My posting schedule is back to nominal. I am expecting some free time in the future during which I can finish Palace of Unquiet Repose (final level outline is done, now it needs polish), churn out a few more reviews, re-examine a few old reviews I’m not happy with, and definitely more reviews of classics, Lotfp, OSR and SWN. In the meantime, let’s address some news.
Kickstarter news: As you are probably aware, City of Vermillion failed to fund. While I think this is a shame, it will be a temporary setback. It was interesting to see the amount of reach Aaron (and I, in the secondary form) had, almost 8k! and we will take this into account when we inevitably launch another one.
Some lessons learned through bitter experience:
– Do more promotion beforehand. I was lazy and only mentioned it when it was already ongoing. This is a waste since every day can launch potential donors.
– Consider delivering a modular product. I think if we had been less ambitious and constrained City to its core elements for a lower threshold fee with the option of additional locations and modules we probably would have ended up with a successful kickstarter.
– Do more work beforehand and reach out to other blogs so people can spread the word from the get go to maximize effective reach.
I think we’ll do fine.
Palace of Unquiet Respose: The majority of the manuscript has been readied for publication. Three dungeons, an Underground city pointcrawl and the palace proper. I am considering adding a small appendix so people that are into Age of Dusk lore can add a bit of context but this is not essential to your enjoyment of the adventure. Almost every item and creature in Palace of Unquiet Repose is unique, there is faction play and the level range is about 3-5 (subject to some fine-tuning and play testing obviously).
The Review Scale: of my blog is probably going to change. I’ve thought about it, and using a decimal system with room for fucking fractions doesn’t really add additional detail. In the true fashion of the OSR, I have decided to retroclone Melan’s reviewing standards and I’ll start converting my old reviews to the five star rating system soon. Its more intuitive, its easy to interpret and it provides adequate meaningful differentiation. To enable a possible reversal, scores will be kept in parentheses on the relevant posts.
New scale as follows:
* – Terrible or useless.
** – Mediocre, haphazard, incompetent, by the numbers, bland or otherwise not worth a purchase, possible redeeming qualities notwithstanding.
*** – Super-average, a solid module or a flawed gem
**** – Exceptional Quality.
***** – Great. Adds something to the OSR or the field of RPGs. The Best of the Best. Something that sets or redefines the standard.
Obviously the monocled bird of prestigious excellence is not recognized in Princeland, as only a fool would award the sublime achievement with anything but the PrinceofNothing Sublime Achievement Award. There will also be a PrinceofNothing Dismal Failure Award For Extraordinary Incompetence which I expect to start handing out soon.
As an exercise, lets reorder some of my old Lotfp reviews according to this scale and see how it looks at face value. Overlap is handled via GM’s discretion.
0 – 3 1 Star
3 – 5.5 2 Stars
5.5 – 7.5 3 Stars
7.5 – 9 4 Stars
9 – 10 5 Stars
Tower of the Stargazer v2 (James Raggi); **
Immediately we run into a problem. I think Tower is flawed as a starting module but I also think its very good as a module for experienced gamers, superior to many other OSR modules. A conversion to ****/** (new players) seems advisable.
Better then Any Man (James Raggi); *****
Since I consider Better then Any Man the best thing Raggi has ever done, and a magnificent tour de force in its own right, this seems fair.
Hammers of the God (James Raggi); ****
I’d accept the argument of Hammers as a high *** and I can’t recall if its revelation actually ties into the adventure so I’ll have to re-evaluate it. For now it stays at ****.
Tales of the Scarecrow (James Raggi): ****
Very fair. Its short, it packs a hell of a punch and its seeds the campaign with hooks in its wake
Death Frost Doom [Revised] (James Raggi & Zak S); ***
Probably needs a re-evaluation. I remember most of its after years and years and the atmospheric imagery alone deserves mention. Then again, I can’t imagine Zak’s prose has aged well.
The Doom-Cave of the Crystal-Headed Children (James Raggi); ***
The God that Crawls (James Raggi); ***
I gave this one only a 6.5?!? One of the more memorable Raggi adventures without the screwball autism that permeates his subsequent efforts. Check out later, maybe upgrade to a ****.
