Monday, October 21, 2019

Shotgun RPG Reviews

Turns out I can do a lot more reviews if I do them small and scattershot.

Ultraviolet Grasslands, Luka Rejec

This is one of the best game books I have read, and I do not say that lightly. The art is wonderful. The text is excellent. The mechanics are sound. It is a book that is aces to look at, read, and play, in a market where you are lucky to get one of those.

There is a certain feeling of completion-wholeness that comes with UVG, something that I rarely see even in normal books - that the thing is precisely the size it needs to be, that the scope is precisely as wide as it needs to be, that the ending is in precisely the correct place. This I attribute to the obvious source, that UVG is a journey towards an endpoint beyond which there is nothing. It is the summit of the mountain. I find myself drawn towards that particular idea with a steady magnetic tug: it is, even if only temporarily, a balm for the anxieties of the daily mess.

So I say thank you for that, Luka.

Peril of the Fat Prince, Kiel Chenier

This book does something I want to see more in investigations across the board: providing players with a list of contacts at the beginning of the investigation that changes upon the makeup of the party (because you are a such-and-such, you know so-and-so), and each contact knows, wants, and has relationships with different things. More of this please.

The system and style mean I would not be likely to run it as-is, but I am definitely going to steal the whole contacts thing.

Umberwell, Jack Shear

Jack is definitely getting his mileage out of the Krevborna format, and for good reason: it's a damn good format. Plus it's grotty overcrowded industrial horror magical city and my positive opinions towards that are well-known.

Since this is a setting book rather than a mechanics one (It's clear it's meant to fit a 5e mold, but there's no direct number stuff), it's something I would tie into a different grotty overcrowded industrial horror magical city, like Infinigrad.

Strange Nations, R. James Gauvreau

I picked this one up on a whim because the algorithm was correct for one, and came away pleasantly surprised. The author did a good turn by making a big book of setting material Creative Commons with the explicit wish to see it used and mutated. I like how each culture has an assumed setting (generic fantasy, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, etc), influences, and ways to tweak it all up at the head of their section.

The first entry are a bunch of folk who practice funerary cannibalism and are led by dynasties of cattle herders. There's lots of stuff that wouldn't really every come up in games, but there's a lot of good up-front imagery and first impression stuff in there. Things like dwarves dying of karoshi. A kingdom that has a physical king and a spiritual kingship they graduate to when dead.

Whole lot of Weird Fantasy Words and some typos, but it falls in the forgiveness margin.

The Chained Coffin, Michael Curtis

This is so up my alley. DCC aside, pump that fantasy Appalachia directly into my veins. Give me those Scotts-Irish fiddles and old, old mountains gone russet in the fall. I learned about Manly Wade Wellman from this book. Signs in the Wilderness is one of my favorite blogs around and it is for this reason. My first copy got stolen off my porch and Goodman Games replaced it without hassle.

There is one downside, but it's not unique to this book: DCC modules leave some things to be desired in their layout and construction. Were I to run an adventure in the Shudder Mountains I would have to re-write nearly the entire adventure into a note-state I can more easily parse at the table.

But it's got folk magic and magical songs in it and deals with the devil and this is such my jam.

Trilemma Adventures, Michael Prescott

Michael's dungeons have always been a treat, and getting all of them together is even better. The big bonus with the collection is being able to see the setting it all takes place in with a clearer, more complete eye - but since the dungeons are unchanged from their prior forms, it's still all great for pickup and play in whatever setting you've got.


  1. My reviews are becoming smaller with time, but also easier to write.

  2. These are fine reviews. Short and succinct. Also favorable, which is a plus!