[Review] Fire on the Velvet Horizon (OSR/Avant-garde); Admirable but Mistaken

[Monster manual/fluffsplat]
Fire on the Velvet Horizon (2017)
Patrick Stewart & Scrapprincess
Short summary: Pokémon + Monster Hunter + Planescape + Fantastical Beasts and Where to Find them + Serotonin reuptake inhibitors

I am fucking back. After perusing Fire on the Velvet Horizon literally one page at a time whilst taking time off to kick my Langrisser habit by beating it, discuss my upcoming project, get to work, watch Conor Mcgregor vs Khabid Nurmagomedov live at 6 in the morning, sleep occasionally and howl madly at the moon, I realized the first question I needed to answer satisfactorily before I could start is how do you even review a monster manual?

Bereft of a system robust and comprehensive enough to tackle the bulk of manuals, let alone the exceptions, we are left with little recourse but to slap one together in the heat of the moment, trusting to superior penmanship and keen observational insight to win the day where a carefully categorized system would have been helpful. Fire on the Velvet Horizon is a 124 page monstrous manual, a really fucking weird monstrous manual from a really fucking weird designer/writer and as such it was hard to review because it was hard to figure out what exactly it was and wanted to be.

This review is written from the point of view that it is, first and foremost, a product designed to be used at the table, a grotesquely unfair perspective considering it has neither monster stats nor spiffy prestige classes and much of its merit (judging from the handful of positive reviews I have managed to scrounge together from the pink and fluffy corners of the internet) is derived from the presentation and the art-style, the poetry etc. etc. as much as the actual content and substance of the book.

While I managed to extort some observations from my artistically inclined (extremely non-gay [2]) partner that mentioned such trivia as ‘beautiful line work, like a starting Don Nace, great juxtaposition of art and background’ and the rather disparaging ‘the artist is not sophisticated in their use of colour,’ I was only able to offer uncomprehending nods in return, followed by mute autistic screeching whilst pointing to a 2,500 point Grey Knights army. I review elfgames damnit.

Fire on the Velvet Horizon is a grotesque and entirely appropriate fusion of the artfaggotry of Scrapprincess with the writefaggotry of Patrick Stuart (not the captain of the Enterprise, the OTHER one) to create exactly 100 pages of monsters and some trivia in the appendix. Each was cobbled together in the Marvel style, with Scrapprincess doing the art beforehand and Stuart using the art as basis for the writing, something that ultimately works to the benefit of the whole. For all of the subsequent gripes I can (and fucking will) levy at this, there is a certain undeniable harmony between the art and the writing.

FotVH starts off on a terrible foot by kneecapping itself right out of the gate. It unapologetically informs us it has NO STATS. Various excuses are then trotted out why it has NO STATS; stats are not avantgarde (implicit), anyone who can use our ridiculous monsters can decide whether or not it has 4 or 5 hit dice, convenience is a waste of time or something. This reasoning only makes sense if you accept the following assumptions;

1. OSR products are purchased in a sort of mirror-universe with bizarro principles of economy and only have value if their content cannot be reproduced by oneself, regardless of time constraints.
2. Integrating an idea into a roleplaying system is a practice so utterly trivial that it can safely be outsourced to the hands of you, the moronic, unwashed and dirt-fingered tabletop-gaming public, whilst the outre designer’s place is merely to cultivate the brilliant fruits of his god-like imagination from his lofty perch atop the Ivory Tower and thus inspire the aforementioned dull-headed proletariat rutting in the filth below it.
3. Time and resources are infinite or at least evenly distributed in bizarro land, negating any comparative advantage house-brand monster manual X might have by including said statts. Fuck statts, why even include page numbers?

So Fire of the Velvet Horizon is a collection of monsters and I find it hard to describe a collection of monsters (or at least this particular collection of monsters) since it is difficult to find attributes that apply to all of them while there are plenty of attributes that apply to some, but not all of them.

