Categories
Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: The Excellent Travelling Volume, issues 1-4

The Excellent Travelling Volume is a print-only Tékumel fanzine by James Maliszewski, offering up a host of content for Empire of the Petal Throne.

James’ work tends to be polished and thoughtfully considered, and that’s a big part of what I like about it. I wanted to see how that translated into a zine, and I’m always curious about Empire of the Petal Throne, so I took the plunge.[1] What’s between each issue’s covers is polished, thoughtfully considered support material for Empire of the Petal Throne.

Highlights

TETV is a licensed Tékumel product, and James is clearly a fan of M.A.R. Barker and his work — plus, he’s running an EPT campaign as he produces this zine. All of that comes together to make a nifty resource.

Here’s my favorite thing from each issue:

  • Issue 1: This issue lays the foundation for what’s to come, much like the first issue of Wormskin, so it’s full of stuff a new EPT GM might need — often accompanied by observations about EPT and Tékumel. My favorite is Magical Devices, a regular column full of new magic items. The accompanying note points out that magic items in EPT are meant to be unique (with rare exceptions), and once discovered shouldn’t be available for future random treasure rolls. Cue the ongoing need for more magic items, like the six on offer here. The Aeonian Donjon of Nrashkéme imprisons anyone who touches it just so in another dimension, while the Mace of Vanquishing the Less-Than-Men has a chance to disintegrate nonhumans when it strikes them. I love flavorful magic items, and these are great.
  • Issue 2: By default, EPT assumes new PCs are strangers in a strange land (abrogating the need for players to learn the setting material, and preserving the joy of exploration), and they need someplace to start out, The city of Sokátis (beautifully mapped below) is just the ticket. This piece covers its factions, just enough backstory to be interesting, a chunk of its underworld, and a list of notable locations. It’s plenty to get things rolling, and later issues include more.
  • Issue 3: I love monsters and devil’s choices, so when the two combine my ears perk up. One of the demons in Demons of Ksárul and Grugáru, the Llyanmákchi (shown below), does just that: Make her an offering of childrens’ hands and feet, and she can be summoned to perform tasks — like teaching a PC skills or spells, or forming up a mob of lesser demons for sinister purposes. Sweet.
  • Issue 4: Another regular column, Patrons, provides more — and more fully fleshed-out — patrons for starting Tékumel PCs. These NPCs want things, they have means of rewarding PCs who help them, and they have connections to the setting. On top of that, each one includes four ways to use them, making them easy to fold into a game. I like pregenerated NPCs like this (obviously!), and like everything in TETV they also meet a specific EPT need.

If you’re reading this and wondering how much TETV material might be useful in your non-EPT game, I’d say 60%-75% of each issue is broadly compatible with all flavors of old-school D&D. But where 100% of it will shine is in an EPT campaign.

Fantastic artwork

James’ writing is accompanied by some truly stellar artwork. TETV is lighter on artwork than most of the other zines I’ve looked at recently, but it uses its art budget well.

(Jason Sholtis)

(Victor Raymond)

(I can’t figure out who did this one)

The Excellent Travelling Volume is a neat zine, different in tone than any of the others I’ve been reading. It further piques my interest in running an EPT game, something I’ve been meaning to do for years, and I like knowing that practical, immediately useful support material from James’ ongoing campaign is readily available.

If you’re in the market for a different sort of OSR zine, or of course if you’re running an EPT campaign, take a peek at The Excellent Travelling Volume.

[1] As I write this, issue 5 has just come out. I could have waited for it before writing this post, but that way lies madness!

Categories
DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Crawling Under a Broken Moon, issues 1-12

Crawling Under a Broken Moon (also available on DriveThruRPG) is a DCC RPG zine absolutely packed with gonzo post-apocalyptic goodness. Designed, published, and frequently written and illustrated by Reid San Filippo (with other collaborators, depending on the issue), it wears its love of Thundarr the Barbarian (and other iconic ’80s media) on its sleeve, and it’s rawlished and marvelous.

