[Review] Oblivium (5e); Sons of Satanis

Oblivium (2020)

Thomas Alexander (Avenesse)

This is not Godbound

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When a man walks up to you, at the day of your daughter’s wedding, it is customary for a reviewer to grant him one favor. Unfortunately that favor was a 136 page D&D 5e campaign setting supplement. Now I have granted such favors before, with mixed results. Let us see what this one brings.

Oblivium is a setting with hex-crawl-like properties, but more accurately described as a Gazzeteer, inspired by none other then Venger Satanis’s Purple Haunted Isles of Putrescence, McGrogan’s Yoon-Suin and McKinney’s Carcosa, my favorite gonzo setting, and eschews some of its sleazier excesses in favor of more coherent world-building, factions and fucking animu. It is still batshit insane like its predecessor and full of flavorful and fun stuff, but also not without its flaws. Let us jump in.

Setting history is brief and much is left to the GM, like its predecessors. Oblivium is an island demi-plane, a klein bottle, a ‘ware-house of the damned,’ where all manner of flotsam across the multiverse is washup up through intermittently appearing portals. Magic, high technology, psionics and mutant horror all rub shoulders and are often grotesquely intermixed. It is millions of years old, and every inch is covered by the detrius of prior civilizations. History is an almost meaningless abstraction beyond a few hundred years, a chaotic mishmash of successive invasions and constant warfare. Only a handful of Elder races have managed to eke out a more permanent existence. All live in fear of the Master of the Black Tower, the only permanent structure on oblivion, visible from anywhere yet unapproable through mundane means. Getting in is easy, getting out is extremely difficult.

Oblivium follows the format of most setting books; a short introduction, special rules, then races, a gazzeteer, a lengthy bestiary and finally a healthy serving of magical items to top it off. Inspiration, D&D 5e’s version of fate points, have been replaced with the edgier Oblivion Marks, which are bestowed upon creatures by the enigmatic Master and can be replenished by having sex, destroying things, killing things, and preventing other people from leaving Oblivium. The tone is set.

Because this is a modern D&D supplement, we are soon bombarded with a plethora of colorful fantasy races. Ape-men, Reptile-men, river-boat travelling Cat-men gypsies and Chaedran (Weasel-men) rub shoulders with Victorian era half-orc/half-elf hybrids, the splintered remnants of demi-gods devoured by The God-Eater, a stranded Starfleet expedition powered by Cthulhu, soulless artifical necromancers one lawsuit away from being Melniboneans, the Barsoom-like Ilmites, Mad-max-style mutants and assorted Chimeric half-breeds. It is everything and the kitchen sink! There is a bit of information presentation inaccuracy here. At times the text will refer to the starting regions of the respective races (like Middenia) or the complicated history of each race, which is also (part of) a major faction on the Island. Combined with the made up fantasy names like Chaedran, Koraara and Ilmites [1], it takes a while to absorb Oblivum’s concepts. It would probably be more efficient to present the races with only essential information and dive into the various factions on the island and their interrelations and backstories in a seperate section.

Equipment on the other hand is nicely seperated by faction, which functions as a sort of ersatz time-period, so it is easy to know where to look. Middenian equipment consists of various muskets, knuckle-dusters, buff-coats, cuirasses, cane swords and ornate flint locks. Mutoids have their share of spiked hockey-pad armor, suits made from car-tires, overpowered sawed-off shotguns (2d8 in a 30ft. cone???) and inexplicably overpowered explosive spears, to say nothing of the heavily armed war-wagons fuelled by evil-infused gasoline called ‘dinowine’. And then there is the Vethari arsenal, the length and breadth of which is only approximated (sensible) of various categories of blaster, micromissiles, arachnoweave uniforms, powered suits and an astonishing variety of armor modifications ranging from cloaking devices to built-in jetpacks. Anyone looking for a primer on post-apoc, victorian or science fiction equipment for 5e could probably do a lot worse then Oblivion. Might I suggest including some sort of master Overview Table with damage, cost, weight and attributes so it may be easily referenced? Editing is a little choppy, with some prices for equipment being omitted. Bonus points for just using gp btw.

About 33 pages in we are catapulted into the Oblivium Gazzeteer, which is halfway to being a proper hex-crawl and halfway to being one of the gnarliest kitchen-sink fantasy settings that have come out for 5e to date. Thomas Alexander (no relation to the Alexandrian one hopes) is clearly a very creative individual and the encounters sort of reflect the type of high concept, wonderous, high-calorie content that should delight and astonish. Observe.

Long paragraphs aside, on par with the best such writing in the OSR. If I had to grade it and my only criterion would have been creativity or a 3e style gazzeteer then I would have given it an A-, except for the wretched Fallen Ember lolrandom weeb area, which receives a G- and will soon be hit by a stray gigaton plasma missile if I ever run a campaign here.


