Friday, 29 June 2018

OSR PDF Reviews # 1 (Review Guidelines + Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States Vol. 3)

There is a dizzying proliferation of OSR material to be accessed at the moment. RPGNow et al have opened a veritable pandora's jar of independent RPG product publishing. Each each day the stuff you could use to run a game of d&d multiplies like some ever expanding and glorious fungus. Much like fungus, this stuff is often left in the dark, left to wither and rot - rather than consumed and digested in the glorious pure sunlight of the open air. Unfortunately, we are all drowning in this glut of a golden age  and too often things are getting overlooked and ignored just because there is a sea of stuff to swim through.

The purpose of this post, and hopefully future posts like it, is to grab some things from the pile and give them a once over. I'm going to try and be critical, objective and give feedback to the creators of the things I review. I also want to suggest why/how it might be useful to other people running OSRish tabletop games and why they might consider picking it up.

Guidelines and criterion for me reviewing something:
  • Vaguely OSR in nature (whatever that means[probably means tagged as "OSR" at RPGnow]). I am unconcerned with what"genre" it might be, because I think you can mash most things into any game anyways. 
  • I will favor things that aren't overly specific to a single ruleset.  
  • I currently don't have any interested in reviewing rule books. I already run some bastardized set of rules that changes from week to week so I don't need any new ideas. I am interested in adventure locales, bestiary, generators, DM tools, etc. 
  • I'm probably not too keen on custom character classes stuff as they are too close to a rulebook. 
  • I will probably focus on PWYW/free stuff. People are putting out a lot of great stuff for free and they atleast deserve some feedback as meagre payment.
  • That is unless some one throws me a review copy of something/I am really excited about something. 
  • I will focus on independent DIY publishers (whatever that means [probably means they don't have a marketing department/are one person]) 
How I will pick what I review: 
  • I will ask people if they want me to review their stuff and if they do, I will. Email me (mraston@iinet.net.au) or contact me on G+ if you have something you want me to review. 
  • I will go to the "OSR" section of RPGNow and scroll through newest releases. Whatever is free/PWYW and grabs my attention I will download and review. Cover and title probably play an important part in me pulling something randomly from the pile of stuff available. 
Some notes on my reviews: 
  • I will come into every product as blind as possible. I will ignore product pages/descriptions/peripheral blog posts/etc as much as possible. I don't want to write reviews that sound like marketing copy. 
  • Further, I am going to review things as is, this may impact things that are part of a larger whole (zines, gazettes, etc). This is just to avoid having to get all the copies in the interest of ensuring appropriate context (I will not ensure appropriate context). 
  • I am going to try my best to be constructive and helpful in my feedback, because I understand these things as labors of love. If I seem overly critical it probably wasn't my intention. 
  • I am going to assume that most people won't run any OSR product completely "as is" but will meld the content within to suit and incorporate into their existing campaign world/game. This informs some of the review headings (see below).
  • Additionally the review headings kind of assume that every one running an OSR game is running either a Hexcrawl, Urbancrawl or Megadungeon. I am sorry if you find that offensive (see below). 
  • Urbancrawls are probably rarer than the other two types of campaign but its what my game is at the moment so I have included it! 
Final Notes:
  • I don't know how long this will last for/how regularly I will do it .
  • That said if you do send me a review copy of something you normally charge  money for I will ensure I review it. 
Review structure: 

Currently, this is how the reviews are going to look.

What is it?  Description of the product as a whole/overall vibe of the thing as I see it. Will try and make these pithy and useful.

Strengths? What is good about the product. 

Weaknesses? What could be better within the product.

How could you use it in your hexcrawl? If you are running an overland hexcrawl type campaign, how this product could be immediately useful to you.

How could you use it in your urbancraw/megadungeon? If you are running an urbancrawl/megadungeon type campaign, how this product could be immediately useful to you. 

I will also try and include an image or two from the product.

Today's Review: 


Stark Naked Neo Savages and Sanguine City States, Volume Three. 

Evocative map and location names.

Burning flame AI god.

What is it?