(Update: There’s now a full setting sourcebook for Umerica, The Umerican Survival Guide.)

I’ve never seen Thundarr[1], but it’s clear Reid loves it — and, based on CUaBM, it’s one hell of a good fit for DCC. Here’s a snippet from the intro to issue 1, which describes CUaBM’s setting, Umerica:

Welcome to the twisted hills and boiling plains of Umerica, a post apocalyptic version of the Americas centuries after a cosmic event changed the very rules of reality. Now the land is full of powerful sorcery, alien super science, and strange mutants.

I’d initially heard that CUaBM was “post-apocalyptic DCC” and decided not to pick it up because that didn’t sound like something I needed, but I kept circling back to it — and I’m glad I did. “Post-apocalyptic fantasy” puts the dial in a fun place, and CUaBM is great. I spotted lots of stuff in these issues that I could drop right into my non-post apocalyptic DCC campaign, too.

So many great covers

CUaBM’s appeal starts with the covers. Here are my two favorites, no. 8’s piece by Nate Marcel, and no. 12’s cover by Claytonian JP and Matt Hildebrand:

If “cannibal Ronald McDonald” sounds like something you’d love to sic on your DCC players, then CUaBM will be right up your Happy Meal.

The highlight of each issue

So what’s inside? Here’s my favorite thing from each of the first 12 issues:

  • Issue 1: I love the Technologist class, which is kind of like a “science thief.” Its class abilities all involve tinkering with and reprogramming found tech, from robots to vehicles — with lots of tables. The d16 failure tables are a hoot, but the best stuff is on the table for alien devices. For example, on a 1-3, “An alien intelligence gets downloaded into the Technologist’s mind. When they sleep, the intelligence takes over the body and goes about its unfathomable business.” I’d play one just for the chance that might happen!
  • Issue 2: “Interesting Places to Die” is a dungeon (SPOILERS), the Floating Tower of the Cyberhive. Situated in a crater, it hovers over a lake of boiling mud, and inside are zombie monks, a dangerous power chamber with golden spikes to steal, and a lab where robo-liches are made. Plus, the whole place is an AI-controlled extradimensional space.
  • Issue 3: This is the issue where it becomes clear that CUaBM is building the setting of Umerica one zine at a time, because this one has character creation rules for 0-level Umericans, plus a funnel: “The Mall Maul.” The cleverest thing about this funnel is that its completion is resource-based: To level, the scrubs have to recover X amount of stuff. And if they do, they may not have gotten all of the available stuff, a nice open-ended challenge if they want to venture back into the mall.
  • Issue 4: I like all three of the patrons in this issue, but I have to single out Theszolokomodra, a multidimensional hydra with a thousand heads. It can grant visions of the future, force the GM to answer a question about the current adventure, cause the spellcaster to grow extra heads, or give her multiple personalities.
  • Issue 5:Twisted Menagerie” is CUaBM’s regular bestiary feature, and this issue’s entry is a standout. I like creatures with random abilities or traits because they offer a lot of interesting variety, so this issue’s serpentoids, whose consumption of mutagenic herbs warps their bodies, and un men, whose high-tech cyborg bodies feature random (and deadly) gear, are right up my apple cart.
  • Issue 6: There’s plenty of good stuff in the vehicle issue, but I particularly enjoy “Popping the Hood,” which hacks DCC’s “recovering the body” rules to apply to vehicles. If a vehicle is damaged, rather than totaled, this issue’s Petrol Head class is just the ticket to get it working again.
  • Issue 7: CUaBM’s issue themes are tightly executed, and this one is a great example. Built around railroads, aircraft, and power suits, it offers up a suite of related content. My favorite bit is “The Rail Wastes,” an encounter table for the cleared land that borders every railway line. And it’s a 3d3 table to boot, for maximum DCC-ness.
  • Issue 8: Issues 8 and 9 are the alphabet issues, with A-M in this one and N-Z in the next, along the lines of The Monster Alphabet. I’m a fan of “F is for Factions,” a d12 table containing random factions. Here’s #7: “The Tattered Kings are a vicious bloodthirsty biker gang. Grtanted sorcerous powers by their patron, known only as the “Unspoken”, they ride through the wasteland on hellish supernatural vehicles looking for human sacrifices.” That’s exactly the amount of detail I need to drop these hell-bikers rights into play.
  • Issue 9: I’m a sucker for good random weather mechanics, and “W is for Weather of the Wastelands” is the best subsystem for weather I’ve ever seen. It uses a d3-d3 roll and a grid, with each square containing a weather condition. The GM plots points on the grid based on the coordinates of the roll to determine weather every d14 hours. That alone is cool. But it also communicates a lot about Umerica’s wastelands as a setting through those weather conditions: This is a place where burning mud storms and freak storms which drop sugar-dye rain, spiders, or imps shooting hellfire blasts aren’t uncommon occurrences.
  • Issue 10: By the time I hit the monster issue, I knew what it treat it would be. And it fucking delivers. I want to share them all, but I only get one — and it has to be the jack-o-rang-utans. Anyone trying to tame the wilds risks the wrath of these pumpkin-headed apes, who throw burning shit and unleash a fear-inducing cacophony on interlopers.
  • Issue 11: I could go with my favorite god (lots of options), or the Umerican halfling re-skin (think Feral Kid from Road Warrior), but my pick has to be another class: the Hologram. The Hologram is a Tron frisbee with a program attached, which has escaped from the cyberspace of yore and roams Umerica. Like issue 1’s Technologist, this is a class that makes me want to bug one of my players to start an Umerica DCC game so I can play it.
  • Issue 12: And yet again, I have to highlight a class! This time it’s the Clownight. “These disciples of Buddy O’Burger – god of feasting, customer service, and cannibalism – appear as humans wearing clown makeup except all of the garish coloration, bulbous nose, and outlandish hair are their actual body and facial features.” Clownights can unhinge their fang-filled jaws, bite their victims, and use the flesh they consume to enter a FoodRage.