The book actually did a great job at winning back my good favor with its first entry, the Abhorrer, a creature whose entire concept revolves more around role-playing then direct combat and thus makes the inclusion of stats rather meaningless. Had the entire book been like that, I would have stricken my sneering invective from the record and instead prostrated myself before the altar of FotVH’s genius, but ah las, most of the monsters in this book would have benefited immensely from stats. The premise behind the Abhorrer is that it is some sort of Abberation-like slug that projects a reality-warping field around it in which it is impossible to break the law. It is, in fact, impossible even to be impolite. The creature enters cities, and will attempt to gain influence by its superb mastery of politics and law, where it will do its utmost best to utterly fuck up the place by getting laws passed that will make life in the city hell. Taking it out means you have to either frame it for a crime (since it cannot itself break laws) and legally sentencing it to death or overtuning the entire social order of the city. BAM! INSTANT HOOK!

One of the first commendable attributes of the writing is these types of creatures, many of which are not just bundles of qualities or stats but who carry in them the seeds of adventure. A cloud of feeble-mind inducing living gas can only be defeated by a cunning ruse, but because of its effect the plan must be simple enough so a moron can carry it out! The Lunaraptor is a bizarre creature that acts permanently confused and can only be harmed unintentionally. The Oranorn can only be killed by a team that manages to defeat its contradictory Geas attacks that it places on all who stand against it. The Predator Saint entry is a horrific animal skull shrine that is more a page long adventure description then any monster.

The monsters are weird, or perhaps bizarre, and this is both the books weakness and its greatest strength. Stuart’s creatures readily exist in multiple overlapping planes of reality, dream-worlds, mirror-places beneath the swamp, as incarnations of bizarre concept like ‘the shadows of manufactured things,’ have bizarre abilities, are living embodiments of Shame or Postmodernism or whathaveyou and are in general, very creative and strange. The downside is that many of them will be too damn strange to fling in a home campaign unless that home campaign happens to take place in settings so fucking magical they make Numenera or Planescape look like Game of Thrones. The monsters imply a sort of ersatz setting (like any neutral monster manual in itself) that Stuart fleshes out in a few entries, like the Living City of Thieves, The Melanic Moors (which can only be navigated by the insane or the drunk) and the Vent city of Jukai.
The monsters are downright bizarre, more like mad children’s boogiemen then any creature of wholesome legend, but I suppose to some this is a feature not a bug.

I think a crucial factor of anyone enjoying FotVH will be your suspension of disbelief and the degree to which you feel an idea can be enjoyed without having to be integrated into a coherent whole. Are you capable of accepting a world filled to the brim with bizarre monstrosities with physics that make faery-tales look like hard sf by comparison? Then you are in for a treat. A bird that steals teeth from corpses and serves other monsters as a sort of warning device. The hideous Eclipsor, a Fallen Star encapsulated in a body of Iron by mad star cultists. A monster with gastric acids that preserve iron and flesh in its stomach for centuries in a sort of stasis and vomits but once in a hundred years. The ideas are often interesting but the mechanics behind them are wonky as hell.
However, I should point out that this book has ANTHROPOMORPHIC BULL EVANGELIONS, THUMB SIZED EVIL ARMOURED MERCENARIES WITH FULLY AUTOMATIC SPELL WANDS, A POLTERGEIST THAT STEALS OTHER HAUNTED HOUSES LIKE A HERMIT CRAB, LIGHTNING-POWERED MAD-SCIENTIST CLOUD-LICHES AND A PLANAR SUPER-DEVIL THAT STEALS PATCHES OF PRIME MATERIAL PLANE AND DRIVES THEM TO HELL THROUGH THE ETHER WITH A GIANT BONE STEERING WHEEL AND DEMON PIRATE CREW.

A point in the favor of FotVH is its diversity of monsters. I mean this in the truest sense of the word. Unlike comparatively new monstrous manuals that tend to devolve into laundry lists of things you can kill for xp, many of the monsters in FotVH lend themselves incredibly well to a plethora of different scenarios. The Dreamons may be conjured to fetch any one item in exchange for a bizarre fetch quest in return. The Hostage Frog traps one person in its mouth and will then start levying demands, neccesitating more roleplaying/trickery. The Pickchicken functions more like a magic item then a monster, escaping the trap of its egg and attaching itself to the first creature it sees for several days and opening nearly any lock before vanishing within a few days. Plenty of creatures have valuable body parts, secrets, knowledge, skills or other attributes that makes it worth interacting with in ways that do not necessarily involve murder, though murder will obviously occupy the bulk of the interactions.