Dreamlike descriptions of a cyberesque/toxicwaste realm of a preplanned apocalypse. Descriptions of two major regions/locales (The Only City and The Burning God)  from the map pictured above. A lurid, psychedelic outline of forlorn and ruined adventuring regions (much more dark night of the soul stuff than questing for gold and glory/keeping the world safe stuff).

Strengths? 

The Art: Everything is dripping with a toxic, hyper colored yet out-of-focus miasma. Goes very nicely with the writing and the clean, clear, sci-fi layout/font. I felt like I was peering out of a sanitized, safe spaceship at a fucked up landscape I was glad to not be fully immersed in. The art hints at great and terrible things rather than illustrating them in specific details.

The Writing: Wafts over you like a gas cloud of narcotics. I enjoyed every word, which like the art drips with atmosphere. Interesting locales described in sparse but impactful detail. It throws you into the deep end. When you begin reading you feel a little lost, but hints in the writing bubble up as a guide. A lot is said in a very small amount of words. Strong imagery and tone (reminded me a lot of Dark Souls item/spell descriptions).

I honestly felt a little creeped out reading it . The writing and art work together to get under your skin.  The locations felt real and ominous and horrible. That's the kind of place I want to send my players to.

Finally, I wanted more. I felt disappointed once it ended (especially as I thought I might get every location listed on the map). I also wanted to know what the hell was going on here. The god AI description hints at this place being some seeded, sculpted and designed world that has some how gone wrong. I like those hints and would like finding out those secrets with my players at the table. I much prefer to be left wanting more, wondering and intrigued about a place rather than feeling over engorged with context and exposition. 

Weaknesses? 

Lack of concreteness: As much as I like the gaseous, ephemeral and dream like nature of it all, everything sorts of floats by without being able to grab it and nail anything into place.  I would like some harder hooks and structure so I could actually run the place as the table. The best illustration of this is the "Why the fuck are you arresting me?" table. This d6 table gives some great insight into the kind of mean and paranoid place The Only City is. The society hinted at in this table is horrific and nasty and cruel. The problem is I don't know what the hell is actually doing the arresting? What do these officers of the law look like that are arresting my players for petty and inane crimes? I don't even need a stat block, I just need a quick sketch of what separates a law agent from a civilian in the The Only City.

As brilliant as the writing is, it doesn't go much further than acting as an introduction. I wanted more. I wanted a hex map, I wanted hex descriptions and I wanted specific NPC descriptions. I probably wouldn't even want /need specific stat blocks (I feel that might cheapen the experience) but I need to know some details of independent agents in this world. I also need to know what separates one hazy stretch of wasteland from the next, and one wretched, disintegrating citizen/building from the next in The Only City. The specifics wouldn't need to be all that detailed. What is here is evocative enough, I just need a couple  points of specificity in terms of where things are and what they do, to actually run this at the table.

How could you use it in your hexcrawl?

The Only City, the urban center described in the PDF, would be great base for a lunatic insular starving city in the wilderness. A place that at first seems  like it would grant rest and succor but quickly turns into an above ground dungeon for your players. The residents are skinny and ignore the players. The players would be like ghosts until The Only City had enough of their intolerable existence and attempt to imprison or kill them. A town that is a dungeon that allows the players to drift in, maybe right to the center, before turning on them sounds like a fun scenario to run. You will need to do a lot of the heavy lifting in terms of specific NPC details and mapping but the outline is there and interesting.

How could you use it in your urbancrawl/megadungeon? 

The Burning God makes a great dungeon/building boss. Ideas: It has captured a bunch of people inside its wall (ala Shodan/System Shock). Maybe the walls themselves are its ancient quartz circuitry, lots of alien/ancient computer technologyu magic items to be found. Lots of burning/different types of flames. There is work you will need to do: Plot out what exactly the AI cultists are like, whats the deal with the mushrooms, and obviously map the dungeon. There is a great scene to be witnessed with what is written here: Innumerable robed dead and decayed figures, frozen in bowed stances of capitulation to some enormous central flame -starving figures pick through the corpses in cowed and terrified flinching from the god flame. That's worth the bit of work required though right? 