Slügs (James Raggi); ***
Death Love Doom (James Raggi); ***
No Dignity in Death; The Three Brides (James Raggi); **
The first two work well, but NDID is not so terrible it is not worth saving, its last screwball adventure notwithstanding. I’d accept the argument of no dignity in death as a low ***
The Grinding Gear (James Raggi); **
Weird New World (James Raggi); **
Fuck for Satan (James Raggi); **
The Grinding Gear is the first real screwball because of its boring and frustrating design. ** still seems too high for FfS, which is deliberately terrible and should be graded as such.
Vaginas are Magic (James Raggi); **
So far my scale seems to hold up better with lower products. Vaginas are Magic qualifies as something that is not entirely without merit but is simply not worth it.
The Magnificent Joop van Ooms (James Raggi); **
No Dignity in Death; People of Pembrooktonshire (James Raggi): **
As I said in my review, van Ooms isn’t terrible, just not worth it. Same goes for People of Pembrooktonshire.
Sounds of the Mushroom Kingdom (James Raggi); *
The first genuine stinker. I don’t know what is going on with this one but I shall have no truck with it.
The Monolith from Beyond Time and Space (James Raggi); *
By now legendarily terrible, Monolith is a spectacular failure that one can admire for its boldness but not for its execution.
Eldritch Cock (James Raggi): No score
That’s an outside context problem so it stays.
Broodmother Skyfortress (Jeff Rients); *****
Too high. BS is a fun, imaginative and gonzo introduction to old school practices with a nifty dungeon and interesting to incorporate into one’s campaign but in comparison with others of its weight class it wilts in their presence. Downgrade to ****
England Upturned (Barry Blatt); ****
I loved the shit out of this at the time and I can’t remember anything bad about it so this one stays.
Obscene Serpent Religion 2 (Jeff Rients); *
Yikes. The first in the new Lotfp Line of Grimbland fantasy. Unpleasant and off-putting is right.
Towers Two (David Brockie and some other bloke); ****
Towers rocks. Keep.
A Single, Small Cut (Michael Curtis); ****
Cut was good but not on the same level as Scarecrow. Downgrade to *** for good short form.
Qelong (Kenneth Hite); ****
The Idea From Space (Simon Carryer); ****
The Squid, the Cabal & the Old Man (Andre Novoa); ***
Idea was Wild and had some great inventive new stuff. Qelong deserves **** for proper implementation of fantasy fucking vietnam hexcrawling principles. Squid was graded at 7 but is nowhere near exceptional.
Forgive Us (Kelvin Green); ***
Fish Fuckers (Kelvin Green); ***
Green always seemed like a decent module maker, so the *** is just and proper. He has a new thing coming out. It’s probably going to be a ***
The Cursed Chateau (James Malesewski); ***
Perfectly acceptable, as Cursed Chateau was a decent effort at a haunted house, saved by the rewrite.
Blood in the Chocolate (Kiel Chenier); *
Yikes. Stay away kids.
No Salvation for Witches (Raphael Chandler); ***
Maybe a high end ***? There was something inventive and compelling about NSFW and I’d easily place it above Squid or anything Kelvin Green has done. Do I put this in **** territory?
Lamentations of the Gingerbread Princess (Zzarchov Kowolski); ***
Going through Forbidden Otherworlds (Zzzarchov Kowolski); ***
The Pale Lady (Zzarchov Kowolski); ***
Scenic Dunnsmouth (Zzarchov Kowolski); ****
Thulian Echoes (Zzarchov Kowolski); ****
The Punchline (Zzarchov Kowolski); ***
First, Thulian Echoes deserves nothing less then a five as it is the best time-travelling adventure I have ever seen and implements its mechanics perfectly. Some people are a lot more fond of the Pale Lady then I am.
The Seclusium of Orphone of the Three Visions (Vincent Baker); *
She Bleeds (Elizabeth Chaipraditkul); *
World of the Lost (Rafael Chandler): ****
– Introduction + City
– The Plateau
–The Temple of Ages that are not
I’ve quibbled with the high rating I gave World of the Lost but on the exceptional scale it seems nowhere near unreasonable.