Groovy artwork

You know what else I dig? The artwork! Here are four of my favorite pieces across the whole run.

(uncredited)[2]

(Claytonian JP)

(uncredited)

(Frank Turfler Jr.)

I’m not sure what it is about the DCC community that makes its zine game so fucking strong, but there’s no denying it. CUaBM is the fourth DCC zine I’ve written about here (I’ve also done roundups of Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, Crawl!, and The Gongfarmer’s Almanac), and not only are all four of them excellent, but they all coexist beautifully — complementing one another, with not an ounce of redundancy.

I can’t wait for issue 13 of Crawling Under a Broken Moon. Bring it on!

Or better still, bring on Umerica: The Sourcebook, which collects and lightly expands the contents of CUaBM in book form. Instant buy/Kickstarter back for me.

[1] I know, I know. Someday! It does sound right up my alley.

[2] There are art credits in the front of the issue, but nothing connecting unsigned pieces to their respective artists.

Categories
Tabletop RPGs Zines

The Zine Vault, a rather nice box for your zines

I’ve been buying old-school fantasy RPG zines like a madman (and writing about them here on Yore), and storing them was becoming a bit unwieldy. Enter the Zine Vault, from Stormlord Publishing.

It’s box! Specifically, a stout little 9″x6″x1.375″ box with a sharp black interior, the perfect size for most RPG zines. (But not all! Measure first.)

Here’s one of mine with a copy of Crawling Under a Broken Moon inside:

To store a whole pile of zines inside a Zine Vault, I divide the heap in half and flip one half over.[1] I can fit 10 issues of CUABM in there neatly, but fewer issues of, say, The Gongfermer’s Almanac, which is a thicker zine.

I can actually squeeze all 12 current issues, plus the bonus issue, in one box, provided it’s shelved with some other stuff to keep it closed. And that’s one of the big benefits of these little boxes: They make it possible to neatly shelve a whole bunch of zines.