Sunday, 24 June 2018

Fantasypunk Megacity Residential Building Generator

Following on from recent posts on suburb mapping and building stocking , here is a generator of residential buildings in The City.

It is a three step generator, roll on all three tables and combine the result to get a residential building. Use the tools here to stock the building as needed. 



Table 1, Raceoid base architecture, d20:

  1. Human, As per normal human architecture (varied and glorious).
  2. Scrabman, Generally tunnel down into the ground, gouged, dug and burrowed then organically smoothed over with masticated mouth glue, hypnotic organic patterns shaped into mouth glued architecture. Poorer scrabmen live on surface in makeshift dwellings made of the discarded removed, mined debris of the deeper dwellings - also organically glued but less impressive.
  3. Whiskered Man, Incredibly tight, narrow and constricting construction. Most other raceoids find visiting whiskered man buildings incredibly claustrophobic. Hallways are replaced with crawling tunnels and balconies are replaced with laddered perches. Rooms rarely allow standing. Tactile surfaces cover the walls.
  4. Scaled Man, Pools in every room and arcane piping ensures the walls are always damp and moss covered. Generally constructed from porous limestone, so scaled man buildings often rot into decay much faster than other raceoid architecture. Darkly coloured glass lanterns, often covered with thin silver clothes, ensure the light is never bright then a half moon.
  5. Horned One, d4 extra storeys, an abundance of steep stairs in both the interior and exterior of the building. Stairs often sans railing, very narrow, swirling in every direction around the building. Often incredibly open, sometimes completely foregoing walls with column cornered pagodas linked by intricate staircases.
  6. Feral, Makeshift, jury rigged amateur construction, often existing within or ontop of a previously abandoned and decayed building. Recycled, reused and stolen materials held together with old rope and nails. The entire structure is often on the very verge of collapse, possible only still standing through the support of some patron godlet of chaos.
  7. Slobberer, Goop, slime and black mould covered jagged, harsh and craggy black stone hewn into cave like rooms. Patches of lurid glowing moss and mould painted on ceilings and walls provide the dim miniscule amount of light that is available. While next to zero artistry is imbued into the architecture of the building (often window/doorless cubes of rock), great care, attention and lavishness is given to lounging and sleeping cushion areas (taking  up whole rooms). Cushions are made of wet,soggy vegetative materia imbued with a residual slime.
  8. Twinkler, While most twinkler dwellings are repurposed buildings abandoned by other raceoids, fully formed structures of growing crystal (while rare) do exist (1 in 12 chance). Pure crystals buildings are geometric cathedrals of detail, large central shafts supporting a dizzying splay of turrets and towers. Repurposed twinkler dwellings are much more tame, a slow reclamation of the architecture by growing crystals, both harsh  and angular, and puffy, blossoming cluster clouds of smaller crystals.
  9. Freed Golem, most freed golems live either a fugitive like existence or a twilight half-life (having been released by their masters as their failing forms degenerate and impede on their usefulness). As such freed golems rarely have the time available to them to create their own structures. As yet the raceoid has yet to develop its own sensibilities of architecture. Freed golem dwellings are often seized abandoned buildings stuffed, decorated, laced, gilded, festooned and adorned with material that compose the forms of the golems that dwell there. This is calming to golems, knowing that material required for repairs is close at hand. Roll a d4 for material suggestions: 1) Plant Matter (Wood, cloth, braided vine, leaves and the like),2) Mineral Matter (Shine, rigid, clanking, wrought, bejeweled), 3) Animal Matter (Leather, bone, fur, skins, feathers), 4) Monster Matter (Slime, eyes, claws, still living organs).
  10. Giant, Huge and crude - same amount of floors, but doubled in size. Everything is larger and constructed in the most utilitarian, study and basic manner, an utter lack of artistic flair. All doors, fixtures and furniture designed for beings 8  - 14 feet in height.  The only items of any additional decoration and flairs are hunting or combat trophies - proof of victories in battles, both grand and petty.
  11. Black Eyes, Smooth, bare and curved surfaces of polished stone or metal if a more salubrious and wealthy dwelling. Round and bulbous rooms and passageways, everything curved in a sterile and geometric way. All rooms and chambers basically empty - Black Eyes avoiding the use of all furniture and utilities. A single item in every second room is considered cluttered. Secret storage and hidden compartments do proliferate throughout the building though, the cracks and edges of which are well hidden in the smoothing architecture.
