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The Manor, Issue #3
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/15/2018 05:32:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the OSR-zine „The Manor“ clocks in at 32 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page back cover/advertisement, leaving us with 29 pages, which are laid out for an A5 (6’’ by 9’’)-standard, which means you may be able to fit up to 4 pages on a sheet of paper when printing this one out.

The pdf is an evolution in comparison to the previous installments of the magazine, in that it subscribes to specific systems.

First of all, the pdf does contain a new class for Blood and Treasure, the Monster Hunter devoted to Adzeer, God of the Hunt. The class has requirements of Strength and Wisdom of 13 or higher and use the multi-class experience table. The class is allowed to use both all weapons and armor. Skill-wise, we get Climb, Hide, Move Silently, Survival, Tracking, Riding, Decipher Script, and the class gets d8 HD (11th and 12th level yield +3 hp instead) as well as ¾ atk-progression; Fort and Will-saves scale from 13 to 7 and Ref-saves from 15 to 10. The class gets spellcasting progression of up to 7th level, gaining access to BOTH magic-user and cleric spell-lists. The class is a prepared spellcaster until reaching 10th level, at which point the class may cast spells spontaneously. We get a proper spell-list for our convenience.

The class must complete 3 trials: Trial number 1 must be undertaken at 3rd level to progress to 4th: The character’s Perceptor designates a hunting target; upon slaying the beast, the monster hunter must spend 250 gp to enter the 2nd circle. Completion nets a unique armor or weapon that will increase in strength as the character does. Okay, how?

In order to reach 7th level, the monster hunter must choose a target creature and then collect a hunting party (do adventuring companions qualify? How much does it have to be?) and hunt a creature – this is not further defined, which is a bit weird. Also weird: The hunter gets to choose the target creature. The second boon is that the character gets to choose a ranger’s sworn enemy, inflicting double damage against the chosen creature type as well as gaining +3 to atk.

The third trial must be undertaken at the end of 9th level: The character must convert 3d4 targets to Adzeer’s worship (do adventuring companions qualify?) and establish a new temple at 10K sp cost – the benefit here is that the character gets to either become a teacher or continue adventuring…which is kinda lame.

The final ability of the class would be stun monster: A stunning attempt can be made instead of an attack or casting a spell and works akin to turn undead etc. – we get a table. However, all creatures within line of sight of the holy symbol are stunned. The stun lasts a whopping 3d6 rounds and targets drop items or weaponry held and the hunter gains tactical advantage against the targets. Stun Monster works against aberrations, dragons, giants, magical beasts, monstrous humanoids, outsiders and undead. The monster hunter may use this 1/day per level attained. Soooo, potentially really long-range AoE stun. That is really potent, and yes, auto-succeed and destruction are possible at higher levels.

All in all, the class is pretty damn potent in comparison with similar old-school classes; the stun-locking can be rather nova-like and I’m not the biggest fan of the execution here.

Beyond this class, we also are introduced to another installment of the vendor-depicting series of the e-zine, and this time around, we get to know Pog-Nog the goblin, and his cart. The goblin is the survivor/exile of his tribe, one known for omens…and when he pronounced doom for his fellows, he was exiled, becoming a sort of peddling Cassandra – after all, who’d listen to a goblin? The fact that he’s a goblin makes him a good candidate for an in-dungeon vendor, and his foresight as well as the fact that he attempts to prevent some catastrophes can make him for a great ally/recurring character. The entry is system-agnostic and doesn’t provide stats, but we do get some nice adventure-hooks.

The lion’s share of the magazine, though, is taken up by the module “Mine of Rot and Disease”, intended for low level (level 1 -3) characters. The adventure employs the Swords & Wizardry rules and takes place in the village of Aberton. The map for the primary adventure locale, the eponymous mines, is provided in nice b/w, though we do not get a player-friendly version of the map. A huge improvement over the previous installments of the magazine would be that the characters herein come with REALLY detailed write-ups: You see, the local NPCs, with their own dynamics, come as basically one-page characters with everything notes, including spells and items, though formatting of both deviates from the conventions. The characters range in levels from 1 to 3 and they can act as stand-in pregens, should you choose to run the module as a one-shot.

The pdf does include a Black Dragon-themed Haiku. Nice!

