces Pendragon, Sixth Edition, intended as the definitive edition of Greg Stafford’s masterpiece.

The Pendragon Starter Set comes in a dense sturdy box which weighs two-and-a-half pounds! It is designed to introduce new players and new Game Masters to Pendragon Sixth Edition, the hobby’s premier Arthurian roleplaying game, inspired by Le Morte d’Arthur, by Sir Thomas Malory. It promises ‘All you need for adventure in a World of Chivalry and Honour’ and by following the format seen in the earlier the Call of Cthulhu Starter Set and the RuneQuest Starter Set—consisting of a solo adventure, source book and rules, and a mini campaign as well as a sheaf of pre-generated Player Characters and dice—it certainly has the content to do that. The dice themselves consist of six six-sided dice in golden yellow and a single twenty-sided die in deep blue, which matches the Pendragon tournament banner on the front of the starter set. The starting point and the first thing that you see upon opening the starter set is the ‘What’s in this Box?’ sheet. This sums up what is in the box and gives pointers as to what both the player and the Game Master should do next. Below this there are three books—and more. These are the forty-six page ‘Book I: The Adventure of the Sword in the Stone’, the sixty-six page ‘Book II: The Fabled Realm’, and the sixty-six page ‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’. Then there are eight pre-generated Player Character Knights, Battle Cards generating Battle Encounters and Opportunities, and four appendices which add further rules and details for the campaign.

The Pendragon Starter Set really gets going with
‘Book I: The Adventure of the Sword in the Stone’ with an eponymous SoloQuest which teaches the player some of the setting, how to play, and how to be a character in the setting. It introduces the rules for Pendragon, Sixth Edition, and in doing so, does three things. First, it explains the basics of what a Player-knight and his stats and skills and traits look like. Second, it introduces the fact that both male and female knight are acceptable and perfectly normal in the setting. This it supports with a selection of male and female names, and later in box, with three of eight pre-generated Player-knights being female. Third, it gives scope for the player to customise his Player-knight in terms of his Personality Traits, Passions, and Skills. The Player-knight begins play 510 AD. He is fourteen years old, a page, about to become a squire, in the service of Sir Ector on his estate in Penllyn, in the Vale of Glamorgan. The ageing Sir Ector already has two squires—and this is the important for this SoloQuest and the subsequent adventures in ‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’—who are his hot-tempered son, Kay, and his adopted ward, Arthur. Right from the start of the one-hundred-and-thirty-five entry solo adventure, the player is being taught the rules and mechanics of Pendragon, Sixth Edition. Initially with some lance practice that nicely shows off the personalities of the Player-knight as well as both Kay and Arthur. This is quickly handled in a few entries before the main storyline kicks in. First a hunt in preparation for a visit by the local king and then to the great tournament in London where it is hoped that the High King of Britain will be determined. The adventure constantly switches back and forth between detailed incidences of combat, from round to round, to longer narrative sections that push the story forward. Within the narrative there are several story strands, such as on the hunt and in London, that make ‘Book I: The Adventure of the Sword in the Stone’ worth playing through more than once to explore them all and also to see if a higher score can be achieved. Overall, the SoloQuest is a really good solo adventure that nicely introduces the rules and the setting, preparing the player for later events in ‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’—though the Player-knight so created is too young to play in its events. That said, the other great thing about this SoloQuest is that it means that the Game Masters get to play Pendragon, Sixth Edition before she runs it for her players.

‘Book II: The Fabled Realm’ explains the setting and rules for Pendragon Sixth Edition. The setting is Arthurian, a romantic interpretation of the so-called Dark Ages as seen through the eyes of a Mediaeval author. It is a time between kings, when there rose a man of honour and valour, who brought about a golden age of chivalry and romance that saw the kingdom of Britain founded anew, links forged with Europe, and Saxon invasions withstood, before the kingdom was undone from within and then without. The new king is, of course, King Arthur, and it is his proclamation as king and his first steps to prominence when the events of the Pendragon Starter Set take place. This is a time of feudalism when knights lived up to chivalric ideas, owed fealty to their liege lords, and owed a duty of protection to those below them, but at the same time sought glory and recognition. The background in ‘Book II: The Fabled Realm’ is just a few pages, but a player will already have experienced some of it in playing through the SoloQuest in ‘Book I: The Adventure of the Sword in the Stone’ and elements of it will certainly familiar, since the legends of Arthur are incredibly well known.

The bulk of ‘Book II: The Fabled Realm’ is dedicated to the rules. ‘Book I: The Adventure of the Sword in the Stone’ explains some of the rules via play, but ‘Book II: The Fabled Realm’ presents them in a more accessible fashion. So, a Player-knight is defined by Homeland, Culture, and Father’s Name, then Father’s Class, Son Number, Liege Lord, Current Class, Current Home, Age, and Year Born. He has five Attributes—Size, Dexterity, Strength, Constitution, and Appearance—which are rated between three and twenty-one. Skills are divided into Combat skills, Courtly skills, Knightly skills, and Woodcraft skills. They range between one and twenty, but unlike in previous editions of Pendragon, do not go above twenty. Instead, when a successful Experience Check suggests a skill should, the skill gains a bonus which is added to any roll for that skill. Every Knight has Glory, a measure of his renown and his actions, the higher it is, the greater the chance of his being recognised.

A Knight is also defined by his Traits and Passions. Traits represent a Knight’s personality, consisting of thirteen opposed pairs. So Chaste and Lustful, Honest and Deceitful, Valorous and Cowardly, and so on. Each Trait in a pair is assigned a value, the two values together adding up to no more than twenty. So, a Trusting of ten and Suspicious of ten, an Energetic of fourteen and Lazy of six, and so on. During a game, a player can look to the values of his Knight’s Traits to determine how he might act, but if unsure or wanting guidance, the player can roll against one of them, and the Game Master can also direct a player to roll against one to see how his Knight will act in a particular situation.