There are some themes that more or less tie this bizarre menagerie together, which I will expound upon now for no other reason then to deflect accusations of literary philistinism. Deep Time, Birds, Dream-realms, Deep-sea Creatures, Dinosaurs, creatures that exist in perspectives or dimensions different from ours, Creatures that cause or are fed/created by suicide, (Mostly) benevolent takes on traditionally evil female monsters, creatures from (a bizarre faery version of) outer space, Creatures that you can eat, Dogs, Bug-men, Bugs, MAGIC BEASTS.

Not included or very rare; Dragons, Undead (with two exceptions), traditional creatures of heaven and hell (with one bizarre exception), oozes and mundane animals (obviously).

Stuart creates a sort of coherence to this collection by establishing relations between some of his monsters. Some creatures serve primarily as minions to more powerful creatures (be it voluntarily or under duress), some, like the awesome Hex Dragoons serve as amoral mercenaries, and some creatures may be conjured up by anyone who knows the right ritual, [1] actually facilitating dungeon composition and complex encounters. Good on you for paying attention to that one, eat shit for leaving the stat work in the hands of the poor, tortured GM.

One of the weakest elements of the overall work is the writing, which might sound incongruous given the amount of praise that usually garners from other corners and the aforementioned creativity I lauded. After reading a two dozen pages it starts to get really grating. Stuart is a sucker for byzantine word choice and will readily throw around words like ‘griseous, xanthic and fluvious’ which, combined with a sort of postmodernist poetry that adheres to no fixed rhythm and page descriptions that drag on for a minimum of one page made the whole work tedious to assimilate at times. YOU might be swept away on winds of imagination and poetry but I just find it gets grating after a while. Stuart never uses one word or sentence when a paragraph will do.

Look at this shit:
…clothes , the race, the memory of the act , the knowledge of their innocence or guilt, the very reason for their life and death and life beyond, all are lost to an infinity of time and change. The memory has its life and shapes itself . They float like undulating flukes or strips of silk. Flat, simple, turtle-like heads, basic arms and bodies like long and crooked flags . The oldest are old indeed and have haunted species long extinct in worlds no one recalls.

The (f) is meant to indicate a new letter the author made up for this work.

(f)orn owls are three feet hiqh or more, grey-faced with eyes like gold infections infiltrating coal. Black their feathers are, darker than the night almost, black on
black like stains of ink upon a black cats back. Only when their faces turn and catch the light, or when they spread their winqs in flight can they be clearly seen. But still not heard. (F)orn Owls step silently and rarely move, in flight they make no sound. The grey down of their under-wings muffles even the movement of air. A flag shifting gently on a still summer clay makes more commotion than a (F)orn owls swoop. They could be right above you now, criss-crossing the dark.”

As a coffee table book, it might be pretty rad to show to your goth boyfriend but as a means of clearly communicating the author’s intent to a prospective reader it leaves something to be desired. Here is where the ‘book as art’ and the ‘book as tool’ schools start to clash. It took me forever to read through this thing because it is simultaneously very dense and very long-winded. And that is NOT a point in its favour.

The ideas of FotVH deserve praise even if some of them tend to be very fucking silly (the pickchicken) or too bizarre for a casual game but there is some shit here that I should point out. I feel the authors lost considerable steam when they got about three quarters into the book and you can tell because there are some entries that are just sub-par. A snake with a baby’s head sewed onto it just feels like its trying too hard, almost the entire letter S may be safely discarded with the exception of the Sanguinary Crane, Sunset Stork and Shame-Beast (FotVH has a lot of fucking birds, contributing to its pokemon-esque feel) and I feel some of the monsters are just retreads of prior entries. How many elemental creatures composed of some elements of ruined cities can you concoct before it becomes stale? If you make an omnibus you should always make sure the first and the last few entries are among your strongest work and in this case the work more or less peters out at around S, with a few blips to barely keep the pulse going.

Fuck I can rant on about this thing for hours. I’ve composed a sort of short literary device that I will perfunctorily dub the ‘Sneek-Prince Test” in order to give any prospective purchaser of teramorphic bestiaries some hint as to its actual contents. Perhaps it will provide a glimpse into the contents of the work where mere words have failed.

