Warning up front: This review is written with blinding positive bias. I am mentioned as a source of inspiration at the front of the book, something I missed until writing this review.
You can find the pdf here. Physical copies are sold out for the time being.
The Short Version
Friendship ended with Delta Green now Esoteric Enterprises is my best friend.
(In retrospect it wasn't that long of a friendship. Any port in a storm, I suppose.)
The Actual Review
Esoteric Enterprises combines the two most powerful forces in tabletop games: overflowing usable content, and a base framework so solid that the addition or modification of more content is trivial. By this metric alone I'd say it's one of the best RPG books out there, and that is completely ignoring the fact that the writing and layout is both very good AND a one-woman job.
I recently bought the Delta Green Handler's Guide, and I can safely say now that the only reason I didn't waste 42 dollars is because I was buying from my local store. It is a wretched, limp thing that will not survive the winter in comparison.
This is a book for referees. There are tools for dungeon generation, for megadungeon generation, for faction generation, for treasure stashes. There are pages and pages of dungeon hazards - gas, water, disease. There are 200+ monsters and they are some freaky weirdos. There are tables for terrible tomes, for drugs, for grimoires, for treasures, for magic backfire, there are 176 random tables in this book and the book is only 247 pages long. Procedural world-generation is the name of the game and you are free. Free from lore, free from expectation, you have been given the tools and the sandbox and GO.
The Drivethru preview is thirty-one pages and contains THE ENTIRE CHAPTER ON CHARACTER GENERATION. Your players have everything they need. It's a book for players too.
This is how you fucking do it.
Look I Can't Even Pretend to Be Orderly
- The flesh/grit/horrible wounds system means that violence is going to go south real quick and ought not be relied on.
- GHOST TRAIN. You can fight a ghost train and if you have a ghost train you can and must suplex the god-damn ghost train.
- There are trackers for faction reputation and law enforcement attention.
There are guidelines on setting up heists.
The classes are at their core reskinned normal classes, the skills are LotFP x-in-6: this means that you can easily update and splice in basically every homebrew class you see floating around the blogosphere.
- Dungeon generation is fractal - use the same method for the megadungeon overview and the individual complex nodes.
The Spook class looks like a barrel of fun and triply so with a good mutation list involved.
- You can just summon the King in Yellow if you are particularly dumb and I appreciate having that option open for me.
- White Blindness is in the disease list and I understand this reference. Fuck that book, though.
- Infectious barnacles.
- Mystics (clerics) have more limited spell lists dependent on their cult but you can cast as much as you want if you can sweet-talk your god into helping.
- You can play as a cultist of the Idea of Thorns with a cocaine addiction.
- There's a spell called DOPETHRONE.
- You can make your own cults hyper-easily by swapping in existing domain spell lists.
- There's just this offhand reference to a prehistoric plesiosaur civilization.
- One of the grimoires (and they're all great) is Madotsuki's Dream Diary.
- The Lithic Courts are like the Deep Janeen from Veins of the Earth, but not immediately forgotten. Like you just run into this thing that looks like a squid made of fused gemstones carrying around songbirds made of flint in gilded cages and fuck yeah this is an aesthetic.
- Fairies are all formed of humanity's subconscious dreams and desires and I am all for that.
- The pdf comes with a no art, no background version for printouts.
- There are memetic hazards.
- Dragons used to be dinosaurs, as they should be.
- Dungeon generation is fractal. use a method for the big layout, use the same method for subsections. Nest your dungeons.
The entire book is like this. Every page is like this.
Blast Devil Trigger at max volume. Go find other, less good books and scream GET DUNKED ON at them. You are WIZARDS and you need to go commit CRIMES because the MAN won't let you get absolutely trashed on space mead and start fights with God. Fight Nazi occultists and steal their shit. Violate US immigration policy by bringing friends back from Ynn. Consult with geese and learn dark secrets. Dance with the devil in the pale moonlight. Howl at the black moon.