Dark Wizard Games is at again! Or I should say still at it because Mark puts out some great stuff. This time up, Dread Swamp of the Banshee.
I guess the best place to start is what set of rules is this written for? Well, old-school rules. It really isn’t written for specific set or version. The Dark Wizard does say that it was written based on the OSRIC rules. But that doesn’t mean you have to use those. All of their modules can be played with just about any of the retroclones. IMHO, if you want the least amount of conversion then go with Old School Essentials or Labyrinth Lord. If you’re an old hat at Swords & Wizardry then that works fine too.
So what is Dread Swamp of the Banshee? Well, it’s a mid-level adventure. It’s part hex crawl with some mysteries thrown in. Since there’s some mysteries, I’m going to do this spoiler free.
The very first thing I like is that it’s not for beginning characters. So many hex crawls are designed for levels 1 to 3. This one is for characters levels 4 to 8. Much more of sweet spot when it comes to character abilities. It doesn’t mean you can’t start off with low level characters but there’s a darned good chance that there will be at least one TPK in the mix.
As a hex crawl, it’s pretty good. There’s a place for the characters to hang their hats and plenty of odd and interesting encounter areas and factions to keep the characters interested and on their toes. And you can’t have a new module without a few new monsters like the Bog Zombies, Lagoon Creeper, and Murder Hornets.
Like all of Dark Wizard’s products, Dread Swamp of the Banshee is written and designed with strong dose of old-school flavor and just the right amount of humor. The module is organized much the way your standard old-school module is. If you’ve read or played with any of the original classics like Keep on the Borderlands then you understand what I’m talking about. Sure there is some boxed text but it’s not overwhelming and still leaves the GM plenty of room to maneuver. And the maps. Well, how about those old-school blue maps? Yep.
I know this review is really, really vague. But I’d rather be spoiler free. But I will say that yes there is a banshee. Personally, I’d take this module and put it right next to Tegel Manor.
Dread Swamp of the Banshee is available for pre-order (as of the this writing) on Dark Wizard’s site. I received an early PDF by being a Patron over at their Patreon page.
There is some good news this year. Zines are making a big comeback. It’s a good thing and IHMO one of the best ways to keep old-school gaming alive and well. It’s the best way things fresh and let creativity flow without breaking the budget of the creator and the customer. There’s a quote I pulled from a writers’ forum and I have posted on the wall next to my desk, “These are not people who are trying to “connect” with some imagined audience. They’re fucking weirdos who are foisting their weird creations on the world without apology.” And that’s a good thing.
There are so many good zines out there, all you have to do is search them out but let me talk about a couple that I find really cool.
Planet X Games The Phylactery: Well if you missed out on the Kickstarter for Issue 1, you’re going to have to do deep digging to find this one. It looks like Exalted Funeral is sold out and I can’t find a source for a PDF. And Issue 2’s Kickstarter has ended so if you didn’t back that keep your eyes open early next year and you maybe able to grab a copy after the fact. So what do I like about The Phylactery? Well, it’s got some really great production values which is cool but that doesn’t help you at the table. It does give you is some cool magic items and monsters, and a mini-adventure all while not taking itself too seriously. It’s a fun little romp and worth the time and money.
Hunters In Death: This is by Gothridge Manor of The Manor fame. It’s a great little hexcrawl put out in a zine format. You don’t need to weigh your bag down with huge books nor flip throw hundreds of pages. In just 32 pages, you can have the players occupied for weeks on this little baby. Oh and there’s plenty of undead in the mix and those are always fun. While Hunters in Death was created as part of Kickstarter’s Zine Quest, it’s done and been sent out to backers and the rest of you can get the PDF this and old issues of The Manor on DrivethruRPG.
Dice Roll Zine: Another zine that’s not afraid to color outside the lines. I just got Issue 3 thanks to the Zine Quest Kickstarter and already had the earlier issues. These are just down right fun and weird in all the right ways. Each has something you can use. It’s a great blend of new monsters and magic items, mini adventures, random tables and house rules. Issue 3 isn’t on DrivethruRPG yet but the older issues are.
Oubliette: This is one of the grand daddies of the old-school zine scene and it’s good. I’ve grabbed up most of the issues. Like the others, this is gives a great selection of things to make liven up your campaign without breaking the bank. More rules options, monsters and all that good stuff. It’s an old school zine and keeps the old school vibe through out. If you’re running an old-school game then grab this one up. There will something in there that you will use. Like the others, you can grab this up on DrivethruRPG.
There you go. Four zines that keep your campaign fresh and just a wee bit crazy and without having to sell any organs to pay for it.
Another Kickstarter that I’m glad that I backed. Rafael Chandler has always put out some wild, crazy, great stuff and Metallic Tome doesn’t disappoint.
What exactly is Metallic Tome? Well, it’s a gonzo post apocalyptic genre/setting source book with a heavy dose of heavy metal and it’s chocked full of little bits of humor. Traditional classes/races add a “genre” for some special little benefits. Who wouldn’t want to play a Glam Wizard, Death Dwarf, or Gloom Elf? Oh yeah. There’s also mutations. You’ll get one of those too. Alignments are redone to fit the crazy genre. Plus there’s random starting equipment, and modern equipment including vehicles. And there’s some neat weird rules. Each PC gets a theme song. The DM puts on their play list and puts it’s on random. Your theme song starts playing and you get bonuses while the song is playing.