  12. Rock Gut, A constant stream of greasy smoke billows from the doors and windows - erupting from every burning bonfire pits and bubbling cauldrons of foul noxious stew. Rough cut, bare/unworked stone, the craggy surface of unworked stone lend a cave like appearance to Rock Gut buildings. No lights other than central fire pits, everything smoke stained, the air thick with semi poisonous gas and smoke. An abundance of pots, cleavers, and semi alchemical and arcane cooking equipment.
  13. Hogman, an abundance of mud and brick - tending towards sculpted mud in poorer areas and mound like brick in wealthier regions. Ornate, decorated fireplaces take pride of place - often paired with sculptured and gaudy roasting racks and poles filled with sizzling meat. Wood fittings and fixtures, all slightly oily. Low to the ground furniture, tables often next to nest like mounds of shredded cloth, serving as mound like cushions for feasting while laying on side. Sleeping nests crawling distance to areas of feasting.
  14. Elfin, Asymmetrical, organic, filled with scintillating hypnotic curves and arches. Distractingly baroque, overflowing with minute detail - the more salubrious the building the more tiny and extraordinary the details. Elfin buildings are often well stocked with decorative vegetation - sometimes tending to overgrown as the inhabitants relish in the interaction between plant and architectural features.  Pieces of artwork (tapestry, painting, sculpture, displayed jewellery and costume) choke any potential empty spaces - lending a museum like quality and constant visual distraction.     
  15. Fairen, diminutive hive-like infestation of existing and abandoned structures. Materials of organic matter are shaped and moulded by into cell like rooms stacked closely together. Fairen builders vivify once dead materials so they sprout roots and veins - growing, bleeding and breathing in a somewhat obscene and mutated form. The living cell quarters are often open on one side, allowing the fairen to flutter from room to room. Obscured tunnels and shafts, tiny to other races, branch off to small hidden pockets of secrecy.
  16. Demonoid, Stone worked and shaped into ghoulish scenes; doorways often gaping maws of leering monstrosities, windows the blank staring eyes of sneering giants. Entering a Demonoid building will often result in a day long case of disturbing paranoid pareidolia - seeing the same twisted faces in non-Demonoid architecture. Freezing cold temperatures, seemingly emanating from some frozen, anti-heat, core in the centre of the building. Icicles reach down from ceilings and door arches, the floor and walls slippery with ice. Because of the temperature semi butchered corpses of various animals and raceoids hang in most rooms of the building. Demonoids are incredibly superstitious so ritual/sacrificial altars of various sizes are in all rooms, at which ceremonies are conducted before basically every single domestic task or duty.
  17. Apeish, Doubled in height and generally halved in width to give a more tower like appearance. Central stone or wood structure serves as a communal feasting and vertical transportation area. Smaller modular buildings branch off the central tower, private dwellings and utilities, these are supported by spindly columns and struts.  A forest of ladders and bridges interconnects most modular huts to the central tower, often connecting up to nearby buildings too. Pale vines cover everything, choking interiors and draping to the ground. These Vines  are often enchanted with Apeish magics, trained to  be somewhat sentient security and building service providers.
  18. Cacti, Artificial light sources take pride of place in Cacti architecture, the effects of lamps, torches and bonfires often magnified through elaborate constructions of glass and mirrors. The wealthier the Cacti inhabitants the more glass, mirrors and artificial light sources are used. Pyramid like structures are favoured, with a huge central gem lens or mirror housing refracting light and heat throughout the building from a central capstone fire/light source. Glass/crystal bricks are often used to allow greater heat and light dispersal between floors. Cacti buildings are steamy, humid and warm and the obsession with the use of glass surfaces means an utter lack of privacy.
  19. Angelic, Almost exclusively made of polished white marble or other pale stone. A central great all/reception area is filled with an abundance of ornate columns and always houses an enormous central statue of some hero, deity or saint. Entrances to private dwellings and rooms are accessed  through stair/ladderless doors a floor off the ground  - assuming the use of wings to enter them. The public great hall is easily accessed  from the ground, and is rather barren and empty. High and inaccessible balconies  and entrances hint at a sprawling compound hidden from those without easy access to heights.
  20. Leatherman, a compound of huge single storey tents sprawling over  an entire block. The block is generally the site of a ruin,  abandoned parkland or otherwise untended open space. The tents are garish, colourful and sturdy - built of wood and leather. Leathermen are particularly private, well armed guards often denying access to the compound, let alone to individual tents. Inside the tents are incredibly opulent, filled with cushioned furniture, good food/drink, and treasure like trophies from successful battles and raids.    