Largest/Most Powerful Creature (tied); Mile-long Ante-primordial Cosmic Serpent made of darkness that causes catastrophes but also protects the world from extraterrestrial terafauna.
Most Harmless; tiny spider that lives in your pocket and captures stray thoughts in web, which may be eaten
Palette Swap; The Paradusa is a medusa variant that can turn stone statues back to life. The Hydra-moray is merely a variant of aquatic hydra.
Lovecraftian; Race of destruction causing entities hailing from earth’s cataclysmic dawn seeking to prolong their existence by stealing the released energies in our own dimension.
Nightmare Fuel;  Bug with naturally occuring glyph colouration immune to harm or molestation, crawls on body, nests in eye, lays eggs. Extra-terrestrial divine parasite ape whose bites are subconsciously forgotten by its victims.
Most Edgy;  Race of once noble humans that now form secret cult of pidgeon-shapechanging murderers. Led by half-pidgeon humans. Must ingest live pidgeon to join. Embrace the cringe.
Humanoid:  Potemkinmen are humanoids that imitate men by building fake villages, wearing masks (even of other potemkinmen) and waging war with strange ‘war-puppets” in the form of knights.
Dark Beauty; A sanguinary crane is a transparent blood-drinking bird beloved by amoral aristocrats for the beautiful red colour it gets when it has drunk from heartsblood.
Silly: Stegaloswans are stegalosaur analogues with the grace of swans thought semi-mythical.
Badass; Group of embittered veterans of war against faery kingdom. Irreversibly shrunk and largely forgotten, their sacrifices trivialized. Brutal, bitter and armed with fully-automatic recominant curse-wands and a grudge.
Most Kiel Chenier:  Race of naked Moon-angel baby creatures that compel everyone around them to caress them obscenely and can only return to the heavens if they can generate enough silver fire juice by thinking happy thoughts WHAT THE FUCK IS THIS SHIT?

And it’s a wrap. Don’t get me started on the damn art. It’s not boring or formulaic and it has a rough sort of 80s do it yourself charm to it, but I won’t argue with anyone who finds it is childish and some pieces are absolute garbage. I will concur with anyone that it fits the writing of Fire on the Velvet Horizon far better then Though Forgotten Otherworlds.

It’s Verdict time. What the fuck do I say about this thing? On the one hand it makes a tonne of interesting decisions and it avoids a tired rehash of beaten paths in favor of balls-to-the-walls faery-tale insanity. On the other hand it is long-winded, its lack of stats makes it hard to use, the monsters are too bizarre for most home games and fuck me if they didn’t run out of steam at about page 80. Whether this will appeal to you is very dependent on the sort of DnD you run.
I predict that if it is purchased by the dreaded casual GM it will likely languish somewhere in a dark corner of one’s elfgame shelf, pawed through with admiration and awe but seldom seen on a dungeon floor. The implied setting begs elaboration that I feel will be forthcoming (If I interpret Stuart’s blogposts correctly). An undeniably creative book, but not created with actual play in mind which is regrettable. I’ll readily recommend it to anyone who simply cannot get enough of Stuart’s unique brand of loggorheaic autism and will ingest hemlock on the certainty that this brand of fantasy bestiary would have been an unmitigated disaster in the hands of almost anyone else (imitators take note) but ultimately I wouldn’t use it for myself. 5 out of 10. Great ideas alone do not a great book make. Deliver the other half of the work and finish your shit and even the gods will praise you.

[1] A key assumption of fire on the Velvet Horizon, other then the existence of multitudinous dimensions and planes seems to be the ready availability of rituals that may be exercised by anyone with the correct knowledge.

[2] Kent made me put that in so both he and his extremely catholic mother can enjoy my blog in the evening by the computer while she prepares their microwave dinners

UPDATE: Stuart responds on Google Plus.

Some highlights;

It might be a negative review but he makes the book sound awesome in the process.

He at least put some effort in. Can’t say many reviewers do that. 

Stupatrick; I thought it was reasonably fair. He winds it up like its going to be negative and then, yeah, it comes out more 50/50?

Scrapprincess; ‘the artist is not sophisticated in their use of colour” fair

 

“Yeah that review would make me want to buy it.

What’s up with the recent trend of people who feel super strongly that something isn’t “done” until it has stats on everything?”