A few notes. The number in parenthesis refers to the settlement population, this is not noted anywhere. What prevents it from being a full on hex crawl rather then a gazzeteer are several factors; If you look at the 2nd example, Thol Daerom, you see a listing of the type of creatures present in the settlement, allowing you to combine that with the population figures to extrapolate how it would respond to player shenanigans. Regrettably this diligence does not take place in most other keyed locations. Using the Wilderlands model of Settlement/population/level-statts of the leader gives the GM a better idea of the general capabilities of a settlement.

As can be observed from the encounters above, the resolution is very high, meaning they various entries are more useful as hooks to spur on GM creativity then immediately actionable encounters. I enjoy the idea of chunks of different planes getting dropped on Oblivium, as well as the idea of hexes with hazardous terrain that must be overcome, but consider the contrast.

Isles of Purple Haunted Putrescence
High Moors

Which is not to say it never gets it correct. The following is almost perfect.

Oblivium or Wilderlands?

There’s nothing wrong with just doing hooks but if you want to get that sweet ass extra credit you go for a little specificity. What else do I bitch about? The encounters are keyed but my review copy didn’t have a properly keyed map in there. It’s useful because every location is named anyway but consider doing a nice double spread in the back. Also FUCK your non-consistent hex scale.

I did find out later we could buy an actually functioning hex-map for the low low price of 2 dollars plzzz. Thanks. How about you put the index up for sale as a seperate product too? Speaking of further hex-crawling sins…

You’re makin’ mommy cry, why, why is mommy crying?

Consistent movement plzzzz. I already have aggrevated carpell tunnel system (I played Lotfp [2]) and there are inch-deep grooves in my hardwood table from all of the fucking dice-rolling. Gygax help us. There are d20 numerals imprinted in the bones of my palm. Consistent scale, consistent movement, then movement penalties by terrain type. There you go.

Probably a sort of detailed overview of each section of the island and what rivalries are going on would also have been helpful. Considering the plethora of different terrain types, multiple random encounter tables could have been considered.

Alexander does provide rather extensive random tables for generating random obstacles for the players to encounter but there are some difficulties. As soon as my eyes read the dreaded word ‘toolbox’ I started to tremble with rage and throw up in my mouth and my worst fears were quickly made reality. You see kids, toolbox is OSR shorthand for ‘I THREW SHIT TOGETHER WITHOUT GIVING ANY THOUGHT TO HOW IT WOULD WORK.’ So what we get are individually useful tables (and they are, they rock!) for the generation of enemies, hazards, terrain features, or important NPCs, but its all tied together in a single monster random table that you are to trigger essentially whenever you feel like it. Set a frequency. It’s not hard. Don’t give an important NPC the same chance as appearing as a random mook, or a portal of mist that disgorges a horde of Night Hags (can happen). Also don’t make a random table, and then if a result comes up (like creature), just say Pick from the Adversary Archive.

I bitch a lot but this thing is one paint job away from an OSR supplement and a great one at that so it deserves the abuse. If you go full 5e, you deserve only pity and head-pats and atta-boys from me. If you actually try, then comes the tempering invective. There are fantastic things on these tables. Full on weird beast generators, Mist Portals that disgorge numbers of classic D&D antagonists, with one or more random traits to make them more WIERD, of various dispositions.

Beast generator

Then there’s area hazards that fuck with magic, infest you with spores,a re full of lime mold, mutating radiation (d100 courteously mutation table provided, serviceable but no Slaves of Darkness), extraplanar fungus that feeds on spellcasters or Oblivion Slime that damages you and might cause insanity but serves as a Contact Outer Plane spell to anyone risking it. Firing on all cylinders with such intensity it is almost overwhelming. In terms of sheer breadth of material this is fine. Assembling all this material into a directly useable form can use refinement.

Let us take an exception that is usually screwed up or omitted, especially in modern games which tend to favor micro-encounters. SUDDENLY, with the transition half-liquefying itself as we push all three pedals at the same time and gnaw on the gear-switch, we are back in full Wilderlands hex-crawling mode and we give random tables for settlements, per region, which explode outward into different settlements, from the ambulatory Ambulade Nihiliums crewed by sorcerous reptile men to an apeling Huod to a downed spaceship. Then when you go to each settlement there is a modifier for its state, which alters its population or its available treasure, and when you go to each type THERE ARE TABLES FOR GENERATING A FULL COMPLIMENT. Treasure, leader, allies, defence tactics. A page each. Brilliant.