Here’s the vault all closed up:

At $25 for four boxes, Zine Vaults aren’t cheap, but they’re a priced right for a niche product that’s quite well-made, and which works just as intended. I like them.

I’ve filled three of them, and just half of my fourth one is still open for business, so in all likelihood I’ll wind up ordering another pack of them before too long.

[1] For extra efficiency, flip over every other zine. I often store the contents of RPG boxed sets this way, as it keeps the books from developing a curve over time.

Categories
Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols, issues 1-6

I love weird gaming zines, and Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols[1] is one of my favorites. I bought the compilation of issues 1-6 on Lulu ($17), and it’s a delight.

If you like Castle Amber, Expedition to the Barrier Peaks, or Anomalous Subsurface Environment, you’ll dig WMLP. It’s got gonzo, it’s got science-fantasy, and it’s got funhouse — but it’s also a mishmash in the spirit OD&D, with its mélange of component elements and influences.

Bryce Lynch turned me onto WMLP with his review of issues 3 and 4. Bryce is a brutally frank reviewer, and our tastes in old-school gaming books are pretty similar, so when he gushes about something I generally buy it.

Here’s one of Bryce’s highlights:

The encounters here are exactly what you would expect from an OD&D adventure. A little goofball, a little weird, a lot of THE FANTASTIC. It is the type of feel I equate with OD&D and exactly what I’m looking for. A world where everything seems fresh and new again and the players get to experience something similar to the very first time they met a gelatinous cube or a fell in a bit [sic]. It’s the world of Whimsy and Wonder.

The artwork is wonderfully OD&D-esque, too. Here’s the cover of issue 2, by “Dr. Brainus Mangenius, Psy D.”

Beneath the Ruins: Kihago Megadungeon

The highlight of issues 1-6 is also the anchor of each issue: the levels of the Kihago megadungeon, by Alex Fotinakes, collectively titled “Beneath the Ruins.” If that title sounds familiar, it’s because the first level of Kihago is also offered in Beneath the Ruins, the first volume of the Psychedelic Fantasies series of modules.

Lately I’ve been reading OD&D and really digging it, so the idea of an OD&D megadungeon is right up my apple cart. The presentation is sparse, without read-aloud text, and short on background — basically my favorite approach across the board. More than enough to run with, but not so much that your creativity is stifled.

Some of my favorite bits from Kihago (spoilers abound, though I’ve tried to keep them fairly mild):

  • The Eye of the Immortal, a TV that occasionally plays episodes of Three’s Company. It’s held in high regard by one of the factions on the first level, the Luminites.
  • Yeast puddles which can infect careless PCs, turning them into yeast zombies if the infection isn’t dealt with.
  • A cloning chamber. You know what rules you need for a cloning chamber? Pretty much none, in my book, and that’s how it’s presented here. In one paragraph, you’ve got a dungeon- and campaign-changing room.
  • Nosferoggu (vampire frogs), flamingodiles (guess!), the drunk ghost of a psionic ninja — Kihago is packed with monsters like these. That kind of gonzo can be hard to pull off (try too hard and it feels forced, phone it in and it feels lifeless), but Kihago nails it.
  • Level four, a vast, wide-open cavern (with some distinct areas), is going to be a playground of interesting stuff by the time the PCs reach it. Kihago has factions and intelligent denizens, and a big, open area is rife with opportunities for luring tougher foes to their deaths, playing factions against each other, etc.
  • And oh, the factions! Level five has bidepal fly-people covered in shit vs. feral cat people. Level four features a savage tribe led by Mike Mickelson, KTLA sports anchor, who found himself (and his control room, which of course you can find) transported to Kihago and decided to make the best of it. And on and on — inventive, amusing, whimsical, but also meaty and rich with inspiration.
  • The wraiths on level 5 who want the head of the summoner on level 3, and will share a valuable secret if it’s delivered to them. Call-backs and intra-dungeon goals are awesome, and I love this one.
  • A closet which hides an energy nexus capable of recharging magic items. It’s hidden, but not impossibly so — a great balance for encouraging exploration.