Table 2, Physical architecture quirk, d4, d10:

1:

  1. Repairs being conducted.
  2. Covered in religious paraphernalia.
  3. An abundance of lights/lanterns/candles.
  4. Billowing cloths, curtains, banners, flags and the like. Drapery covered.
  5. Main entrance on the ceiling, no ground floor entrances. Entry gained through flying transport or bridges from other structures.
  6. Converted or still active mausoleum, crypt or graveyard.
  7. A wind tunnel blowing up from beneath the city powers various of the building’s contraptions.
  8. Some weird localised weather or atmosphere lurks atop and around building.
  9. Large pipes present, they may wrap around the building, pump through the building, connect secret passages to other buildings, etc.
  10. An abundance of glass and/or windows.

2:

  1. No visible entries or exit, every door/window/air duct is secret and hidden.  
  2. Transient accommodation, tents/lean tos/repurposed wagons and the like, has been allowed to flourish and grow in and around the building.
  3. In gilding or flourishes, general decor materials used, the building belies great expense in its construction.
  4.  Converted library or museum of sorts, roll a d20: 1) Weaponry, 2) Wyrd beast bones, 3) Dead trees, 4) Rocks,  5) Bodular malformations, 6) Monsters 7) Angelic beings,  8) Tools, 9) Mirrors, 10) Minor devils, 11) Stuffed beasts, 12) Bags, 13) Mounted beasts, 14) Madnesses, 15) Natural disasters, 16) Winged things, 17) Torture, 18) Helmets, 19) Heraldry, 20) Statues. (or make your own).
  5. Suspicious altars prominent in most rooms of building.
  6. An abundance of mirrors, polished metals and reflective surfaces.
  7.  Pools of water, a waterfall, a moat or built over a stream/river.
  8. Shared habitation and architecture - roll twice on the Raceoid architecture table and combine results and assume both raceoids live there.
  9. Slaggy, melted and otherwise somewhat destroyed by some caustic liquid or boiling lava.
  10. Building is a converted prison - replete with cages, chains, viewing perches and other oppressive structures.

3:

  1. Building is choked with overgrown vegetation, either fungoid, ferns, vines, pale fronds or other low light plants.
  2. Cohabitated with beasts, in pits, on chains or prowling free.
  3. Some calming or hallucinogenic dust or mist pumps constantly in and around the building.
  4. Building is full of illusions, ether phsyical or magical.
  5. Huge ornate braziers, ceremonial bonfires, massive hanging lanterns or otherwise large amounts of controlled and decorative fire.
  6. Mountains of refuse, rubbish and waste, massed in corners and oozing out of every aperture.
  7. Building is a converted transportation, either land, air or sea, device, possible still ready to be used.
  8. Building is well sign posted, covered in signs, engravings and text.
  9. Built from/decorated with the bones and carcasses of some ancient leviathan.
  10. Building is tripled in height but narrowed in width, becoming a steep stepped tower.