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only GMs around. Things turned sour when the villagers of Aberton noticed straggling figures – defeating them, they noticed that undead had risen…and when they tracked the living dead to their source, that was the old coal mine. Opting for the ole’ “Rocks fall”-trick, Obadiah, the village elder decided to collapse the mine. A few days later, Dowser Creek started to turn icky; it turned yellow and any exposed to it were struck by the Sickness. Folks had sent for help from Ambrose Abbey, but neither it, nor the messengers returned – thus, it’ll be up to the PCs to venture into the mine and fix the tainted river…if they don’t, the village will lose the harvest and face starvation.

An array of adventure hooks have been provided and so are random encounter-suggestions. In order to enter the mine, the PCs will have to survive the nearby undead – and then dig free the entrance. It is then that the weirdest design-decision can be found, one that can wrack the fun of the otherwise nice module. You see, the mine REEKS. As in save or barf, reeking and penalty. EW. However, on a really botched save, at failure of 5 or more, means that the PC can’t enter the mine. I’m totally in favor of degrees of success or failure as a design paradigm, but locking out a character of entry? That just sucks. Statistically, it’s likely that one of the PCs is locked out of the mine for a day before getting the chance to retry – and the module has a timer, with harvest impending, so it’d make sense for the PCs to enter with the character who failed the save sitting outside, twiddling his/her thumbs. That is not cool.

The mine itself is pretty interesting, providing flavorful locations, undead and a desperate goblin tribe, dwindled in numbers from being caught inside the mine with the undead….and they actually are potentially (if no PC is a dwarf or gnome) willing to negotiate their release. Beyond that, the PCs will soon find the culprit, a priest to a dark god who stuffed an otyugh carcass into the water. In order to save the village, the PCs will have to best the undead, the dark cleric (whoc comes with an evil, magic lantern), and then clear the disgusting filth from the disease-ridden spring. The pdf sports, btw., nice b/w-artworks, hand-drawn.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are significantly improved: The proofreaders did a good job on a formal level. Rules-formatting could be a bit tighter. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 1-column standard and the pdf comes with hand-drawn artworks in the same style as the cover, which catches the old-school vibe. The map is surprisingly nice, but we don’t get a player-friendly version. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Tim Shorts knows how to write great characters and he gets the old-school vibe; I very much welcome the focus on actually adhering to proper rules-sets, as this renders the material more precise. The presentation of the villagers in detail is really neat and the hooks are similarly pretty fun. That being said, the new class did not blow me away and the puzzling decision in the module that may see the PCs stalled before the dungeon for days on end if one of the PCs is unlucky….really sucks. It’s not enough to sink the detailed and fun set-up, but it is a detriment to the strongest aspect of the pdf. That being said, the low price does make this worth checking out if you’re looking for an unpretentious old-school module/sidetrek. If a well-executed take on the classic low-level undead-themed dungeon does not seem interesting to you, you may want to skip this one, but if that’s what you’re looking for, then take a look. When all’s said and done, I consider this to be a mixed bag, slightly on the positive side. While the editing and formatting re a definite improvement and while the quality is more consistent herein than in #2, the module is slightly less amazing than Hugo’s in #2. Hence, while overall a stronger issue, I still feel I can’t go higher than 3.5 stars for this one, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #3
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Cave of Seiljua
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/14/2018 05:13:15

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This is a one-page-dungeon; as such, the dungeon and all text literally fit on, well, one page. There are no stats here, with monster-names bolded instead; the map is hand-drawn, in full-color, and surprisingly well-done – while a player-friendly, key-less version on a second page would have been appreciated, I still was positively surprised by the map.

As per usual, I don’t expect a pdf of this brevity to provide earth-shaking stories or the like. The adventure assumes a gold standard. Spells and magic items are not perfectly formatted.

This being an adventure-review, the following contains SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

Okay, only GMs around? Great!

The adventure assumes a loosely Nordic backdrop; Skorri, a huscarl, wants his name cleared of an accusation made by Ragnar…who promptly failed to appear before the Thing (or, originally, þing – the proto-parliament/court/etc.). The jarl of the huscarl, Fridgeir, wants the PCs to retrieve Ragnar – alive. (And we even get a bit of flavorful read-aloud text as justification why.)