Probably in need of re-evaluation. I suspect Vornheim was admired more for illustrating the OSR mindset at a time when such a thing was comparatively rare outside of blog posts then any sort of genuine contribution to city generation or the non-setting of Vornheim itself. Probably downgradeable to a **, maybe *** if you keep the adventures.
A Red and Pleasant Land (Zak S); ***
– Monster Section
It seems massively unjust to give RaPl anything but ****. Love it or hate it kids, it did a lot of things right, including firmly embedding its monsters into its setting and making them interconnect, introducing spectacular developments in layout and having two kickass adventures. Zak in his prime.
Frostbitten & Mutilated (Zak S); **
Conversely, Zak at his nadir is not worth it. Decent ideas nonwithstanding, Frostbitten was uncompelling and strangely pointless. A tired effort from a broken spirit.
Carcosa (Geoffry Mckinney & Chris Robert); **
– Introduction + Equipment
– Bestiary + Setting
– In Depth look at Psionics
I’m going to revise that one since I cannot put forth any campaign setting in the OSR that is more compelling then Carcosa, massive flaws in execution notwithstanding. At LEAST a ****
Isle of the Unknown (Geoffry Mckinney); **
Dungeon of the Unknown (Geoffry Mckinney): **
Execution by thy bane Mckinney. There is SOMETHING compelling about the type of fantasy Mckinney attempts to invoke and all the source material is correct but somehow he can’t seem to convey it properly.
Deep Carbon Observatory (Patrick Stewart); ****
If *** is good for a flawed gem, **** should serve for a flawed masterpiece. I don’t care how amazing the writing is, DCO is 85% done and sloppy, period. Not the birth of the Avant-garde OSR but certainly its most compelling argument.
The Atheneum of Yearning (Steven Oswalt); ***
Only a *** for Oswalt? Life is tough old son. Atheneum was damn cool though.
The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem (Klint Krause); ***
Sleeping Place of the Feathered Swine (Logan Knight); ***
The Unseen Vaults of the Optic Experiment (Johan Nohr); ***
These were all solid but I decided against giving any of them ****. All of them are beautiful and atmospheric but straightforward. Vaults is neat but I can’t see it going toe to toe with some of the other four star entries in this list and emerge unscathed.
The Ruinous Palace of the Metegorgos (Evey Lockhart); **
A very deserved **, and one of the more consistently overrated modules of the Lotfp 3pp movement.
Castle Gargantua (Kabuki Kaiser); ****
I’d say **** is about on the money, especially for the time it came out and for introducing a method by which a megadungeon may be generated during play. There is a bit of legerdermain going on which always stuck with me, but the encounters are top notch and the flavor is atmospheric as FUCK.
Fire on the Velvet Horizon (Stuart & Scrapprincess); **
OEF. There’s tonnes of issues with FotVH but I feel a little bad for dumping it with other works of considerably less merit. Maaaaybe a *** if you are into art-punk.
On the Shoulders of Giants (Chance Philips); *
OtSoG is probably the worst campaign setting I have ever seen. Useless.
The Chaos Gods Come to Meatlandia (Wind Lothamer & Ahimsa Kerp); **
A not worth it for Chaos Gods is too harsh. ***.
I think so far we are doing pretty hot.
It’s been a while so there’s a few.
The Mahabarata (edited by David R. Slavitt): I was utterly absorbed in the fantastical and at times puzzling and surreal mythology of India and the epic struggle between the Kauravas and the Pandavas when I learned that my edition of this amazing work might be one of the shittiest on the market. There’s no glossary or index to keep track of the 100+ characters. Slavitt has willfully stripped out entire sections without any sort of notes to accompany the myriad references to events in these chapters or in other works (like the Ramayana). The end result is something that is compelling but which almost requires a wiki to comprehend, with the references to many-named vedic deities, many orders of spirits and other mythological creatures, heroes and incarnations. Still as a mythology it is rich and compelling, with a vast tapestry of heroes, gods, spirits and demons and a grand scope. Absolutely worth exploring, but just get the penguin edition.