I could go on — and on! — but hopefully you get the idea. Kihago is a fantastic megadungeon, and one I’d love to run as written. Grab the LBBs and go. (Or another flavor of D&D, but that’s the flavor that seems to dovetail best with how I see Kihago.)

Other highlights

Looking only at Kihago would be doing WMLP a disservice, because it’s not the only gold in them thar hills. Here are a few more highlights:

  • There’s the animator class (issue #1), who can draw stuff and then animate it; after a couple levels, that includes tattoos. The animator’s spell list is all stuff, like doors and animals and so forth. It’s a clever class.
  • Creating a Chimera,” from issue #5, is a page of tables for making patchwork hybrids. Like so: body of an anteater, two zebra heads, two pairs of lobster arms, the legs of a sloth, and it has a wasp stinger. Toss that into a random encounter and see what happens.
  • Need a weird character background? “Something rad!!!!!!![2] (issue #6) delivers: You’re a prolific sperm donor. Or maybe a refugee from the Peanut Butter Wars, or a slave to Lady Jessica. It does settings, too: This place is like medieval Persia, but with sixguns and wagons, and it’s got regicidal vampires.

Because I own it as a book, I look at WMLP as a book. That book, for me, is mainly about its stellar megadungeon — but like delicious gravy, I also get some other fun stuff alongside it. Wizards Mutants Laser Pistols is a great zine, and the compilation of issues 1-6 is easy to recommend.

[1] Confusingly, it’s sometimes referred to as “Wizards Mutants Lazer Pistols.”

[2] Yes, I counted the exclamation points. Such is my dedication to science!

Categories
DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: The Gongfarmer’s Almanac, issues 1-6

The Gongfarmer’s Almanac is a free, community-created DCC RPG Fanzine — that link leads to the full run in PDF.

If you don’t want to print it out yourself, see this G+ post from Jon Hershberger for other options. I ordered the complete run from him for about $7 — yes, $7 total. (They came stapled but unfolded, and my folding job leaves a lot to be desired!)

I confess that I’m sometimes wary when RPG stuff is free, particularly stuff that’s available in print. On the flipside, I’ve written hundreds of free articles, I make free tools, etc. — free is good! I’m a big believer in free.

In the case of GFA, free is awesome. The Gongfarmer’s Almanac is excellent, made with love by folks who know their DCC, and it’s absolutely worth adding to your collection.

So what’s in there? All sorts of stuff! As I’ve done in past zine roundups, here’s my favorite piece from each issue of GFA:

  • Issue #1: This issue is a strong start to the run, but I have to go with “Gold and Glory Beyond the Grave,” which is all about playing undead PCs (by way of species-as-classes). It’s fucking metal. Want to be a ghost? You can manifest a phlogiston weapon, possess people, and become incorporeal. How about a skeleton warrior? You get a save whenever damage would kill you, and if you succeed you return to life with a few HP. Awesome.
  • Issue #2: Ghrelin, the Demon Lord of Hunger and Starvation, is one hell of a creepy patron. Invocations can ravage the earth or summon wasteland zombies, taint starves the caster and surrounds her with rot, and spellburn can result in gobbets of the caster’s flesh being torn away. Ghrelin would be right at home in Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay’s Old World.
  • Issue #3: Peter Mullen both wrote and illustrated a dungeon in this issue, “The Marvelous Myriad Myconid Caverns,” and it’s a delight. It includes trolls who communicate in Morse code by tapping on the walls, slime that causes earthquakes, a giant spider named Edgar, and a sword, Gorgosaurus, which bites opponents and demands to be fed.
  • Issue #4: I love tables, and Tim Callahan’s “The Crawling Castle of Crumblethorn and Other Architectural Horrors” is a little toolkit for generating weird places using d7 rolls. (It reminds me of The Tome of Adventure Design.) Rolling 5, 2, 4 got me the Hovering Keep of Crystalgrim; a 3 tells me that the place will contact one PC and ask to be “fed” undead; and a final roll, a 2, turned up a covered painting that, if uncovered, can do all sorts of weird things to the PCs. I’d buy a whole book of these.
  • Issue #5: When I started reading OSR zines, one of the first things I thought was, “I wish there was an index for all this great stuff!” Thanks to issue #5, there is, at least for nine (!) DCC zines published through July 2015. It’s really a collection of indexes, one each for the categories you’d expect: monsters, adventures, etc. So useful!
  • Issue #6: Need to make higher-level DCC characters, but don’t want to sacrifice the flavor and joy of the funnel completely? Enter “The Virtual Funnel.” Not only is the funnel part great (make four 0-levels, roll on a harrowing table), but the article also includes a separate 2d5 table for the events that shaped the funnel survivor’s later levels.