A good quarter of the supplement is all bestiary and admittedly the chubbier 5e statt blocks are making themselves felt. That should not detract from the power of a gonzo bestiary. Heavily armored war-buggies made sentient by Dinowine fuel. Mechs and robots. A class of hollowed knights in a relationship with their soul-eating swords, in actuality a shapechanged succubus. A million dinosaurs. Psychic giant ape-men. Chaedran Ankheg riders. Asharaan concubines. The Black Giants, a class of demons serving the Master of the Tower. The lovecraftian Ool. Power armoured alien giants called Omnuyao. The invincible God Eater, the apex predator of the entire setting. It keeps hitting. Wherever possible, to save fucking space, Oblivium uses baseline Monster manual statts and simply adds modifiers, this happens just often enough that it compensates for the chunky stattblocks. CR is suprisingly provided for most of it, although the various modifiers are not always accounted for. The spread is a little wonky (1-3, then 5, a few stray 8s and then a few 15s and an odd 20), but you have an entire MM, templated or not, to make up for the deficiency so this should serve. Statts seem fairly tight, abilities are fairly conventional, it is clear Oblivium aims for the overal quality rather then dwelling overlong on any single monster, the patrician way to write a supplement. There are single monsters and there are factions with monsters of different strengths, excellent, some people get one-itis when they are making Bestiaries.

We are already bleeding from our orifices from the conceptual density, and now we get a desert; A frothing Thomas Alexander, his fingers reduced to bone spears from his frenetic typing, rattles off 4 pages of magic items with an average A- (so S+ for 5e audiences) accuracy, introducing weird soul-eating metals, spinal implant cloaks, a bag of minor demons that must be fed with blood, bottled fetches that if ingested will grow into a miniature clone of the user that will expire in 1 month, staffs with caged demons, the Seeds of the Vorzoth trees, that if ingested will allow rebirth from one’s corpse (but woe if you eat more then 1 seed) and various decorative glowing crystal things. The second the last sentence is dotted, he copy pastes the OGL onto the file, presses print while running to the bathroom, emerges with his coat half-on and inhaling from two lit cigarettes, snatches the manuscript in passing as he sprints for his car, speeds to Drivethru HQ, crashes his car through the door, and dunks the manuscript through the mailbox with blood running from his eyes and ears before passing out in his own vomit with a contented smile.

Oblivium is going to be one of those conditional recommendations. Anyone looking for (inspiration for a) Gonzo game, damn the consequences, is going to love the shit out of this. The greater internal coherence makes it MUCH stronger then most gonzo offerings. Its like all the components are here for something great. But the internal organization, the way each individual piece works together or is aligned along a single axis, this requires refinement. So as inert building blocks and inspirational hooks that require assembly by the GM to make it work, this is easily **** territory. But if I consider it in terms of what I can run without having to get up out of my seat and put on pants I do think my preference goes to Isles of Purple Haunted Putrescence.

We rate this an extremely horny ***. We want moar. Speaking of which; why not put out a version for OSE or Crimson Dragon Slayer, so an audience that actually likes this sort of stuff can play in it?

Check it out here.

[1] To say nothing of Komouth, Huod and Ool.
[2] Thereby slyly implying it is from jerking off.

12 thoughts on “[Review] Oblivium (5e); Sons of Satanis

  1. Thank you for the review, Prince. As per our agreement, the Dutch Mafia will release your imaginary girlfriend back to your care.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. You have had the chance to read Wolves of God, right?

        I discovered its fancy-shmancy showoff copies are still available for 60 bucks plus shipping on the website. Not bad.


      2. I have not. I’ve played SWN for years and started a multi-part review of it once that I never quite finished.

        Wolves of God sounds good (albeit it a bit niche) but I’m not quite ready to dive fully into a entire game when I still have AD&D to reread and Dangerous Journeys to check out.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Wolves of God is…I mean, it’s pretty standard Crawford on one level (it uses his standard OSR framework, and the skills are 1:1 compatible with WWN and probably with SWN too).

        On another level, it’s worth reading if only for the conceit of a Dark Ages monk writing an RPG.

        On still another level, it demonstrates magnificently how a few small rules tweaks and a larger perspective shift can create a completely different game.

        Also, there’s a spell to prevent miscarriages, making it trivial for the GM to create one causing miscarriages and allowing the PCs to literally kill future enemies in the womb. Or NPCs to do it, prompting magicidal rampages ordered by the PCs’ liege lord.

        In short, it’s classic Crawford. He saw a thing. He thought it through. He did the thing magnificently.

        I commend it to you. It’s a shockingly quick read, possibly because the writing style is sufficiently novel to make the standard RPG aspects of it much more entertaining than usual.


  2. Oblivium strikes me as a personalized supplement for Cha’alt by way of The Purple Islands written by Prince of Nothing.

    Yes, a version of this should come out for Crimson Dragon Slayer D20.

    “If you actually try, then comes the tempering invective.”

    No wonder people routinely reject God.


  3. Found it now, though Amazon kept pushing me to something called Myfarog, which looked interesting until I saw the author’s name. Really you have to draw the line somewhere!


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