One: That’s awesome because a good review gives the audience an idea whether or not they would like it even if the reviewer himself has a different perspective.

Two; see 3-point rebuttal to the ‘no-statts argument’


While I am a bit miffed that Stuart did not instantly form a debilitating pipe-smoking habit whilst taking the RPGPundit route of ‘MY BOOK WAS SO GOOD IT FORCED SOMEONE THAT DESPISES ME TO GIVE IT A 5″ I can’t say I am not pleased by the responses so far.

I havent read the review yet. But i have to say, I like the layout of that blog. Nice choice of colors outside the crime of combining green tones with red image.

Dude what are you talking about it is fire that is cool and green like a dragon that is cool duh.

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28 thoughts on “[Review] Fire on the Velvet Horizon (OSR/Avant-garde); Admirable but Mistaken

  1. I think this was a very fair review. I’m a huge fan of some Patrick/Scrap joints, but this is them at their most indulgent. The lack of stats pushes this into pretentious territory, because it wouldn’t really have been hard. They could have dropped a few of the weaker monsters (didn’t make it all the way to “S,” but I’ll take your word on it) and spent some time on stats. I think Veins of the Earth is overall a much stronger product, but it falls prey to the pair’s excessively-artsy impulses in some places.

    Other than DCO, I think Stuart’s strongest work is Maze of the Blue Medusa. The commitment to table-readiness is on the opposite end of the scale from FotVH. Both Patrick and Zak get real artsy, but it’s justified by the fact that the dungeon is, among other things, an otherworldly art gallery. Another plus: one of the most beautiful books that I have owned.

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    1. You hit the nail on the head. Indulgent is EXACTLY how I would describe FotVH. Stuart is talented but he needs an editor to tell him to sit down, shut up and do his due diligence. I liked DCO a lot when it came out but as time passess the little niggling errors magnify in my mind and making me wonder if it was even made with actual play in mind.

      VotE is definitely on my reviewing list so I am curious to see what I shall make of that. I plan to tackle MotBM aswell but that might take a while considering its size and scope and my relative inexperience with megadungeons. We shall see.

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      1. It occurs to me why we need creators like Patrick, Scrap and Zak. Even when their works get a little pretentious and wanky, the fact that this material exists helps to show us the breadth of possibilities with role-playing games. Part of the reason I became interested in the OSR was because I read a mainstream article profiling Zak which got into stuff like A Red and Pleasant Land. I had long ago written off D&D as a place for juvenile and bland fantasy. Seeing that stuff really brings home the point that the rules are just a chassis on which you can hang almost any flavor of experience that suits your group. It didn’t hurt that stuff like ARaPL also sounded fun to play.

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      2. Personally, I think you overrate Zak but I think admiration for Stuart is justified (I’d point to something like Mckinney’s Carcosa instead of Smith’s RaPl). A healthy field needs both traditionalists and heretics/innovators to keep it fresh. My problem with a lot of this stuff is that it’s essentially stillborn. Much like latter era World of Darkness, a lot of this stuff seems made more to be admired from a distance then actually used in play. I find myself looking at works by Stuart and Zak and thinking ‘okay that’s really cool but no one is going to use this.’ I think Red and Pleasant Land, which I enjoyed reading for the record (I haven’t read MoBM so it will have to stand as Smith’s best work thus far), is a prime example of this. It’s stuff that is more fun to read but I wonder at its actual shelf life.

        It’s funny, what you describe you see in people like Stuart and Zak, I experienced with Mckinney and Jamal. I agree with you DnD in its contemporary form is so watered down it can seem kind of stale, but my solution would be to purify it and search for its roots (S&S not world of warcraft), not throw out the baby with the bathwater and try something entirely new. I think that’s what people like about Red Prophet Rises (among other stuff). It strikes at the core of what DnD is about, without all the baggage that grew around it later on.

        I very much believe Stuart has some good stuff in him left. I can’t wait to read Veins and Maze. Based on Frostbitten, I’d say Zak is either in a rut or has just run out of steam altogether.

        I’d like to see a RaPL actual play thread, but only if the creator is a massive Castlevania fan, which seems almost mandatory.