Fridgeir assumes that Ragnar has hidden in the Caves of Seiluja – minor know-it-all nitpick: “Soul” in Norse translates to “sál”, not “seiljua”…but anyways, the cavern complex is actually pretty flavorful, particularly given the limitations of this humble adventure: Strange pictures on the wall, piles of bones and nasty trolls; we even get brief descriptive flourishes to set the individuals apart, which is neat indeed. Ragnar, btw., is grievously harmed and pummeled – which is particularly relevant if the PCs play this as an infiltration of sorts…his broken leg will slow them down…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting, while not perfect, are okay. I noticed a couple of minor hiccups. Layout adheres to a two-column landscape-ish presentation, with the map as a third, smaller column. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length. Tim Shorts provides a nice little sidetrek here: Whether you’re playing in some sort of quasi-Scandinavia, Storm Bunny’s stormpunk-setting Rhûne or Frog God Games’ superb Northlands Saga, this makes for a neat diversion. Heck, even in another context, it only takes minor reskinning to make this work in other climates, though the module would lose a bit of its charm. This may not be a world-shaker, but know what? It’s FREE. As in: “Costs nothing.” Taking that into account, I definitely suggest taking a look at this. My final verdict will be 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Cave of Seiljua
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The Manor, Issue #2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/05/2018 11:41:50

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the OSR-zine The Manor clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 23 pages of content. Front cover and advertisement/back cover are its own pdf; additionally, we get an alternate layout to print this out in booklet form: You know, first and last page on the same page, etc. – that is pretty damn cool!

Now, it should be noted that this pdf does assume a silver standard and does not subscribe to a particular OSR rules-set. AC is provided both for ascending and descending paradigms and HD and HP are noted, melee damage types are generally not differentiated. Similarly, it is not defined which type of saving throw to employ, which can be a bit inconvenient.

Now, as in #1 of the magazine, we do get a nice 12-entry-strong dressing/treasure table by Jason Sholtis, this time things that may be found left behind under the cot in the second location depicted herein. It should be noted that this is the only part of the pdf where magic items are properly formatted.

The second location sports a total of 8 magic items that can potentially be found; rules-wise, they are problematic: The second locale can’t seem to decide whether “cold damage” or “frost damage” (misspelled as “front damage”) would be the proper term; formatting doesn’t adhere to the standards and there are big problems here: The dirk of healing is a sucky weapon, but can be heated and pressed to a wound to heal 1d6 damage. There is no limit. This item provided, RAW, infinite healing. The shield of entanglement notes this: “…acts as a +3 medium shield and once per day the it can entangle one hex/square. The vines from the shield reach out and wrap around its target.” I did not modify this sentence. So…what size of hex are we talking about? Hexcrawl hex?? What effect does “wrap around the target” have? Like entangle?

The artifact killer presumes the existence of a global order of potent beings (more on them in my upcoming review of Knowledge Illuminates): The item is basically a scorpion statuette that can destroy any item, including artifacts. While the GM retains control over the duration, this can wreck many a plot and contradicts pretty much how artifacts work in every setting I know. Not a fan. Leather armor or regeneration sports another infinite healing issue: The armor grants infinite healing. Worse, it fails to understand how regeneration works, rules-wise. You see, the current owner of the armor is in a situation where he regains HP, then immediately dies, again and again. I like the nightmarish nature of this fate, mind you, but the matter of fact remains that this is not how regeneration works in any OSR-game I am familiar with, not even starting with chances to be raised…

So yeah, the magic items herein fail pretty much across the board, which may also be due to the fact that they are part of the second half of the magazine…but to elaborate that, I need to go into SPOILERS pertaining the two set-pieces herein.

..

.

All right, only GMs around? Great! So, the first location herein is really, really cool: We are introduced to Hugo’s Potion Shop, owned by the grumpy, nasty mage-school/guild drop-out, the place has a pawn-shop-like atmosphere, with an angry dwarven bouncer and a nasty attitude. How can he stay in business? He sells healing potions by the bulk, at half price. Sure, a precious few of them don’t work properly, but who cares when the vast majority does work, at this price? After all, chances are pretty high that customers that stumble over one such potion may not be able to return anyway. So yeah, Hugo is not a nice man; his shop also sports a workshop, where three similarly interesting characters toil away at the behalf of their nasty master: We have Clanton, a man with a sweet-tooth who doesn’t mind the monotony of churning out healing potions day after day. There would be a lady with a nasty temper with a facial tattoo that marks her as a convicted criminal and indentured servant…and there is a goblin who actually is the only true professional in outlook and work ethics. 3 of the characters here get really cool, unique b/w-artworks that surprised me in a positive way. The map of the potion shop and quarters here is also really detailed, b/w and nice, noting a scale etc. It would have been nice to get a player-friendly map, but oh well.