4:

  1. An abundance of silk, cushions and other opulent luxuries - piled for over indulgent reclining.
  2. Building covered in looping masses of chains, ropes other bindings, an elaborate tangle of stringy ladders and bridges.
  3. Utilities and servicing of building conducted by huge trained insects, organic golems or mineral elementals.
  4. Composed of enormous cyclopean stones of a foreign and unusual material.
  5. The doors and windows are portals, either to completely different places or tey create a confusing  maze of  non euclidean linkages and passageways.
  6. Decayed, crumbling in age or grandiose in ancient venerability.
  7. Criminals (or innocents) hang (by noose/crucifix/other resident specific methodology) in and around the residence as a warning to ne'er-do-wells and intruders.
  8. Covered in/the target of vandalism - either by residents as self expression or outsiders targeting residents.
  9. Large amounts of stolen goods, treasure, contraband are hidden away in the building.
  10. Bones, corpses, death and decay choke the building.

Table 3, Mental architecture quirk, d4, d10:

1:

  1. Residents overly welcoming and accommodating.
  2. Residents uncannily similar.
  3. Residents aloof and unconcerned with worldly affairs.
  4. Residents all serenely inebriated on some calming dust supply.
  5. There is only a single resident - they may or may not be aware of this.
  6. Residents always whisper and fear their building is haunted.
  7. Residents are all always trying to sell something.
  8. Residents are always running and rushing, always acting with speed.
  9. Residents always hide from visitors, either scampering away or lurking in shadows.
  10. Residents are incredibly and bluntly honest.

2:

  1. Residents remain hidden but will appear if possessions trifled with.
  2. Residents obsessed with growing and gardening - in all rooms inside and out.
  3. Residents are richly dressed and adorned - in wealth beyond that of their more modest dwelling.
  4. Residents write and record events with unsettling abundance.
  5. Residents regularly indulge in some meat based sacrifice - and are unabashed with wearing/the presence of viscera.
  6. Residents must have pairs of everything, or is otherwise obsessed with twinning and doubling.
  7. Residents are ever working on recovering some semi valuable resources from a central deep pit within their building, or large nearby mounds/minelikes.
  8. Residents have some secret and deadly rules, laws or code of conducts not explained to visitors - who are punished severely for breaking them.
  9. Residents are in the process of a somewhat secretive exodus from their dwelling - for reasons mundane or deadly.
  10. Residents are trapped, either physically or magically within specific rooms of their dwellings - they have either developed complicated systems for remained supplied, or are desperate for outside help.

3:
  1. Residents inhabit the outside of their building, either infesting the walls or camped on the grounds. Some horrible reason stops them stepping foot inside.
  2. Residents have reverted to beastial savagery. Violent rule by the strongest and a warrior culture have infected the building.   
  3. Residents are a placid, over-calm sect of some pacifist cult.  
  4. An ongoing battle for territory within the building is being fought between residents.
  5. Residents are preoccupied with flames and fire - either tending bonfires, carrying lanterns, working furnaces or otherwise burning things.  
  6. Residents have gone mad, either recently or have been that way for a long time. The dwelling is appropriately in disarray.
  7. Residents communicate in some whispered secret language or hand sign based street cant.
  8. Residents are all informed by a robust local spy network  - they know well what any visitors have been up to when they arrive.
  9. Residents infected with some monstrous mutation or physically debilitating disease - they are generally fully bodily able but affect a gruesome appearance.
  10. Resident’s bodies are oversized, in either height, width or some huge oversized costumes.

4:


  1. Residents are incredibly indolent, lazy or otherwise overly sensual - indulging in some soft and luxurious vice.
  2. Residents are all slaves, in one form or another, to a central all powerful slumlord.
  3. Residents are all undercover/disguised and secretly part of some nefarious cult, organisation or cabal.
  4. Residents are incredibly stoic if not completely silent, begrudge and barely tolerate visitors.  
  5. Residents are enormous, corpulent or obese, overeating and feasting - an obsession with food.
  6. Residents will write, or otherwise record, all comings, goings and interactions that occur in and around their dwelling.
  7. Residents are all maddened and enraged, they will attack any visitors on sight.
  8. Residents will set traps (both deadly and annoying) for unwanted visitors.
  9. Residents will constantly thieve, steal from and swindle visitors.
  10. Residents are all dead or dying.