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      3. Well, I really like some of Zak’s stuff, but I’m not disagreeing with your assessment. I think you might be right about the rut, and some of his older works didn’t live up to the hype – Vornheim just didn’t connect with me. I still think that Red and Pleasant is terrific; I wouldn’t run an entire campaign there, but I could happily tuck it into the side of the main map. His edition of Death Frost Doom is an improvement over the original. And I think that Blue Medusa is probably his best work.

        But my point doesn’t rely on Zak being any kind of genius. In fact, my point is that it’s useful to have people like him experimenting with the medium. He doesn’t have to be a great author, although being godawful would be a detriment. I’m down with S&S and other original principles, but I think there’s plenty of room for other stuff, too. Experimentation is how we move things forward. Not every experiment is a success; in fact, if some trials don’t fail, then you’re probably not taking any risks. D&D was once an experiment. Do we lose anything by experimenting? I can’t think of any big downsides.

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      4. [Vornheim]

        Kent points it out later but its the central problem I have with all Zak stuff. It’got an immense potemkin village vibe to it. The places described do not feel lived in or organic. There is a video-gamey quality to all of them that makes it almost impossible to get immersed or to care about anything that is happening in them.

        [RaPL]

        I’ve played with the idea of throwing my pcs in there when I still ran Lotfp-serial-adventure marathons (which I wouldn’t mind getting back into for round 2) but recommended level 4-6 is tough for Lotfp. I think the Castles should be good fun. RaPl is his best work I’d say.

        [Experimentation]

        I mostly agree with you, though rampant experimentation into awful directions and an influx of clueless rubes is how we got saddled with 4e (and Ravenloft; the Railway simulator) respectively. A medium requires both experimentation and orthodoxy to survive. The OSR is relatively small scale so it genuinely doesn’t matter if people do stuff you do not like, anyone with a few hours and a handful of bucks can publish an adventure,so I’d agree that experimentation on the whole is a necessary component of the OSR. But as you say, most experiments fail, and in order for good to flourish, it must be pruned remorselessly. On the Shoulders of Giants and Something something something the Medusa (fuck if I can be bothered to check) are adventures in the style of Stupatrick and they SUCK, leading me to conclude that this direction of DnD might be be a dead end.

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      5. Sounds as though we are of almost like minds. I agree both with Red-n-Pleasant and Vornheim. And yes, that’s a good way of putting it…failed experiments should be gently but firmly “pruned” (I suspect you care less about the gentle part, but that’s just me).

        But I guess we’ll have to differ on Blue Medusa, assuming that’s the Medusa you’re talking about. I won’t get into a defense of it because I don’t know exactly what you hate about it, although I’m sure I can guess a few things. It is pretentious as fuck – no denial there – so I can kind of understand why some might hate it.

        Either way, I’m sure that I would enjoy reading your review of it; I’d probably even agree with a number of your criticisms. And is there a better way to cement your contrarian reputation than by tearing into everyone’s favorite Ennie winner?

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      6. One more thing:

        “…leading me to conclude that this direction of DnD might be be a dead end.”

        It might be! Or at least, this vein may be nearly tapped for the time being (no pun intended). It does seem as though the quality of these sorts of projects has been slowly decreasing. It may simply be the matter of a small number of creators who have said what they had to say.

        Isn’t it a strange thing for someone to become a professional artist? I think there are a lot of people who have a real but finite amount of originality. Once they have fully plumbed their personal outlook, they run out of things to say. Most bands that make a great album make only the one great album. Anything else seems to be an anomaly.

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      7. [Gentle Pruning]

        If I don’t push the Overton window on one end it keeps contracting. But a more truthful, less socially desirable answer would be that I enjoy this format and feel like my writing would suffer if I were to restrain myself in that regard.

        [medusa]

        No no it was…Ruinous Palace of the Metegorgos. It sucked. Check out the review on my blog if you are curious. Bryce liked it. I don’t understand why.

        [Contrarian]

        It’s easy to fall into that category and follow in the footsteps of YRIS but I actually try to always be fair, even if I don’t like something. Having a basis for criticism helps, somewhat. You will find I actually like most works that are wildly considered popular though I have become more skeptical of late.

        [Decreasing]

        I’d have to read more to come to a conclusion. Maybe the direction is inherently flawed, maybe people are moving to 5e, maybe all the greats are tapped out.