A Knight’s Passions, like Loyalty (Lord), Love (Family), and Hate (Saxons) are strong emotional and psychological tendencies. When a player rolls against one of his Knight’s Passions, it can grant inspiration and a bonus for a task, but should it fail, it can leave the Knight disheartened and suffering a penalty to a task. A Trait is rolled against to determine whether a Knight will act in accordance with that Trait or act in accordance with its opposing Trait. A Passion is rolled against to gain a bonus on a skill roll, but failure can trigger a Passion Crisis, which can result in the Passion being partly lost, melancholia, or even madness.

To have his player undertake an action, a player rolls a twenty-sided die. The aim is roll equal to or lower than the value of the attribute, skill, Trait, or Passion. A roll under is a success, a roll equal to the value is a critical, a roll over a failure, and a roll of twenty can be a critical failure. For opposed rolls, used for contests and combat, the roll still needs to be equal to or under the value for the knight to succeed, but the quality of the success will vary also according to what the opposing knight or NPC rolls. A roll equal to the skill is still critical, whilst a success is under the skill value, but higher than the value rolled by the opponent, and a partial success is under both the value of the skill and the value rolled by the opponent. In combat, the quality of the rolls are compared to determine if the combatant’s armour and/or shield provides him with any protection, if he inflicts extra damage, or even if he drops or breaks the weapon he is wielding. In play, it also avoids the back and forth of combat rolls as first one combatant rolls, followed by the other, then back again, and so on. It gives an immediacy to the clash of arms, with both parties being involved from the off. In addition to covering dropped weapons, there are rules for knockdowns; combat actions such as Reckless Attack, Defend, Mounted Charge, and more; and also, both mounted combat and missile combat. There is an emphasis in the combat rules on the importance of wearing helmets and wielding shields. To accompany the rules on mounted combat, horses get their own section.

Rounding out the ‘Book II: The Fabled Realm’ are chapters on ‘Wealth & Treasure’ and the ‘Winter Phase’. Neither wealth nor treasure are the point of playing Pendragon or being a knight, but both are important. Loot can be found and Ransoms paid—both to a Player-knight and by a Player-knight, depending on the circumstances, and this can become wealth which goes towards upkeep for the knight and his household, and also shows of wealth, perhaps with guests coming to stay. The Winter Phase takes place at the end of each year. In terms of the mechanics, this is when a player makes Experience checks for his Player-knight, trains skills, traits, passions, and abilities. In the full rules for Pendragon, Sixth Edition, this is also when a player checks for his Player-knight’s family health, and more. However, the ‘Book II: The Fabled Realm’ truncates this to what the adventures require in ‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’.

‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’ introduces the campaign proper. It focuses on just three years of the Arthurian saga, but they are important years. There is advice for Game Master on how to run the three scenarios in the book, how the Game Master’s Pendragon might vary, and how to track time between quick narrative and scenario time. Then it is quickly into the first scenario which takes place in 510 AD. This is ‘The Adventure of the Sword Tournament’, previously released as The Adventure of the Sword Tournament quick-start for Pendragon, Sixth Edition, but the whole of that scenario rather than part of it. The Adventure of the Sword Tournament quick-start ends with Arthur drawing the sword from the stone, enabling the Player-knights to witness a great event, but this is the full version and goes beyond to let them explore the immediate consequences of Arthur being proclaimed king. Primarily this is King Lot refuting Arthur’s claim to the throne and moving against his newly gathered forces, including the Player-knights, enabling them and their players to experience a battle and its mechanics for the first time. This is, of course, followed by a Winter Phase.

Where ‘The Adventure of the Sword Tournament’ showcases the main rules and the Battle rules—as detailed in the separate Appendix B in the Pendragon Starter Set—the second adventure, ‘The Adventure of the Forest of the Silver Deer’ makes use of Appendix D with its rules for visiting foreign courts. Essentially, the Player-knights have to make an Arthurian Progress around the country visiting one minor king after another in order to gain their support for King Arthur in the face of King Lot’s obstinate aggression. There is much more narrative and roleplaying involved in this scenario, but unless the Player-knights fare badly on their tasks, they should be back in time for another battle, this one bigger, longer, and more complex. ‘The Adventure of the Broken Sword’ takes place in 512 AD and is much shorter than either of the previous scenarios. A strange knight is challenging all to fight him and King Arthur disappears. Could the two be connected? The scenario and the campaign will end with the Player-knights witnessing another great event. It is a quiet end to the campaign, but leaves the Player-knights ready for The Grey Knight campaign, the next part of the Arthurian saga.

Four appendices provide rules and details for various events not covered in ‘Book II: The Fabled Realm’, but which come up during the play of ‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’. Appendix A covers tournaments, the latter noting that jousts are not yet part of tournaments during the period covered by ‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’; Appendix B is the longest of the four and details the battle rules; Appendix C presents the overland movement rules; lastly, Appendix D, examines what happens if the Player-knights visit a foreign court. These are handy references as much as rules explanations and thus useful when their relevant situations occur in play.

Penultimately, a set of eighteen Battle Cards is included for all of the major threats and NPCs that the Player-knights will encounter during the play of the three scenarios in ‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’. All are double-sided, with stats and details on the front and descriptions of  game use on the back. There are some reference cards included among them as well. They are perforated, but will require some care when separating them.

Lastly, at the bottom of the box is a set of eight pamphlet Player-knight characters sheets, intended to be used in conjunction with ‘Book III: The Sword Campaign’. Each has a full illustration on one side, whilst the other has spaces to record ‘History & Events’, ‘Passive Glory’, ‘Escutcheon’ (or shield heraldry), and background. There is a note here to explain why a player might want to choose that knight to play. The character sheet can then be flipped open to reveal all of the Player-knight’s abilities, skills, traits, and passions, plus details of his horses and other equipment. They include a chivalrous and ambitious knight, a romantic, often lustful knight, a proper lady-turned vengeful knight, a wise-cracking household knight, a bow-wielding knight, an ambitious squire, an axe-wielding pagan Saxon knight, and a household knight from far Syria. They represent an interesting range of Player-knights and include three female knights.