The bulk of the book adds new Magic-User and Cleric Spells, and a host of new and re-imagined monsters to fit into this crazy world. Once again the spells and monsters are sprinkled with head banging heavy metal and seasoned with just the right amount of humor (and a few puns). The spells and monsters manage to be familiar but new, interesting at the same time. To round out this fun-filled book, there’s magic items and random magic items. Once again, we’re back to the familiar, funny, gonzo stuff.
This is the kind of supplement that I love. First, it doesn’t matter what specific set of old-school rules that you are using. This stuff will work with little or no conversion. It takes the familiar and takes it into a weird and humorous direction. You can use what bits you want and ignore those that you don’t like without worry.
So what do I plan on doing with this? I don’t know yet but as I was reading all sorts of ideas were bouncing around inside my head. Throwing it all together along with other gonzo settings on the hard drive. Kitbashing it into a new setting to play. Mixing it into standard fantasy or go crazy and add it on to space opera. Or may be something in between. We shall see.
You can grab this little beauty up in PDF form over at DrivethruRPG and a dead tree version is available on Lulu.
This week, I figures I’d yack about Old School Essentials since they’ve got a Kickstarter going for a couple more Advanced books to add to the series. I started using/playing Old School Essentials when it was still BX Essentials. The name changed had nothing to do with the content of the game. It was to make the game more appealing to those who have no idea what BX means. And in case you are wondering it goes to the very old Basic/Expert sets of early D&D. Basic/Expert. BX. Get it?
Old School Essentials (OSE) is a clone of the old Basic/Expert sets like I said. Like most clones, it cleans up and organizes the material and fills in any gaping rules holes. The material is laid out clearly and easy to read and reference. As a bonus, it breaks down the material into separate books (Rules, Spells, Classes, Monsters, Treasure) for easy reference at the table. (Yes, it also consolidated into a Rules Tome as well.)
At first, I was really “meh” on it. Another BX clone? Yawn. I really don’t need this. I’ve got plenty of clones. Heck, I even have copies of my originals. So why in the world would I consider getting this? Well, I have to give credit where credit is due. One review changed my mind.
At that time, I was running Labyrinth Lord and decided to grab up a few of the books for reference at the table. Yes, I know there are many differences between the two. But I’m really laid back and just hand waved any differences in exchange for faster play at the table by having much of the material in an easy to reference format. I know I keep saying that but that’s real selling point on OSE, easily referenced material at the table.
If you’ve stopped by this blog more than once, you probably know that I really love house ruling and rules tweaking. Like most of the old school games, OSE isn’t any different. Any house rules that you may like or something cool from another clone, you can add to your game. Plus most of that old school material from around the web will easily work with little or no conversion. Last week, I said that Swords & Wizardry is my favorite of the old school games, OSE comes in as a close second. If you want to experience the game like it was back in the day and have it presented in clear and easily understood format and packed so it’s easy to reference at the table. Well, kids. OSE is there for you.
You can grab up Old School Essentials all over the web; DrivethruRPG, Necrotic Gnome’s site, and Exalted Funeral. Oh and I should mention that there’s an online SRD and generators available.
Ok, I was going to post this one much later but word has gone out that Lamentations is having some financial troubles. They may be on their way to making their goal to stay afloat but we’ll see for how long.
There’s a lot that can be said about Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Way more than I’m going to rant about here. But there are still some good points and bad points that I’m going to mention. For the TLDR version: A solid core game that’s been outweighed by its own controversies and shock just for shock value.
First off, the game itself is solid. Basically, your standard classes and races with a few tweaks here and there like the Fighter is the only class whose Attack Bonus improves and the Specialist (Thief replacement) is the only one who gets better at skills. And speaking of skills it uses a simple x in d6 system. There’s even a pretty easy encumbrance system. Plus some new spells and variations of ideas on existing spells. So that’s the good part. The core game is fully usable and takes a few of the tropes into new and interesting directions.
A lot of people are put off by the graphic art. I mean really graphic. I’m not but I can understand the “Ew!” reaction that many folks have. But there are some free art-free PDF’s legally available over on Drivethru here and here.
I thought some of the early adventures; A Single Small Cut, Scenic Dunnsmouth, and Weird New World; were pretty good. But as time wore on the adventures became more and more one-way death traps or shock just for shock value. You know sort of like Spinal Tap, “The shock goes to 11.”
Now, you can’t think about Lamentations of the Flame Princess without bringing up controversy. In hindsight, it seems that controversy and shock value were the marketing plan. There’s always been some sort drama surrounding the game. It was the art. It was personalities. Or something. Back in the days of G+, it seems like there was one every month or so. IMHO, all the drama and the “Shock Factor 11” adventures just wore out a lot of the fan base. I know it did me. So I pretty much stopped paying attention to it.
And there’s one more 800 pound gorilla out there. The now infamous Ref Book Indiegogo Campaign. Yes, I backed it. That was like 7 years ago. The last update on the campaign was in February and with the recent financial problems, it might be another 7 years if at all. Of course, a lot of folks are a bit pissed considering all the other stuff that’s been published. Crap, he had the money to make promotional buckets. Yes, buckets… You might be able still get one. No Ref Book but you can have bucket.