        There is a certain ‘Window’ wherein artists deliver their most productive work and once they pass it their follow up stuff seems dry in comparison. I noticed it with Fritz Leiber, and it is almost heartwrenching. True artists are rare as fucking gold man.

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      8. [Gentle Pruning vs. Contrarianism]

        You do you, man. You have something valuable to say and an entertaining style. My problem is with ranters, trolls and worse.

        [Ruinous Palace of the Metegorgos]

        Oh yeah, I’m with you on this one. It had a couple of decent ideas but there were a lot of elements that didn’t cohere or have any purpose or value. What was left were just a couple of fights and an atmosphere of wretchedness.

        [True artists and their rarity]

        I think it’s expecting a lot for someone to become an artist for a living. It’s an unnatural profession that expects boundless creativity from practitioners. It shouldn’t be a mark of shame for a band to put out one great album and be unable to reach that level again. There are probably a lot of people out there with one good idea, but most of them never enter a creative profession.

        Meanwhile, everyone should have a creative outlet. I’m working on my first published adventure, and I think it’s a really good one, but I have no expectation of putting out a second. Originality is…unpredictable. I can’t turn it on and off like a tap. Sometimes, ideas come in quick succession, and sometimes my brain is full of tumbleweeds. I’d hate to be under pressure to churn out new ideas on a consistent basis.

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  2. This sounds like the sort of work from which one might excise one or two glowing nuggets at a time, to enshrine them as the centrepiece of a short campaign. In the context of traditional monster manuals, “here is what you might find in this self-contained intellectual property”, it’s probably a right pile of wank. Personally I prefer to do a simple job well than a complex job badly and that’s why I don’t muck around with these conceptual monsters, but I admire the scope at which the unfettered StuPat operates. (He did Dreams of Ruin too, right? I love that one. If you have an established world which you feel like trashing for fun and profit I don’t think it can be beaten.)

    Talking of me doing a job: the urge to transmit opinions and outcomes of events has not entirely waned and with the stirring of my academic loins I find myself wanting to go off base and get angry about vampire fun pretend time again. I am currently reviewing a Storyteller’s Vault product, since the Vampire OSR is fully upon us, and it’s inducing some serious screeches…

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    1. [Dreams]

      Ten lashes. Dreams interacts with the hated ‘crunch’ part of the game on the domain management level. It’s hard to fathom anything Stuart would be less likely to write (maybe ACKS). Dreams was by some other Exalted guy (and probably deserves a review since it might be a one of those rare things, a good high level adventure).

      I mean two of his damn books (Hot Island Springs was co written but still) were entirely system neutral, and DCO was a hot mess. I think we can tell a man’s prediliction from what he writes.

      [Vampire review]

      Link it here and I’m sure some people would be very interested to check it out. The option to co-rant at Vampire is still open btw. Which reminds me that I made a vow somewhere to check out Transylvania Chronicles but GODDAMN does that take time.

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      1. [Dreams]

        I acknowledge my error and will strive to improve.

        Review Dreams. Or I’ll do it. Either way.

        [Vampire review]

        I’ll be ranting about Vampire at a professional level for the next six weeks or so, as it happens. If I have anything left over from those endeavours we should talk. I’d like to do more podcasting, it’s just a question of when.

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  3. ==I managed to extort some observations from my artistically inclined partner … “the artist is not sophisticated in their use of colour,”

    Speaks like a fag? And gets the pronoun ‘right’, yep, ze’s a fag.

    On the plus side I’ll bet your apartment is decorated with fussy abandon and sensual ne touche pas.

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    1. I would have thought you would have drowned yourself in a bog or committed Seppuku with a whiskey bottle shard after McGregor got himself some prison-luvvin from the Religion of Peace, Kent you mad Irish bastard it’s good to have you back.

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      1. I was so drunk I fell asleep just as he tapped out and so missed the hurray-my-lads-heres-my-fists!!! afterwards. Khabib could be cool in the mythic-De Niro sense (the real deNiro is a moron) if he wasn’t so backward. The Orientals compress rage until it bursts out in homicidal farts. Kent is more of a one-eye-brow lifter. Mcgreggor is not the kind of Irishman i have regular contact with but I do as adm- ire what he has achieved for himself, and in his use of language, which requires a response to play the game there is subtlety and a double edge which puritans are comfortable in ignoring and idiots can’t see. Be honest, Irish use of the English language is exceptional. We can make people mad because we perceive your SJW NPC status swifter than most.