Physically, the Pendragon Starter Set is a solid package. The three books are akin to sturdy magazines, but everything is done in rich, painted colours on manuscript style paper. What is notable about all three books are the monkish marginalia, illustrations echoing the drawings and doodles marked in the margins by monks in medieval manuscripts. The four appendices, primarily a mix of single sheets and double-page pamphlets, are flimsy in comparison, as are the Player-knight character sheets. The Battle Cards, done on light card, are much sturdier by comparison. Lastly, the rear of each of the three books has part of a map of Britain at the time of the sixth century. In turn, they are marked with a map of Logres (southeast Britain), Cumbria (northern Britain), and the north (Scotland). Unlike the maps of the backs of the books in the RuneQuest Starter Set, these three do not slot together. Or rather, they do not slot together to form a whole with any ease. Rather, the reader has to lay them out and line them up, often resulting in some overlap between the maps. Lastly, it should be noted how neatly the cover to the Pendragon Starter Set complements the cover to King Arthur Pendragon: Chivalric Roleplaying in Arthur’s Britain, the first edition of the first and original Arthurian roleplaying game published in 1985.

The Pendragon Starter Set is as comprehensive an introduction to Greg Stafford’s Pendragon roleplaying game and its new edition as anyone might wish for. As with previous starter sets from Chaosium, Inc., it has everything that a playing group would want, including a great chance to learn the rules and the setting through play before involving everyone in the setting, in this case, Britain during the age of King Arthur. The Pendragon Starter Set is an opportunity for the members of a gaming group to experience the greatest Arthurian roleplaying game of them all and take their first steps into experiencing the legends of King Arthur, Merlin, the Knights of the Roundtable, and more.

Saturday 29 July 2023

Goodman Games Gen Con Annual VI

Since 2013, Goodman Games, the publisher of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game and Mutant Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game – Triumph & Technology Won by Mutants & Magic has released a book especially for Gen Con, the largest tabletop hobby gaming event in the world. That book is the Goodman Games Gen Con Program Book, a look back at the previous year, a preview of the year to come, staff biographies, and a whole lot more, including adventures and lots tidbits and silliness. The first was the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book, but not being able to pick up a copy from Goodman Games when they first attended
UK Games Expo in 2019, the first to be reviewed was the Goodman Games Gen Con 2014 Program Book. Fortunately, a little patience and a copy of the Goodman Games Gen Con 2013 Program Book was located and reviewed, so since 2021, normal order has been resumed with the Goodman Games Gen Con 2016 Program Book and the Goodman Games Gen Con 2017 Program Book.

The Goodman Games Gen Con 2018 Program Guide: The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying looks back over the previous year and specifically Gen Con 50 which took place in 2017. It also looks back to classic tournament scenarios such as S1 Tomb of Horrors and Goodman Games’ own Dungeon Crawl Classics #13: Crypt of the Devil Lich—more recently updated for use with Dungeon Crawl Classics. Thus, Goodman Games Gen Con 2018 Program Guide: The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying marks a change in format and focus. This is not upon the most recent releases from Goodman Games, but upon a big tournament scenario that was run at Gen Con 2017, ‘The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying’. This is a big, three session dungeon—or rather, set three dungeons—designed to be played by teams of Fourth Level Player Characters with seven pre-generated characters being provided to all teams participating in the scenario. The scenario concerns the fate of one of the Seven Immortal Sorcerers of Lemuria, known as Thakulon the Damned, who attempted to use his ancient knowledge for his own ends, and as a consequence, was torn asunder by the Gods of Creation, and his body and soul scattered to the Nine Worlds. His heart continued to beat, and so the ‘Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying’ was placed within the vaults of three prison tombs, with the gods of Neutrality, Law, and Chaos, taking it turn to create these prison tombs in an attempt to keep out raiders or reavers. The result was a set of tombs protected by magic, puzzles, and traps designed to thwart at least, if not kill, the curious and the unwary and the foolish. This set-up informs the three rounds of the scenario and tournament. In the first, the Player Characters will explore ‘The Halls of Law’, followed by ‘The Trials of Neutrality’, and finishing with ‘The Vaults of Chaos’. These are by design linear, but in each and every case are detailed, often fiendishly so, and really will challenge both players and their characters. Not only that, but the seven seven pre-generated Player Characters are also balanced according to Alignment. So two Lawful, three Neutral, and two Chaotic.

As a tournament scenario, each of the three stages in ‘The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying’ is designed to be played in a four-hour slot. That is, of course, if the players and their characters are exploring the dungeons in an optimal manner, making best use of their time and resources. This does not mean that their progress is on a tight schedule, but rather that they should not get too distracted. There are some great puzzles and traps and the whole affair is highly inventive from start to finish.

As the players and their characters proceed through the three dungeons, their progress is ticked off on score sheets, whose totals would be counted up at the end of each round to determine which teams would go on to the next stage. Scoring was handled by surviving and achieving objectives within each stage, so that ends mattered more than the means, which in earlier designs might have meant that the players and their characters needed to score and progress by surviving in prescribed ways. Effectively, this frees up the players to work on survival and progression rather than necessarily attempting to determine the exact solution to their immediate problem and so be inventive. Some of the most enjoyable details about the tournament are given in the sidebars which relate the progress of particular teams or deaths of individual Player Characters. In addition to this context and commentary of and upon ‘The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying’, a detailed recap and assessment is provided, along with the tournament results and scoring, scoring sheets for all three rounds, advice for running the tournament, and several handouts that illustrate locations within the three dungeons that contain heavy puzzle elements. Ultimately, of course, the aim of ‘The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying’ is for the Judge to run it for her players and compare their score with those of players and their characters in tournament at Gen Con 50.