After the detailed notes on the NPCs (sans stats), we get detailed entries on all rooms of the location. Better yet, we get extensive notes on 20 random customers/encounters, all of which can act as either encounters or be developed into full-blown adventures: Between tragically poor people trying to keep their girl pain-free, a noble patron, unhappy customers and ties to the thieves’ guild, there is a lot of adventure potential here…even before the 7 rather detailed “proper” adventure hooks. This location can most certainly yield weeks of adventure and is a perfect example of my claim that tim Shorts gets old-school aesthetics and mood. Really nice.

…and then, the issue suddenly exhibits a baffling drop in formal writing quality. The second location has potential ties with Hugo’s, is hard to find and interesting: Smuggler’s Inn is a subterranean hideout (fully mapped – sans grid, sans scale): At a dock, you can use a lantern to attract a blind ferryman; the ice-cold Ten Killer Lake houses a massive, nasty and timorous fish called Lord John…and beyond the lake, there is the fully mapped Inn kept by Halla – who is a disguised night hag, with her own larder of Larvae. Bad people that rest here are liable to never wake up again. The Inn gets its own map (no player-friendly version) and exploration of the ice-cold lake (with help of the hag’s potions) could yield aforementioned, problematic items.

Sounds not too bad, right? You’d be right. The location, like the ones in #1 and Hugo’s, does offer some nice visuals; it sports this neat old-school aesthetic I enjoy…and it is littered with glitches. Sentences with words missing, typos, homophone errors (devise vs. device, etc.), malapropisms – even a cursory proofreading check should have gotten rid of at least a couple of them. #1’s editing wasn’t particularly tight and I noticed glitches in Hugo’s as well, but this one? There are so many in this entry that it utterly sinks the location for me. It wrecks any atmosphere created as you stumble, time and again, over a glitch.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are weird: In the first section of the magazine, I’d call them passable; the second location, though, is an utter mess, both formally and rules-wise, sinking what would otherwise be a cool location. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and the b/w-artworks are really nice for the low price point. The cartography is similarly solid, though Hugo’s is far better than the one employed for the second location. The pdf comes without any bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort detriment. Kudos for the make-your-own-booklet-version, though.

Tim Shorts’ prose has a weird fascination for me: There is an elegance to the crisp and relatively brief, almost minimalist sentence structure he employs – the style appeals t me more than it should. He gets his old-school vibe right, big time, and Hugo’s is a truly inspiring place with surprisingly well-rounded characters. I loved this place; the first half of the pdf is really, really cool and worth the fair asking price.

…as a reviewer, though, I do have to rate this in its entirety. And the rules-issues and inconsistencies as well as the really bad accumulation of glitches in the second half managed to utterly sink the second location for me. If you don’t mind rules-issues and glitches galore, you amy well enjoy this section as well, but frankly, it looked to me almost like another person wrote it, so massive is the difference in quality.

Sooo, is this worth getting? Thanks t the low price, I’d reply in the affirmative, but with the caveat that you should be very careful with the problematic second location. And yes, in case you’re wondering, later issues of the e-zine improve regarding the rules aspect and the glaringly inconsistent formatting of rules-components, but I’m getting ahead of myself. How to rate this, then? Well, while I really enjoyed the first location, the glitches really sink a large part of this pdf for me, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 2.5 stars, rounded up by a tiny margin due to in dubio pro reo, the low asking price and the fact that this pdf does manage to convey the author’s passion for the respective places depicted.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #2
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The Manor, Issue #1
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/01/2018 04:18:51

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first of the OSR-zines of the Manor-series clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, 1 page advertisement, leaving us with 19 pages of content, laid out for digest size (6’# by 9’’/A5), meaning that you can fit up to 4 of these pages on a sheet of paper when printing them out.

The material herein assumes a silver standard and assumes a generic OSR-system, claiming no explicit compatibility with one of them. Presentation-wise, we get ascending AC, no differentiation between melee damage-types. Slightly odd: While certain terrain features note the type of save required to resist a given effect, creature statblocks don’t note this. That being said, it is quite obvious what kind of save to apply, making this aspect of the booklet a mostly cosmetic complaint. HP and HD are both mentioned.

As for the supplemental material, there is a brief poetry slam-style poem about umberhulks (fans of Beat-literature will get a chuckle out of it!) accompanied by a nice b/w-artwork in a comic-like style. Jason Sholtis, as a guest-author, provides a d12 table of things that may be found in a troglodyte’s dung heap. The table contains classics with nice flourishes – like “A ring of protection. Finger included.” This is also a nice way to note the formatting peculiarity here, namely that magic items are not italicized. The one character herein that does have a spell-book is designated as a magic-user, in proper old-school manner, but does not get a premade spell-list.