Every issue of GFA has the same (awesome!) Doug Kovacs cover, so I want to take a moment to share some of the interior art. Here are several pieces that grabbed me:

Boom, the splash page for issue 1, illustrated by Marc Radle!

(Craig Brasco, I think)

(Michael Bukowski)

(Peter Mullen)

(Mez Toons)

Here’s the download link again: The Gongfarmer’s Almanac. If you prefer print to PDF, print it out or bug Jon and see if he’ll do it for you. I highly recommend this zine!

Categories
Old school Zines

Matt Jackson’s guide to making zines

This step-by-step guide to printing, folding, and trimming zines by Matt Jackson is full of hard-won tips from the trenches. Things like adding “stops” to your long stapler with rubber bands to save time, and using a bone folder to fold the pages; I’d never heard of a bone folder before reading Matt’s post.

The Bone Folder. It sounds stupid but you MUST have one of these. Initially I refused to pay a couple of bucks for a simple piece of plastic, but boy was that stupid. I tried a few other things that appeared to be similar that I found around the house but there is some sort of voodoo magic used in the making of these things.

Tips like this one seem like things that could save wasted time, ink, and paper:

When folding especially thick paper or a thick book I break up the pages into small batches. As many pieces of paper fold, they don’t always line up correctly and you end up with terrible edges. Folding them in smaller groups makes the lines much better.

He even uses a corner rounder, which I don’t think I’ve seen on a zine before. I’ve seen rounded corners on little non-zine booklets, but I assumed that was a print shop sort of thing.

It’s hard for me to write about zines without wanting to try my hand at them, and Matt’s post makes it all sound pretty doable. I like zines, I like making stuff, I like quirky gaming supplements — zines live right at the intersection of All That Ave. and But You Don’t Need Another Project St. But it’s tempting! And Matt’s guide looks like an excellent starting point.

Categories
Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Wormskin #1

Is it a “roundup” if there’s only one issue? I don’t know, but I want to blog about Wormskin anyway! I’m still feeling out my approach to zine posts; this one turned into more of a full-blown review.

Wormskin is a brand-new OSR zine by Greg Gorgonmilk and Gavin Norman, available on DriveThruRPG in both print and PDF.

The blurb on the back cover gives you a good idea of what Wormskin is all about:

WORMSKIN explores the mythic forest called Dolmenwood, a setting for use with BX campaigns or similar tabletop systems. Each issue will look at various elements of this eldritch realm situated on the leafy verges of Faerie, where austere Drunes rub elbows with weird elf-lords and talking beasts, where witches wander skyclad and armed with sinister magicks to bind the spirits of hapless adventurers. Be wary.

The first issue of Wormskin both teases and delivers. It teases because I’m left wanting to know much more about Dolmenwood and its inhabitants. There’s also a great little hex map absolutely covered in teasers: Manse of Lord Malbleat, Fort Vulgar, Prigwort — I want to know more!

I’ve never done much with Faerie, or related realms, in my D&D games, and Dolmenwood begs to be dropped into a game as a tone-changing surprise. I’m excited for future issues.