The other scenario in the Goodman Games Gen Con 2018 Program Guide: The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying is ‘The Misguided Menace of Georgetown’. This a scenario for First Level Player Characters developed by engineering students from the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology at Creativity Con I in 2016. It is short and bonkers, consisting of just eleven locations in and around Georgetown, a village famed for the enormous Lincoln Logs in red, white, and blue that the villagers use to construct its buildings. The inhabitants have a problem—Big George Lincoln. This gigantic eagle has appointed itself the village’s protector and takes his duty all too seriously and all too haphazardly, much to their consternation. The Player Characters are tasked with trying to find a way to stop Big George Lincoln or persuade him to be less assiduous in his duties. The scenario mixes a lot of Americana into its fantasy to silly effect which offsets the wayward of the scenario. Much of this due to the designers having very little experience in creating scenarios, but this frees them to be inventive, and there is no question that ‘The Misguided Menace of Georgetown’ is entertainingly inventive.

The second half of the Goodman Games Gen Con 2018 Program Guide: The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying is dedicated to a look back at 2017. This includes ‘ Building the Doom Gong’ by Wayne Snyder, which explains how he built the Doom Gong, which was intended to be rung every time a Player Character dies in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game at a convention and has since become a fixture of Goodman Games’ convention games. For purchasers from Goodman Games, the guide includes ‘2017 – 2018 mailing label artwork’ attached to every package sent out over the course of the year, plus potted biographies of everyone at Goodman Games done as parodies of G.I. Joe identity cards in ‘G.G. Joe’, entries for the ‘Road Crew Flyer DESIGN CONTEST 2017’, and over one-hundred and fifty photographs taken over the course of the last year from numerous events attended by Goodman Games and the the Goodman Games Judges’ road crew. Finally, there is the ‘Luck Token Redemption Table’, which could be rolled upon by the recipient of a Luck Token during play who returns to the Goodman Games stand at Gen Con 50.

Physically, the Goodman Games Gen Con 2018 Program Guide: The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying is a slim softback book. It is decently laid out, easy to read, lavishly illustrated throughout, and a good-looking book both in black and white, and in colour, much in keeping with the other entries in the series.

The Goodman Games Gen Con 2018 Program Guide: The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying greatly differs from the previous entries in the series with the change to the inclusion of just the two scenarios. Consequently, it is not as interesting, nor likely to have the appeal to a wider audience that earlier volumes with their support of more games had. Yet, the Goodman Games Gen Con 2018 Program Guide: The Black Heart of Thakulon the Undying is very much an interesting book with an entertaining tournament scenario for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game that really will challenge a Judge and her players.

Convention Chaos

Gaming conventions are scary and terrible. Going to a gaming convention means meeting all of those other attendees, who are people—and as we know, people are terrible. Gamers are worse. Who knows who we might end up with sat around a table playing a game, trapped with them for four hours? How are you going to cope with queues to get in—to everything—let alone the crowds in the trade hall and the dealers pushing things at you, trying to sell their latest and greatest games? And if the number of other attendees is an assault on the senses, so are the smells of the other attendees and the range of food on sale. Invariably bland and greasy, and whilst you might be hungry, are really you hungry enough to bolt that burger down and gulp that bottle of fizzy pop in the few minutes you have between the last event and the next? And there is, of course, the ‘con crud’ factor… Just how bad are you going to feel on Monday morning after the convention and your weekend away? What minor illness did you back with you which is going to leave you under the weather for days? Above all, are you really going to have fun, or end up exhausted and hungry with little to show for it except the ‘Con Crud’? Not all gaming conventions are really that bad, but the one you are about to attend in Stuck at a Gaming Convention very probably is.

Stuck at a Gaming Convention: A silly, thematic role playing game is a storytelling game published by Beyond Cataclysm Books. It can be played with a Game Master or without and is designed to take a group of players through the convention experience from the safety of their own home without necessarily having attended a gaming convention—though the experience of play will definitely be heightened if they have. Of course, Stuck at a Gaming Convention could actually be played at a gaming convention and even be influenced by that gaming convention as much as any other!
Stuck at a Gaming Convention is a game about surviving the travails and traumas of being at a convention—encountering Coplayer Monsters, Leafleter Monsters, Crowd Monsters, Stallholder Monsters, running to the Food Court and the Nap Station, and all that before even managing to get to the games and actually play something!

Stuck at a Gaming Convention is played using a ten-sided die and a six-sided die. A Conventioneer has three stats—Fun, Fatigue, and Famine. All three are rated between zero and ten and Fatigue and Famine are negative stats, whereas Fun is not. A Conventioneer also has a Name, a non-gaming hobby, a reason why he came to the convention, and a favourite game, the latter selected from the six games detailed in the back of the book. The occupation, non-gaming hobby, and the reason for attending the convention each allow a single reroll during play if appropriate to the situation. The favourite game allows a single reroll in that game if it is played. If any Conventioneer’s Fun reaches a score of ten, then everyone will have had a good time at the gaming convention, everyone can go home happy, and the gaming convention has been a success and Stuck at a Gaming Convention is won. Conversely, if the Fatigue or Famine of any Conventioneer reaches ten, then that Conventioneer is reduced to misery as the gaming convention has beaten him, he and his friends have had a terrible time and decided to go home, and Stuck at a Gaming Convention is lost.

