Alright, Prince here. Figured I’d give a small update to let everyone know what’s going on, celebrate my 110+ subscribers, and mostly thank everyone for their commentary, suggestions, wit and support over the years.
Palace: It’s been a damn long wait but we are so fucking close I can smell it. Palace of Unquiet Repose is going to get art, a mapper and probably an editor. Rough concepts of the maps are all done. My initial choice (who I can hint has been featured in my reviews) had to drop out but Malrex knows a lot of talented authors so I have no doubt we can find someone who can capture the atmosphere of opulent aeons-old horror that Palace is positively brimming with. It’s probably going to be a kickstarter so stay tuned on that front. I’m currently in the process of revising each entry based on Malrex’s suggestions. It’s already a certainty that after this one comes out I will be starting a second one called Vaults of Oblivion.
Content: I’ve been alternately following and ignoring your tips, tricks and suggestions so I’d like to take a moment to give all my readers a moment to give me your honest opinion. What would you like to see more of in this blog? Oldschool reviews, OSR Reviews, Age of Dusk stuff, Actual Play reports, Appendix N Bookfaggotry. Let me know in the comments section. And speaking of Bookfagging:
The Compleat Enchanter (Fletcher Pratt & L.Sprague Du Camp): Ah where have you been all my life? A glaring hole in my Appendix N, finally plugged. I’d had no idea of the influence of the adventures of Harold Shea, a psychologist that figures out a method of translocating himself into worlds of fiction, until I’d read it. Everything from spell components, spellcasting clerics to Steading of the Hill Giant Chief has some origination or root in this witty, imaginative and uproariously funny fantasy series that transports the reader anywhere from the Midgard of the Edda’s to the mythical lands of Spencer’s the Faerie Queene. Funny and clever in a way that is simply not seen anymore in the dreary fantasies of modernity.
Death’s Shadow (Karl Edward Wagner): A collection of three short stories of the immortal adventurer Kane, and some of his finest, second only to the superb Darkness Weaves. Kane is locked in some forlorn fortress in deepest winter with a werewolf among the guests, must contend with a fanatic Crusader and his Seven fighting Men or is ensnared by the promise of love everlasting by an Immortal lady of the Night. Moody, brutal, thrilling and atmospheric, exactly what I want in my S&S. Dead tree versions are damn hard to get so I hope everyone likes Ebooks.
Kull of Atlantis (R.E. Howard): A predecessor of the famed Conan, Kull lacks something of the sanguine vivaciousness of Howard’s most famous character, being in general, a lot more broody and celibate. This should in no way not dissuade anyone from checking out his blood-drenched adventures as King of Valusia. Compared to everyone’s favorite Barbarian, Kull’s adversaries have a stronger supernatural character to them, consisting of the by now Classic Snakemen, envious courtiers, the evil wizard Thulsa Doom, a talking cat (or is it!), nightmarish pre-human creatures in buried cities and the cosmic horror of the Silence. Not as good as Conan, but damn tasty.
The Romance of the Three Kingdoms (Luo Ghuanzhong):Maybe my new favorite mythological addition to my personal appendix N? What if someone condensed any doorstopper fantasy series you know into a single behemoth of a book consisting of short chapters that read like 4X game play reports. A century plus of warfare, intrigue, betrayal, wizardy, prophecy and honor across three warring kingdoms, hundreds of characters, gigantic battles and approximately nine thousand schemes, scams, tricks, ruses, connivances etc. Characters die after attempting to hew down sacred trees, piss off wandering uber-wizards, fight barbarians that can control animals and rock storms, scam Wei out of ammunition, invent new weaponry, or are honourably beheaded and buried. A brutal, majestic epic in the China of Ancient Myth.
Ten Billion Days and One Hundred Billion Nights (Ryu Mitsuse): Jesus fights the Buddha and the Asura Queen with wrist lasers in the ruins of a Tokyo Ten Thousand Years in the Future. Do you like obsessive attention to aesthetic detail as an almost incomprehensible saga unfolds across all of human history and time? Do you enjoy philosophizing as you sip your black bush on what exactly Mitsuse meant at the end of Chapter 8, or who exactly the antagonist is, or what they are doing, and why they are doing it? What if you mix that with science fiction and existential concepts that are still pretty radical today and the book was written in 1969? Ten Billion Days is a little impenetrable but also compelling. Good to see the Japanese pendant for hypnotically fascinating nonsense existed before Neon Genesis Evangelion. A book to read alone in a dark room while drinking heavily.
Reviewing Scale: Probably less interesting to anyone here then it is a niggling itch for consistency that I need to fulfill to myself. I think it makes the most sense to use the original TSR adventures as a baseline and compare anything else to that since A) those old adventures are likely to be the most familiar and B) they do in a very real sense determine what comes after. I like the five star scale since it should be immediately apparent in what broad category I place an adventure, regardless of genre preferences.
Peter C. Spahn (Small Niche Games): Overal a very talented, diligent and inspired writer of modules and material, whose work has appeared in Dungeon (I need to check that out sometime), the style of his work tends towards the low and the gritty, with delicious hints of Stephen King-esque surrealist or cosmic horror thrown in. Doesn’t get enough love. By my new scale (adjusted in my reviews):
Chronicles of Ahmerth: *** Chronicles of Ahmerth is not a bad replacement for Mystara if you are looking for something vanilla but inspired, and it helps you don’t have to hunt down fifteen Gazzeteers to do it. I’ll let you know when I figure out how to systematically rate campaign settings.
Blood Moon Rising: **** I am torn between a High *** and a low **** but BMR is so well crafted and every encounter works seamlessly makes it a very fine low fantasy adventure with a dash of cosmic horror.
Inn of Lost Heroes: **** A no brainer. Great Horror adventure. Maybe the best horror adventure the OSR has done (that I have read).
Pyramid of the Dragon: *** Above average elements with the dragon negotiatin’ but fucking 4 elements in a workmanlike dungeon fuck me.
Atarin’s Delve: **. Not bad but just too little to be anything special.
The Stealer of Children: **** A single fucking flaw (the Stealer’s Howl) shouldn’t detract from a perfect introductory horror adventure with a fantastic twist. B/X meets IT.
Ghoul Keep and the Ghoul Lands: *** Nice concept, tonnes of hooks, but with some implementation problems. On the verge of not making my cutoff. Hell of a sample adventure in the back though.
The Shrine of St. Aleena: ** Homage be damned, this one I didn’t like at all. Artificial, boring encounters in the dungeon.
Oak Grove Whispers: *** Another I can’t believe it’s not WHF adventure with a whiff of faerie-tale. This one is a bit more straightforward. Still has a nice flavor.
Jeff Sparks: Sparks runs Faster Monkey Games and was pretty prolific in the imitative fase of the OSR, when the popular thing was to recreate the style and mood of the adventures of yesteryear. He’s very much a Dnd-as-a-game GM and it shows. Scenario’s are challenging and well constructed but tend to be a bit bland or traditional. Might return to his stuff at a later date.
Black Gem: *** Simple premise, well executed. Party gets captured and left on the haunted graveyard and has to make it through the night.
Skull Mountain: *** A brutal but well constructed assault on the stronghold of an evil cult. Spec-ops DnD with a capital S. One of the most unforgiving scenarios I have seen.
The Hidden Serpent: ** A B1 homage. Don’t Homage B1. You will just remind people that they could also be playing B1. Lacks most of the elements that made B1 great. This is B1 without B1.
Stay tuned for at least one more Winter adventure, a review of an old magazine, but not the one we think, and more of the regular programming. Don’t get Corona and stay safe everyone!