But it also delivers, because what’s on offer is excellent:

  • The moss dwarf species/class is just superb. It’s weird and funny and spooky and a little bit nuts, and it makes a great emissary for Dolmenwood. They’re plant-like, with associated traits: patches of lichen growing on their bodies, chest hair made of parsley, that sort of thing. They also get randomly determined knacks, my favorite of which is “nose wise” — at 7th level, the dwarf can smell subterfuge.
  • Mushrooms! I’ve always loved fungi in D&D, and the d30 fungus table is awash in splendid examples. Like cuckoo puke, which looks like a blob of slime, drab grey in color; smells sour; tastes like fish; and is psychoactive, anthropomorphising everything around you while its effects linger. The rest of the table is just as good.
  • Grimalkins are another species/class, cat-folk who are one part Cheshire Cat and one part folklore. They don’t grab me quite as much as moss dwarfs, but based on what this issue reveals about Dolmenwood they feel right at home there.
  • Closing out this issue is a monster, the root thing. Root things are “humanoid root vegetables which emerge from the soil in autumn to hunt hapless humans and demi-humans. Eyeless and mouthless, root things [hunt] by scent alone and drag their victims beneath the earth to be digested over the winter months, entwined in roots.” If the movie Labyrinth dropped acid, the root thing would be in it.

The moss dwarf article also includes my favorite illustration in issue #1, this piece by Andrew Walter:

There’s a unity of vision and purpose to Wormskin — it’s clear that Greg and Gavin know what’s coming, and are as jazzed about sharing it as I am about reading it. While the look is polished, the overall feel of the issue is rawlished: The creative vision behind Dolmenwood is uniquely quirky, and it feels like something the authors would have written even if no one else was going to read it.

If that sounds like your tub of monkskull[1] jam, pick up a copy of Wormskin #1.

[1] Another mushroom from the fungus article!

Categories
DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Crawl!, issues 1-11

Crawl! (also available on DriveThruRPG) is a DCC RPG fanzine designed and published by Dak Ultimak, with a rotating cast of writers (which often includes Dak). I recently snagged the full run, and this zine is really, really well conceived and executed. It’s rawlished — both raw and polished at the same time, which is a balance I enjoy in zines. And it’s hard to pull off!

Crawl! also pairs well with Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, the subject of my first zine roundup.

The Crawl! blog lists the contents of every issue, so I’m not going to do that. Instead, here’s my favorite thing from each issue (it was often hard to choose just one!):

  • Issue 1: The last article in this issue is a gem: spell conversion rules for non-DCC spells, in just two digest-size pages. Want to port a D&D spell into DCC, or play a D&D character in a DCC campaign? Boom. Spells are covered. (Special mention: the spell “Snafufubar,” new in this issue.)
  • Issue 2: “Be Prepared,” which covers new equipment, is a gem. DCC pricing, and flavor, for everything from lodging to bow drills to lutes to glass eyes (for those inevitable funnel-related manglings) — all in two pages. I’d love to see this folded together with the core book’s equipment list.
  • Issue 3: “Magic Wand,” a multi-page spell that enables the caster to create a kickass wand, is a strong choice, but it’s edged out by “Let’s Get Familiar,” which expands the options for familiars to include floating tesseracts, stained-glass butterflies, and crawling hands.
  • Issue 4: The entirety of issue #4 is an adventure, the highlight of which is its monsters. They include venomous deathwolves, door frame mimics, and living flesh mounds. The latter are particularly gruesome: They have a chance to absorb victims’ limbs on a successful attack.
  • Issue 5: I dropped “Quickie Wandering Monster Tables” straight into my DCC campaign, resisting my inclination to build my own charts by terrain type in favor of doing nothing and using Jeff Rients’ excellent work instead.
  • Issue 6: I’m not big on new classes, and this is the new class issue…but the gnome is great. Gnomes are illusionists, and they get a Trick Die added to their spellcasting that makes it less likely their spells will fail. They can also cast sturdy illusions, which become tangible, and scripted — triggered or time-based — illusions. Neat!
  • Issue 7: Kirin Robinson’s article “Lost in Endless Corridors” takes a hard, sharp look at including mazes in games, why they often suck, and how to make them not suck.
  • Issue 8: This one’s all about guns, and while the gun rules themselves are slick and very DCC, “Invasion!” is awesome. It’s a toolkit for introducing firearms into your game by way of alien invaders. The invaders might be rum-soaked Napoleonic soldiers who came through a wormhole and crave your blood, or they might be demons from across the sea, staves barking fire, who hunt you like game. This is one of my favorite articles out of the entire Crawl! run to date.
  • Issue 9: Like issue #4, this one’s all adventure — the 0-level funnel “The Arwich Grinder.” It starts with weird redneck hillfolk and winds up in madness and giant, invisible babies and cannibalism. It’s fantastic.
  • Issue 10: #11 is classes again, but these grab me more — they’re alternate species-based classes. The dwarven priest is my favorite, managing to feel both very D&D and very DCC, with Mighty Deeds, divine aid, and the ability to smell treasure.
  • Issue 11: “Fantastic Forms of Sea Ship Propulsion and Their Congenital Complications” is a great article, offering up ships powered by moonlight, pulled by giant eels, or with wind-wraiths filling their web-like sails.