The roleplaying game is played into two phases—the Action Phase and the Gaming Phase. These alternate until the game is lost or won. In the Action Phase, the Conventioneers face the monsters of the ’Fan-dom Encounters’, including the Cosplay, Leafleter, Crowd, and Stallholder monsters. Face-offs against each monster are dice-offs, the player rolling the ten-sided die, trying to roll higher than the monster, who uses the six-sided die. Defeating a monster grants a reward that increases a Conventioneer’s Fun. Visiting the Food Court or the Nap Station will reduce a Conventioneer’s Fatigue and Famine respectively, but at the cost of Fun.

In the Gaming Phase, the Conventioneers play one of six games which include Settlers of Takan, Storm the Castle, and Escape the Dungeon. These are mini-games, typically dice games which are parodies of well-known board games, though Dream It is a drawing game. These are thankfully short affairs, not necessarily that interesting in themselves. They really offer only the one type of game as opposed to the range of games typically offered at a gaming convention, so no roleplaying, no LARPS, and so on. What this means is
Stuck at a Gaming Convention may actually be asking the players to have their characters engage in gaming activities which they themselves do not find fun. Some random events might have been useful too, to give more chances of having Fun or suffering Fatigue, and they perhaps, could also have made the games themselves that little more interesting.

Stuck at a Gaming Convention is a busy, fuzzy affair in pale pink and purple that lives up to its name. Stuck at a Gaming Convention: A silly, thematic role playing game is silly and it is thematic, a one-shot game about surviving the game as much as the imaginary convention. It is also a game with a dichotomy. The part of the game where you are actually not meant to be having fun in-game is actually more fun out-of-game, whereas the part of the game where you are actually meant to be having fun in-game is actually less fun out-of-game. Stuck at a Gaming Convention: A silly, thematic role playing game is a game where the more fun that the players put into it, the more fun they are going to get out of it, and ultimately it is a game that people are not really going to want to that do that more than once or twice.

Friday 28 July 2023

Friday Fantasy: The Sorcerer’s Enclave

Far to the north stands the island of Ormil. At the heart of the island is the Great Lake. In the centre of the Great Lake is Olla’s Island. Standing on Olla’s Island is the Sorcerer’s Enclave. This is the last high point of civilisation in the north and no man should have reason to go beyond. This is a bastion for the study of magic and it can only be reached by the Dragon Ferry. A village, warded against those who would wish the Sorcerer’s Enclave ill, stands at the foot of the sorcerous sanctuary, but it is a mere steppingstone to the enchanted enclave that looms over it. Inside the Sorcerer’s Enclave, numerous schools of magic are studied and practised, some even simply recorded lest the knowledge be lost and need to be rediscovered in later generations. Druidic magic is one such school, part religion, part sorcery, which combines magics from across numerous later schools. The Druid’s way is practised outside, like the study of natural magics—practitioners insist the schools are very different, whilst inside, all wizards and wizards have the opportunity to learn how to use their magics offensively and defensively in the Duelling Pit, where that rarest of sights is seen—a Battle Magic wizard or witch in actual armour! Deep in the bowels of the Sorcerer’s Enclave is the Golem Manufactory where raw heartstones are infused with magic and inscribed with runes to dictate the behaviour of Golems they are placed deep within. Elsewhere alchemical arts are studied in their own laboratories, portents and omens are tracked across the sky from the observatory atop the Sorcerer’s Enclave, whilst mystic signs and alignments are tracked immediately below using a giant orrery.

The wizards and witches of the Sorcerer’s Enclave are even whispered to practise demonology, for how else can they explain the behorned, sometimes bewinged sprites that serve as their servants and assistants? All of these Minions wear hooded caps with bells on the end to prevent their presence from never being heard. After all, who wants demonic minions sneaking about a wizards’ school? Winged Minions work in The Arcanum or Great Library or the Sorcerer’s Enclave guard, members of which are recognised by their height of four foot or more, their bronze masks, and their hooked polearms. The members of Sorcerer’s Enclave are also served by Familiars as is traditional in many other schools, but here the Familiar is not duty bound to bond with a master or mistress. Instead, the Familiar Whisperer—a position of honour amongst the Minions—trains Familiars to accept that bond. This is the setting for The Sorcerer’s Enclave.

The Sorcerer’s Enclave is not a roleplaying book in the traditional sense. Published by SquareHex—best known for The Black HackThe Sorcerer’s Enclave is more artbook than sourcebook, describing and depicting the rooms and locations of a great magical redoubt, hidden away from curious eyes and from accidentally unleashing some disastrous dweomercraft upon civilisation! The Sorcerer’s Enclave begins with a map of ‘The World as it is known’, showing the islands and their relationship. This is, unfortunately, too small to pick up on any detail on the page, but The Sorcerer’s Enclave is accompanied by a small poster map that shows the geography to far better effect. Our journey literally begins aboard the Dragon Ferry, crewed by Minions—many at the oars—with its dragon wing keel and rudder, and dragon head prow. This, like the whole of the Sorcerer’s Enclave, is shown in cross section with the Minions working and resting and there being actually little room for passengers.

Once ashore on Olla’s Island, the tour of the Sorcerer’s Enclave takes us roundabout and inside the enchanted establishment. Each location or section of the Sorcerer’s Enclave is given a two-page spread which showcases the room or facility itself as well as highlighting its location within the building as a cutaway on a silhouette of the Sorcerer’s Enclave. There are lovely little details such as a snoring wizard asleep in his chair, his feet resting on a Minion who is working on some notes and of the wooden tower atop a tree alongside the towers of the Sorcerer’s Enclave which is home to study of the Natural Arts. There is also a sense of story to The Sorcerer’s Enclave, one that becomes apparent as the reader turns its pages and progresses through the book and moves from the left to the right of the Sorcerer’s Enclave and its towers. Thus, the reader goes from the Dragon Ferry and the Dragon Jetty from the Druid’s Way and its menhir through the laboratories of the Alchemical Arts, the Great Library, the storehouse of the Masters of Secrets, and perhaps out beyond via the Portal Chamber. As the guide moves rightward, danger looms and so do the darkest secrets of the Sorcerer’s Enclave. First, there is the Thing Below, a betentacled creature lurking in a cleft in Olla’s Island, altered like many other fish and beasts of the lake by magic and alchemical spills, and then the tower that is home to the enclave’s lone necromancer, whose studies concern at least two of its Grand Magi and are revealed to the reader…