Shadow Chaser (Alexey Pehov): The second part in a russian bootleg dnd fantasy series with quirky characters and some heart. I lost interest in the series by the end of the book because they had still not reached The Halls of Bone by the end of book Two, which is slower and with considerably more Side-quests. Without the benefit of breakneck pacing, some of the characters begin to grate. Its alright but there is so much fantasy on the market you deserve better.
Berserker Assassin (Fred Saberhagen): I have some time during my commute so I can defend reading Scifi B-listers while my copies of Eddison, Tolkien, Lindsey and Peake gather dust at home. A compilation of a novella and two short stories in mankind’s war against the Berserkers, planet-killing machine minds designed by an ancient and long extinct race. The conceit is that around the planet Salgol one may travel time. A temporal war takes place to defend Salgol’s past, with the berserkers seeking to alter the timeline in their advantage and mankind fighting them off. The time-travel mechanics are elaborate and well-thought out and Saberhagen always entertains. A little quaint, but still good.
Kushiel’s Dart (Jacqueline Carey): I always labelled this one Fifty Shades of Elf Grey but it turns out I owe Carey an apology. A little spice notwithstanding, Kushiel’s Dart is a terrific fantasy epic set in a not-quite france where angels and a prophet have voyaged, exiled by god and spake their wisdom ‘love as thou wilt!’ A beautiful land whose fair inhabitants have the blood of angels in them, Terre D’Ange is rich in intrigue, betrayal, plots and battles. It is amazingly well paced and its cast of characters is rich and varied. Every time I flinched, waiting for some sort of Mary Sue character to pop up or something banal to happen I was never hurt. A likeable and believable female protagonist (super prostitute powers) doesn’t hurt. Chalk one up for the ladies. Kushiel’s Dart is kind of badass. NSFW though.
More review stuff coming soon. Stay tuned!
16 thoughts on “An Update”
I like the idea of the new rating system. It was also nice to read your opinions on all the lotfp stuff. I agree with your review on the ones that I own. I hope the city of vermilion comes to fruition.
Thanks Shane. I have no doubt it will.
Massive decline of review standards!
…err… well, all I can say is that in hindsight, the five-star scale has an obvious flaw: it does not differentiate between a low *** and a high ***. It contains different things which don’t really belong together. Reserving the * and ***** for special cases feels right, though. (If I were Bryce, and reviewing everything instead of pre-screened interesting stuff, the lower ranges would see a lot more use.)
Yeah. Things are more clear cut on the low/high end of the scale. If a product is so bad or good that it ventures into the * or ***** area there is hardly a need to subdivide the scale any further. Sublime is sublime, shit is shit 😉
In the middle (the *** area) things are a bit more muddled up though.
Here it could help to go into more detail and add a +/- for further information.
So your scale becomes something like this:
Just don’t muddle things up further by adding more sublevels (+/-) into the scale or you’ll end up with a 1 to 10 scale in all but name. Moreover I don’t think you’ll need the +/- tag for the ** and **** areas.
For me **+ would be the same as a ***- (**+ = ***- and ***+ = ****-).
And you need to be harsh in this … If something would qualify as a **- make it a *, same for a ****+.
A Seven Point Likert Scale?!? Honestly I think 5 covers the majority of the cases. We should err on the side of caution since a review should inform a purchase and there are already more elfgames out there then there is time to play all of them.
I feel * and even ** are intuitively different, I don’t think I’ll have much trouble deciding between the two. ** and *** will be the broadest and thus might have the most overlap. It’s fine if its not perfect, it just needs to cover the majority of cases, I’m sure I’ll break it in no time.
I’ll start converting some of my other reviews and see if I feel the need for a ***
Your’re the experienced reviewer …. I trust you know your shit (and what is shit 😉 )
Then again, anyone reading one of your reviess gets a pretty clear picture what to expect and can make an informed decision to buy or to pass this one up. Same for Melans reviews … Bryces reviews are sometimes a bit more … special 🙂 You’ll need to have a bit of background to really get some of his rants.
I think we are going to have to live with an imperfect measure for the time being, leaving it up to the reader to glean what he may from the review and make up his own mind. You might be right about low *** and high *** but they are still in the same weightclass. I think you do yourself a disservice here, also I am a recent convert to your measurement system you cretin. How will we lay waste the heretic Bryce if you are not steadfast in your belief??!?