I also dig Crawl!’s covers, particularly these three.

(Scott Ackerman)

(Mitchell Hudson)

(Mario T.)

I’d heard nothing but good things about Crawl!, and it doesn’t disappoint. My “blind buy” of the full run (about $3-$5 per issue) was well worth it. Highly recommended!

Categories
DCC RPG Old school Tabletop RPGs Zines

Zine roundup: Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad, issues 1-3

Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad (also available on DriveThruRPG) is a joint production by Wayne Snyder, Edgar Johnson, and Adam Muszkiewicz. Metal Gods is the “DCC is like the best heavy metal album covers” of zines. It’s rarr and gonzo and awesome and rawlished, and I love it. I wish there were more than three issues!

I like all three issues, but the highlight in each of them is an adventure (SPOILERS):

  • Issue 1: Street Kids of Ur-Hadad – This is a street urchin funnel, the only urban funnel I’m aware of. The city and rival gangs are both procedurally generated by rolling every die in the DCC chain, all at once — d3 through d30. And if you ever have 6-6-6 across your rolls, there’s a whole other table of weird shit to mix in. This looks like it’d be fun to roll up, run, and play, and boy does “you’re a street kid” drive home the funnel-ness of a funnel.
  • Issue 2: Secrets of the Serpent Moon – This adventure starts with the PCs waking up in a moon base, as mutants. You can have two heads, wings, a conjoined twin; it’s good stuff. There are splendid tables for hazards, experiments, transportation, and other aspects of the moon base, all full of inspiring ideas and winks at sci-fi tropes. Recommended for “throwaway” PCs, and looks amazing for convention play.
  • Issue 3: The Heist! – This is a toolkit for creating a heist adventure, including random patrons, marks, heat, and loot. It’s built around movie tropes, which makes a lot of sense, and it looks like it’d play out a bit like a movie, too. I’m pretty sure you could make five die rolls, think for five minutes, and run this. It’s that solid.

If there was a subscription option, I’d be a subscriber. Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad is fantastic, and I highly recommend it.

Categories
Old school Tabletop RPGs

“Rawlished”

I was noodling about zines and the “raw but polished” quality that attracts me to the ones I like best (most recently the DCC RPG zines Metal Gods of Ur-Hadad and Crawl!), and it occurred to me that the portmanteau “rawlished” might actually be useful.

It describes a lot of my favorite old school fantasy stuff, not just zines. Raw because it involves creativity unfettered by fucks, polished because it didn’t just get shat out with no concern for quality.

I also like that it’s a near-homophone for relished, which is quite appropriate.