The Sorcerer’s Enclave is written and drawn by Aaron Howdle whose lovingly detailed pen and ink artwork is clearly influenced by the style of artwork being used by Games Workshop and Citadel Miniatures in the nineteen eighties such as the late Russ Nicholson and Ian Miller. Even the appearance of the Sorcerer’s Enclave as a silhouette echoes the castle logo of Citadel Miniatures. This is all confirmed by the artist’s biography at the end of the book, which actually contains more text than the rest of the book. Physically, The Sorcerer’s Enclave is lovely, the artwork is a delight, worth poring over for its exquisitely detailed locations and characters.

In game terms, there is almost nothing in The Sorcerer’s Enclave that is actually game-related. There are no stats or similar details. This means that whilst it is not immediately useful for a roleplaying game setting or rules set, the Game Master is entirely free to apply the numbers and mechanics that she wants to the setting to use it in her game world. One obvious direction of development for this, like the direction of the book’s exploration of the Sorcerer’s Enclave, would be to bring the threat of the establishment’s lone Necromancer and his plans into play. Others might be to use as a location and world to visit via the Portal Chamber or from somewhere within its own world, or to use it as a place of study for a wizard or witch-focused campaign. Of course, as a magical institute, the Sorcerer’s Enclave holds numerous tomes, potions, and other secret artefacts, all of which would interest the Player Characters.

The Sorcerer’s Enclave is simply a lovely book to own, a delightful and detailed homage to British fantasy artwork of the eighties that fans of Games Workshop and Citadel Miniatures will appreciate. As a gaming resource, The Sorcerer’s Enclave, very much awaits the input and development of the Game Master, but is especially suited to the Old School Renaissance.

Unseasonal Festivities: Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023

The Christmas Annual is a traditional thing—and all manner of things can receive a Christmas Annual. Those of our childhoods would have been tie-ins to the comic books we read, such as the
Dandy or the Beano, or the television series that we enjoyed, for example, Doctor Who. Typically, here in the United Kingdom, they take the form of slim hardback books, full of extra stories and comic strips and puzzles and games, but annuals are found elsewhere too. In the USA, ongoing comic book series, like Batman or The X-Men, receive their own annuals, though these are simply longer stories or collections of stories rather than the combination of extra stories and comic strips and puzzles and games. In gaming, TSR, Inc.’s Dragon magazine received its own equivalent, the Dragon Annual, beginning in 1996, which would go from being a thick magazine to being a hardcover book of its own with the advent of Dungeons & Dragons, Fourth Edition. For the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023—as with the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2021 and the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2022the format is very much a British one. This means puzzles and games, and all themed with the fantasy and mechanics of Dungeons & Dragons, along with content designed to get you into the world’s premier roleplaying game.

Published by Harper Collins Publishers, the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 moves on from the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2022 in a surprising nod to recent eventsit acknowledges the effects of COVID-19 and the Lockdown, and how that changed our gaming practices, many of us moving online to play Dungeons & Dragons and other RPG, for example, via Zoom. It suggests means of doing so and what those means offer in terms of play and interaction, making the point that it is still a viable option even though in-person play has returned. This is explored a little further in ‘Virtual Play Weekend’, which looks at events organised online by Wizards of the Coast.

However, where the
Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 starts with ‘Welcome to the Multiverse’, an overview of some of the settings explored in official releases for Dungeons & Dragons from Wizards of the Coast. This itself begins with the Forgotten Realms—because it always does—but it includes some of the lesser know worlds such as Exandria of Critical Role and both Strixhaven and Ravnica from Magic: The Gathering. These are only thumbnail descriptions, so they are all too brief, leaving the reader wishing that any one them of had pages of their own in the book. Thankfully, several of them do, but not all. The three that do each receive this attention via a series of articles, sometimes paired, sometimes not. One is from the ‘Heroes & Villains’ series and the other is from ‘Mapping the Realms’. The first is Ravenloft, and its ‘Heroes & Villains’ entry is a description of Strahd, the Darklord of Barovia, one of the lands of Shadowfell. Included here too, are descriptions of his allies and enemies, such as the vampire hunter, Doctor Rudolph Van Richten, and Strahd’s rival, the Sun Elf vampire, Jander Sunstar. Van Richten receives more attention in the accompanying, paired ‘Mapping the Realms’ entry which also highlights Castle Ravenloft and its location on the map. Acerak, the villain of Tomb of Annihilation is given similar treatment, whilst the other ‘Mapping the Realms’ entries explore ‘The Feywild’ and its unpredictable, primal magic—later detailed in its own section in ‘Wild Magic’, ‘Gewhaawk’, the original campaign setting for Dungeons & Dragons, and ‘Avernus’, the first level of hell explored in Baldur’s Gate: Descent into Avernus. The heroes described in the ‘Heroes & Villains’ series are Mordenkainen and Volothamp Geddarm.

Community is not ignored in the
Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 as it highlights the generosity of players in playing and donating to good causes. Being British means that one of these covered in the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 is Comic Relief, a big event very other year in the United Kingdom. It is a sign of just how far Dungeons & Dragons has been accepted into the mainstream that it is part of such a big event. Other events highlighted are Extra Life and Playing D&D for Mermaids. The spotlight here is on the ‘Three Black Halflings’ podcast, ‘Girls Guts Glory’ streaming group, and even an interview with renowned Dungeon Master, B. Dave Walters in ‘Meet the DM’, which together showcases the appeal and diversity of the Dungeons & Dragons community.