You might argue average lies somewhere between two stars and three: average does not equate to incompetent, nor to above average. However I am more interested in the quality of the reviews: evidence of careful reading of the product, an attempt to judge it against its creator’s claims, points made and justified. A lesser reviewer would have nodded off during No Rest for the Wicked, and just said “this is boring” without detailing where the magic was missing. Melan’s “Orcs in Tarodun’s Tomb vs Borshak’s Lair” is an exemplar of excellent analysis.
It was a shame about the City of Vermilion Kickstarter; a pity that the Endzeitgeist review of the Red Prophet Rises didn’t appear on rpg.net when it could have given the project a real boost; but the real reason was your consistent addition of an extra “l” to the name.
The thing is, I think given the amount of elfgames available versus the available time to play them, its acceptable to give a perfectly average elfgame a **.
You are kind, thank you. Melan’s analysis of Tarodun’s tomb was very good.
[Red Prophet Rising Rpg.net]
Now that you mention it does appear as though its missing, which is strange since it is a contender for best product of the year. Don’t tell me little old me is verboten at rpg.net?
Hey stuff happens and we learn. It’ll get made for sure.
Did you, by any chance, cast a spell on one of the users against their will? That’s bannable these days.
I eagerly look forward to your review of Raggi’s latest, entitled “Zak Has Nothing to Do with This Book.” Apparently the entire “adventure” is a recanting/defense/metaphor of trials of the ever present RPG-writer/rapist. Even better the print version (but not the PDF, lel) has a postscript where the Raggu rants about how unfairly Mr. Sabbath was treated. No doubt your take on ZHNTDWTB will be an essential entry into your chronicle of the decline and fall of LotFP.
I thought you were bullshitting us … but that shits seems to be real?
Stranger than fiction indeed … curious times are these.
But again … man … WTF?
*double spit take*
There’s one thing that makes it better. I don’t think Raggi wrote that…
Interesting theory, but only Raggi writes shitposts disguised as modules (Fuck For Satan, Adventure Number Ten). I think it was him, albiet with ZS whispering in his ear like Wormtongue. Also, Zzarchov Kowolski wrote a sequel to Going through Forbidden Otherworlds, in case you want something from LotFP that might actually be good.
Oh yeah I saw a bunch of modules came out and they at least sound interesting, that’s good to hear.
Not entirely accurate. Zak took a stab at christians, prudes and other k-selected beings in Frostbitten & Mediocre, and he took the piss out of forum bores in Red & Pleasant Land.
I’ll admit upon closer inspection ZHNTWTB does have the ridiculously over-elaborate set-up of a Raggi module but there’s also the inconsistent tone where formal instruction is interspersed with breezy casual language. It does not have the telltale “like, the dungeon is this, like” *flicks mohawk* and there seems insufficient snark but I am still not convinced.
“The situation began with our cast of eight miscreants peacefully, if annoyedly, passing time in the remote
Name Drop Inn, when a forbidden book was discovered: An Analysis into the Nature of Man and the Satanic
Power He Contains. A priest present at the inn made it clear that this tome was blasphemous and whoever
owned the book must die. Everyone agreed, wanting to be quick to deflect blame away from themselves.
They all settled on blaming a circus performer named Zachary Canterbury, who goes by the nickname, Zak,
because he said unwise things making it rather easy to be made the scapegoat.”
Did Fucking Raggi actually write this revisionist piece of trash in defence of ole Zachary Canterbury? Jesus at least he won’t have to do any actual gaming or writing in the meantime.
“Young (still a teenager) Zachary is a 0 Level circus contortionist, acrobat, and clown, always willing to debase himself for the entertainment of others. He is annoyingly earnest, wanting to others to like him,
so he is constantly underfoot and trying to please anyone who gives him even the slightest bit of positive attention”
Alright I’ll get to this but I promised myself less drama and more gaming so I am going to do some other stuff first.
I bought some of the other modules, because I liked their premise, and because they were $2 each on DTRPG. Kelvin Green’s, the one I have read so far, is at least funny, and full of class (apparently by the same guy who wrote Fish Fuckers). It is definitely the kind of thing James would happily publish.