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Friday 29 March 2024

[Fanzine Focus XXXIV] Crawling Under A Broken Moon Issue No. 4

On the tail of 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 Dungeon Master 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 1970sDungeons & Dragons, RuneQuest, and Travellerbut 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 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. Another popular choice of system for fanzines, is Goodman Games’ Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, such as Crawl! and Crawling Under a Broken Moon. Some of these fanzines provide fantasy support for the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, but others explore other genres for use with Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game. One such fanzine is the aforementioned Crawling Under A Broken Moon.

Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 4 was published in in December, 2014 by Shield of Faith Studios. It continued the detailing of post-apocalyptic setting of Umerica and Urth which had begun in Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 1, and would be continued in Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 2, which added further Classes, monsters, and weapons, and Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 3, which provided the means to create Player Characters and gave them a Character Funnel to play. The setting has, of course, gone on to be presented in more detail in The Umerican Survival Guide – Core Setting Guide, now distributed by Goodman Games. The setting itself is a world brought about after a rogue object from deep space passed between the Earth and the Moon and ripped apart time and space, leaving behind a planet which would recover and it inhabitants ruled by savagery, cruel sorcery, and twisted science. Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 4 focuses a particular aspect of the Cleric Class in the Dungeon Crawl Classics Roleplaying Game, but obviously for the Umerica and Urth setting. This is the Patron, the particular deity or entity that that the Cleric has sworn to worship and serve, and in return gain access to a number of spells that only a member of his faith can cast.

The first of the three Patrons described in Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 4 is actually a throwback to Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 2. ‘The Earth Brain of the Cyberhive’, which is fascinated understanding how living beings conceive and react to Life and Death, the Cyberhive actually being fully detailed in the previous issue along with its Zombie Monk and Robo-Lich servants. Its fascination with life and death is not reflected in all of the spells it grants. Defensive Upgrade providing temporary cybernetic armour to one or more targets and Control+Alt+Delete enabling the caster to control computers and robots, but Create Cybomination actually creating reanimated undead with cybernetics. ‘The Mighty Kizz – The intergalactic god of Rock and Roll’ is the uber masculine god of awesomeness dressed in black leather, jagged spikes, and chains and never without Soulbreaker, his massive, flaming battle axe guitar, in his hands. He does not demand that his worshippers be musicians or even play an instrument, but rather that they obtain a state of ‘Enlightened Awesomeness’ and apply it to everything they do, because if something is worth doing, it is worth being ‘Awesome’ about it, especially if it entertains him! The results of his Invoke Patron check is particularly entertaining, such as summoning a stampede of spectral fans or causing a wall, floor, or ceiling to transform into a wide mouth with bright red lips, sharpened teeth, and lengthy tongue that attempts to lick up all enemies and devour them! The entertaining them continues with the spells Kizz my Axe, Mosh Pit, and Aspect of KIZZ. The Mighty Kizz is obvious in its inspiration, but it is over-the-top, wild-haired fun.

The third of the Patrons is ‘Theszolokomodra – the 1000 headed multi-dimensional Hydra’. Also known as the Unknowable Serpent Sage, the Observer of Realms, the Many-headed Master of Secrets, its actual purpose is inscrutable, but Theszolokomodra does is known to study the views from thousands of dimensional portals that surrounds its glittering Thronemound. Worshippers become hosts to its Servitor Worms and gain the benefits of Theszolokomodra’s knowledge such as a glimpse of the future, a question asked of the Game Master answered truthfully, whilst the spell Tactical Display drops stat blocks over the heads of enemies that the caster can read, Wraith of the Worm makes the host’s Servitor Worm target the host enemies with a bolt of gut-twisting pain, and Dimensional Maws calls forth several of Theszolokomodra’s jaws to chomp at the caster’s enemies.

The Patron theme continues with ‘Patron Objects’ and its first entry with The Solar Saber. This is an intelligent techno-magical weapon, originally created to kill Cyber-Sorcerers. It has to be wielded by a worthy—and thus Lawful—user, and it will only do its fullest damage against Cyber-Sorcerers, otherwise its damage is reduced or even negated. Three points of Luck have to be sacrificed to bond with it, and it has to be invoked to use, but can taint the wielder too, so effectively the equivalent of a mini-Patron that the Player Character is wielding!

Lastly, the ‘Twisted Menagerie’ describes the Rocker, a Heavy Metal Elemental, which is the mindlessly devoted servant of Kizz. Just as silly and knowing as Kizz himself, they congregate in small groups, wear black tee shirts, and really only spring into action when there is music and then they slam dance each other and anyone caught in their own personal mosh pit!

Physically, Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 4 is serviceably presented. It is a little rough around the edges, as is some of the artwork, but overall, it is a decent affair.
The problem with Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 4 is that much of its contents have been represented to a more professional standard in the pages of The Umerican Survival Guide – Core Setting Guide, so it has been superseded and superseded by a cleaner, slicker presentation of the material.

Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 4 is a fairly light affair and upon first glance, it feels a bit one-note, dealing with just the one aspect of the setting. That feeling never goes away, even despite the fact that the three Patrons are really quite fun and the inspiration for The Mighty Kizz is obvious. Plus, ‘The Earth Brain of the Cyberhive’ really does feel as if it should have been included in Crawling Under A Broken Moon Fanzine Issue No. 2, and it does feel like perhaps each of the three Patrons could have had a monster or their own or a Patron Object, just to develop them a little further. Perhaps there should have just been the one Patron in this issue and there should have been something else to balance it.

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