Even if the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 has no stats or adventures or anything mechanical for Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition in its pages, it does talk about the basics of getting ready to run the game. ‘Planning a Dungeon Delve’ looks at all the elements of an adventure, whilst ‘A Beginner’s Guide to Homebrewing’ suggests ways in which Dungeons & Dragons can be modified, including characters and worlds. There is a guide too, to ‘Writing a Backstory’ as part of a character creation checklist, whilst ‘Session Zero’ examines how a pre-campaign session works and sets out eveyone’s expectations, and ‘One-shots’ suggests alternatives to longer multiple sessions of play and how they work. That said, describing a one-shot as a self-contained campaign is absurd. Lastly, ‘Level Up Your Table’ suggests ways to enhance play, such as using maps and miniatures and secret messages and even physical puzzles. Thus there is a mix of advice and suggestions for both player and Dungeon Master across the volume.

Beyond play, the ‘D&D Bookshelf’ suggests fiction to read, starting with the adventures of Drizzt Do’Urden, but also mentioning the Dragonlance and Ravenloft series. ‘Loot Table’ suggests gifts and collectible that a Dungeons & Dragons devotee might like beyond the core rulebooks and dice. This notable for the inclusion of ‘Crocs Jibbitiz’, official Dungeons & Dragons-themed adornments for your crocs. Thankfully, there are no official Dungeons & Dragons Crocs, but the Jibbitz are daft enough as it is.

The ‘Bestiary’ series covers otherworldly creatures. So, in ‘Fiends and Celestials’, it is Imps, Balor demons, Pegasi, and Solar Celestials. ‘Aberrations and Undead’ such as the Intellect Devourer, Aboleth, Ghoul, and Death Tyrant, and ‘Elementals and Fey’ like Mephits, Fire Elementals, Dryads, and Quicklings, are given quite detailed descriptions. Conversely, the ‘Gem Dragons’ only receive descriptions in comparison, so there is not really enough of an idea who they might be used in a scenario.

Of course, Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 being a British annual, it is not without its puzzles. So there are mazes, spot the difference, word searches, and more. In comparison to previous annuals, the theming is more generic Dungeons & Dragons than a specific campaign world or characters, so not as engaging as in past years.

Physically, the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 is snappily presented. There is plenty of full colour artwork drawn from Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, and the writing is clear and kept short, so is an easy read for its intended audience.

In past years, entries in the Dungeons & Dragons Annual series have proven to be decent introductions to Dungeons & Dragons, but the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 is beginning to push against the limits of what it can explain and showcase without actually showing what Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition actually looks like. It has moved on since the earlier introductory annuals to look at more advanced aspects of character creation with character backstory and play with a discussion of Session Zero, but it constantly feels as if it is preparing the reader and potential player for something that it can never show. Which is any actual element of the doing of Dungeons & Dragons, so consequently, it is all description, all tell, and no show. Of course, the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 is intended to showcase the numerous aspects of the roleplaying game and its setting, and this it does, but it constantly leaves the reader wanting to take the next step and not quite sure what that is. Taking that step is big one and perhaps a solo adventure would give the reader a better idea of what play is like?

To be fair, this is not a book or supplement that a dedicated player or Dungeon Master is going to need, or even want, to read. After all, much of this will be familiar to either. For the casual reader, the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 is reasonable starting point, but the casual reader will quickly want more. For the collector, the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 is an attraction addition to his bookshelves. Still as something to receive at Christmas (or not) in your Christmas stocking (or not), the Dungeons & Dragons Annual 2023 is an attractive product, informative about Dungeons & Dragons, Fifth Edition, and whilst its own limitations can only help the reader so far, a stepping stone from they can look for further starting points from which to play.

Monday 24 July 2023

Miskatonic Monday #208: The Elk Jaw Dagger, It Drives ’Em Mad

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 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.


Publisher: Chaosium, Inc.
Author: Clio Urquhart

Setting: Seventies Colorado
Product: One-shot/Side Encounter
What You Get: Seven page, 8.67 MB Full Colour PDF

Elevator Pitch: “Revenge is a powerful motivator.” – Marcus Luttrell
Plot Hook: Stopping off could mean stopping off forever.
Plot Support: Staging advice
Production Values: Decent.

# Short one or two hour scenario
# Easy to adjust to other time periods
# Suitable for one or two Investigators
# Non-Mythos horror scenario
# Easy to adjust to other time periods
# Aichmophobia
# Foniasophobia

# Non-Mythos horror scenario
# More detailed plot outline
# Title gives everything away
# Non-Mythos horror scenario
# No NPC stats
# No Maps
# Scenario backstory left undeveloped for investigation

# Potentially effective tale of possession and revenge horror undone by lack of scope to investigate the backstory.
# Very short, bloody, slasher-horror scenario built around a dark relic which leaves too much for the Keeper to develop.

Jonstown Jottings #79: Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1

Much like the Miskatonic Repository for Call of Cthulhu, Seventh Edition, the Jonstown Compendium is a curated platform for user-made content, but for material set in Greg Stafford’s mythic universe of Glorantha. It enables creators to sell their own original content for RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, 13th Age Glorantha, and HeroQuest Glorantha (Questworlds). This can include original scenarios, background material, cults, mythology, details of NPCs and monsters, and so on, but none of this content should be considered to be ‘canon’, but rather fall under ‘Your Glorantha Will Vary’. This means that there is still scope for the authors to create interesting and useful content that others can bring to their Glorantha-set campaigns.


It is a ninety-one page, full colour, 41.20 MB PDF.

The layout is clean and tidy, but the text feels disorganised in places and requires a good edit. The artwork varies in quality, but some of it is decent.

Where is it set?
Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 is set on the archipelago of five islands that make up the Korolan Isles which lie in the Jeweled Islands, the Islands of Wonder that lie to the east.

Who do you play?
Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 is designed to be used with Player Characters who are native to the Korolan Islands.