        Please don’t come to Ireland. I don’t want you to come.

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      2. [Khadib as DeNiro]

        Khadib is admirable for his invincibility and murderous discipline and the fact he literally wrestled bears when he was a kid but he is essentially a savage and could be replaced by a very well trained leopard with a beard and everyone knows this.

        [McGregor]

        Agree. Almost musashi-like in how he incorporates the entire lead-up to the fight into the contest. A great self-promoter, businessman and fighter.

        [Don’t come]

        You might be on to something there with your analysis of Ireland’s rhetoric. The expression of mild contempt makes me look foolish if I respond with greater force as does outright defiance since the victory condition here is to trigger a disproportionate response, regardless of direction. I mean you already got yourself a mention in the OP after a sentence or two of calling me a homofag so I’d say are doing pretty well so far.

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  4. P Stuart’s writing (and Zak S.) is crammed with salt’n’sugar vocabulary which delivers an instant hit because the reader is duped into thinking he is going for a ride – ‘Oh boy this starting point is very strange, I can’t wait to see where we are going from here.’ In fact these sort of writers in the OSR present litanies of starting points. You go nowhere, you are taken nowhere because these writers’ imaginations are static. They are not writers in the proper sense and might well earn a living seeding ideas to magazine writers of weird fiction if it did not turn out that D&Ders appear to crave static randomly generated ‘visions’ and will pay for them. P Stuart and Zak S sell emotional soot, and as if on princesses farts the D&D community feasts at second hand.

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    1. Your metaphors muddle your point, which is mostly valid. It’s all surface. Diverting at first but ultimately shallow. Not a huge problem if you are doing adventures or monster entries, a big problem if you attempt campaign settings. The fact they are not writers in the proper sense is a moot point, they are also not chef-cooks in the proper sense. Mckinney is not a writer in the proper sense, but I know we both share a fondness for Carcosa. Barker was imaginative as fuck and a talented, deep world builder but his Man of Gold novel was boring and barely above DnD genre fiction.

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      1. Can you explain to me the difference between feasting on second hand princess farts and feasting on first hand princess farts or do I need to rewatch Colombo first?

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      2. If you are going to address me on my manifold spelling errors could I bother you to check my other posts as well? Thanks.

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  5. Excellent review, and it conveys the feelings I got after reading Veins of The Earth.

    In Veins you have stats for monsters, but not for the cultures of the Veins, which is a damn shame because some of them are really nice. The DeRo, while interesting and with heritage, can wreck a campaign real fast.

    However, the climbing and exploring systems requires the DM to have strict control on time and resources, and the 2d6 system for generating caves takes a while to get used to.

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    1. [Excellent review]

      Thanks!

      [Veins]

      From what I have seen, Veins is like the mature version (or evolved version if we are going full Stuart) of FotVH. The Blastoise to its Wartortle if you will.

      [Climbing]

      I once climbed rocks with my buddy in spain and we didn’t even have mobile phones or nuthin. Truest story. And then I found a ten euro bill.

      Nevertheless, if Stuart’s system was hard to use then this must mean you actually used it which implies it has actual mechanics. Very stoked.

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      1. I try to use everything I buy, and I only buy new stuff after bleeding it dry, but Veins is a book I have used only sparingly.

        I used some three monsters, tried the cave generator, used a lot of the lamps and their lume capacities.

        The climbing rules don’t work with percentile roll Rogues, as they are usually better than the rules in Veins imply.

        His Nightmare Elves became reskinned drow, since no stats where provided.

        The lists in the end of the book are mostly untouched, as I’m tinkering with Dwarf Fortress as a world generator, but the cave examples that were provided are nice.

        Regarding the art, there are some pieces which are good, specially the darker ones, but other pieces are subpar.

        And the writing is indeed verbose, and sometimes pretentious: the part on the Antiphoenix that demands a page to be ripped is particularly silly.

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    1. I am cautiously optimistic it will inspire you to either quit the OSR or write something that is not shit. I will however salute you on taking the joke in good stride. Welcome to Age of Dusk Chenier.

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