What do you need?
Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 requires RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, the Glorantha Bestiary, and The Red Book of Magic. In addition, the Guide to Glorantha and The Stafford Library – Vol VI Revealed Mythologies may be useful.

What do you get?
Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 introduces the five islands of the Korolan archipelago—Luvata, Mingai, Sitoro, Sereneto, and Tamoro—and their peoples, their gods, and religious practices. Part of the shattered remains of the eastern continent of Vithela, they once constantly warred with each other, but following a great heroquest, established a unity between the islands which channelled their rivalries into an annual athletics contest that established the five island’s rulers for the next year. Although all five islands share a similar culture, each has its own god. The inhabitants of Luvata worship the freshwater nymph, Irvata; those from Mingai worship Mingemelor, a fiery son of Karkal, the Burning God; Aoea, a spirit of the mountain peaks of her island, is worshipped on Sereneto; the island of Sitoro has no known god and the island is shunned; and the island of Tamoro is home to Tamorongo, both mountain god and mountain. These island gods are known as the ‘Parondpara’.

The supplement introduces the history, geography, flora and fauna, culture and the differences in culture between the islands, and also a playable species. These are the Keet, an avian species similar to the Ducks, but who can be found in separate albatross, cormorant, gull, mallard, pelican, puffin, seagull, tern, and other tribes throughout the East Isles. The pterodactyl Sorn are also given stats, but are presented as a possible threat.

All four cults of the known ‘Parondpara’ are described in detail, including an associated myth for each and these add enjoyable flavour that helps to bring each cult to life. The ‘Parloth’, the gods worshipped across the East Isles are given similar, but not quite as extensive treatment. It is common for islanders to be lay members of one or more cults dedicated to the Parloth in addition be initiates of their individual Parondpara. As you would expect, the requirements necessary to becoming an Initiate and a Rune Priest are given for both Parondpara and Parloth, but in addition to that, there are also requirements stated for becoming an Ombardaru Low Priest. This can be seen as the equivalent of the God Talker in RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha, but where the God Talker speaks for one cult and god, an Ombardaru Low Priest resides over worship rites for any and all of the Parloth. This enables a temple for one god to serve as a shrine for another and counters the issue of needing to travel far sea distances to worship on holy days and holding rites where there are relatively few worshippers for one individual Parondpara versus another.

In addition, Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 also examines other approaches to magic in Glorantha found in the East Isles. Spirit societies are only given cursory treatment, but Mysticism and its paths to enlightenment and Illumination are discussed in detail. Mysticism in the East Isles differs from either Nysaloran Illumination or Draconian Illumination. It is integrated into everyday society and aspects of it are practised widely, but its adherents study at asharams under sages. Here they can learn ‘Austerities’, magical powers and other abilities via ascetism and voluntary denial. Suggested Austerities include Permanent Countermagic—even asleep, and countering characteristic losses from aging, at high levels, effectively, immortality. All require the student to follow certain restrictions. Numerous Sages and their Mystic Paths are discussed as well linking Austerities to martial arts as these require similar restrictions and practices. One sample martial arts school is described, ‘Roaring Orangutan’, which has its own lore, alongside ‘Climb of Will’, which enhances the climbing skill, but requires the practitioner to not touch the ground or floor for a week; ‘Strength of Ape’, which grants the user the Strength spell for unarmed or school weapon attacks, but mandates that fruit must be eaten daily; and ‘Running on all Fours’, which increases his movement rate and reduces his Strike Rank, but prevents him from using missile weapons. Sadly, this is the only school detailed in the supplement, but there is scope for more.

Despite the focus in Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 on the five Korolan Isles, the Homelands section, multiple Homelands are offered as Player Character and NPC choices, including the Haragalan Islands, Shorenti Islands, Jabbi Isles, and Dessheetan Isles. A nice touch is that even the individual islands have their own cultural bonuses. Numerous new Occupations are detailed, including Marine, Martial Artist, Mystic Student, Pirate, and Temple Guardian. The Marine Occupation is the nearest to the traditional warrior Occupations of RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha and is included because warfare in the East Isles primarily takes place at sea. There is no Family History table, so this is skipped as per RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha in favour of various bonuses. There are tables for character backgrounds which add interesting details as do the Family Heirloom table. Lastly, there are details of arms and armour wielded in the East Isles plus short descriptions of other nearby islands and a list of all of the gods.

As an introduction to the East Isles, Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 sometimes suffers from too broad a focus. For example, the inclusion of four other island groups as possible Homelands shifts the sourcebook away from the Korolan Isles, as do the descriptions of the other islands, and the other gods. The other issue with the other gods is that all too often they are mentioned, but not given any further attention. For example, the antigods are mentioned several times throughout the supplement, but never fully explained or detailed. Also missing is anything in the way of advice for the Game Master. The culture and setting of Korolan Islands are very obviously different to that of Dragon Pass, but there is no advice as to what a scenario or campaign in the Korolan Islands would be like. However, Fires of Mingai: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 2, the next supplement in the series does provide that campaign.

Suggesting influences such as the cultures of Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands, from a setting perspective, Korolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 presents a culture and its outlook that is radically different from that given in RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha. Mostly notably in its geographical outlook, but also in its acceptance of Mysticism and Illumination. This presents interesting storytelling and roleplaying options, but some aspects of the setting do demand further development.

Is it worth your time?
YesKorolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1, with its background and character options, is a solid introduction to playing RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha from a different cultural perspective in a dispersed island setting.
NoKorolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 is too location specific and too radical a change in cultural outlook to be of use in a general RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha campaign.
MaybeKorolan Islands: Hero Wars in the East Isles – Volume 1 is too location specific and too radical a change in cultural outlook to be of use in a general RuneQuest: Roleplaying in Glorantha campaign, but the two could be brought together in a culture clash situation.