Now, as you can probably glean from the cover-image, this is a little e-zine very much in the tradition of the classic old-school DIY-zines and it embraces this aesthetic in both presentation and design. We get a surprisingly nice side-view map for the short micro-adventure here, and while I would have loved to see a key-less version, for the low price-point, I was pleasantly surprised. That being said, the map has no scale noted – we assume mind’s eye theatre here.

The manor is intended for mature audiences, but apart from a slightly raunchy pun, there is nothing I’d consider to be problematic for kids in this magazine. Presentation of locales and encounters first depicts what is readily apparent, then elaborates/notes the truth behind a scene in shaded text. Minimalist and elegant.

All right, so, the lion’s share of the content herein is devoted to material for GMs; to be more precise, we get a brief sidetrek-adventure, a creepy locale/adventure-setup and a particular vendor. Since this review will proceed to discuss these, I hereby urge players to jump ahead to the conclusion of my review. From here on out, the SPOILERS reign.

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All right, so let’s start with the micro-adventure: We don’t get read-aloud text for it, and the premise is simple: Paco and his family are working a salt pit; relatively unbothered by the authorities, with the exception of the due taxes. Now, Paco has an issue: Something has taken up residence in the mine, and, bingo, he’d like the PCs to clear out the threat. While he can warn the PCs of e.g. the long ladder being pretty rickety, he doesn’t know what’s down there. Indeed, the exploration of the salt pit, in spite of a lack of constant threats, or perhaps because of it, is a rather compelling affair: The little complex is pretty vertical, sports nice little dressings and details (horseshoes above a salt-rich tunnel, for example), and the use of terrain also deserves being mentioned: The threat slowly builds up to the inevitable confrontation with the troglodyte, made challenging and potentially deadly by the environment. Surprisingly well-made mini-adventure.

The adventure-sketch I mentioned has higher stakes and is grounded in a bit of real-world myth-weaving, but can easily be adjusted to instead pertain to a fantasy world: The ghoul house in rural Pennsylvania, where a nasty man named Mandris Hollen used his black arts to ascend to lichdom: He planted trees to channel ley lines, used them for his good…and the transients that came through, courtesy of the great depression, dug, unwittingly, not only holes for the trees, but also their own graves, awaiting his awakening as an army of ghouls beneath the surface. Really cool set-up, made creepier by b/w-photography of the creepy place and its surroundings. Reminded me in a good way of how the German CoC-supplements generate atmosphere.

The third major section of the book provides a total of 20 encounters while traveling. It is here, that the old-school Greyhawk-ish feeling suffuses the pdf the most: We can find greedy tax collectors traveling under the guise of a false identity; “Blacken[sic!] carcasses of large spiders”, ruined huts, an axebeak (the header for this encounter is the one slightly raunchy pun – “One Big Pecker”), a Halfling transformed into an orc (henchman material!), a sentient door in the middle of nowhere that can lead to some other place (a concept I myself am using – in my game, there is the Desolation of Doors, a pocket-plane-hub, where dreams are the currency to unlock new doors, but that as an aside…), gold diggers in a creek bed, a half-buried chest smeared with mandragora seeds and green sap…and there would be a lady who offers to cook for the PCs on a PWYW-basis. Oh, here’s the thing: She’s actually NOT a witch. Or hag. Or polymorphed monster. Just a friendly lady who loves cooking. I enjoyed these roadside encounters. They feel classic and provide a nice blend of combat and roleplaying, of the mundane and weird, of the threatening and benign.

Finally, we take a look at a Street Vendor, represented by a b/w-artwork, namely one Oren. Oren is a cobbler haunted by a dark past: At one point, he killed a woman in a fit of rage and was sentenced. While he managed to break out of prison, the life of an outlaw seemed to be his fate, until he met Laura, who not only became his wife, she also mellowed out Oren. His fits of anxiety and paranoia only rarely resurface, and he knows his trade. His business associate, Gerald the hunter, is also rather capable and loyal. 3 cool adventure hooks center around this constellation: One that sees the PCs hunting bugbears for Oren; one that has the (justifiably?) paranoid Oren caught by the PCs as he’s trying to hide a knocked out (or killed) watchman and one that centers on Gerald, who ostensibly slew a rare albino deer of the local lord – which brings legit bounty hunters right to Oren’s doorstep…

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, if not perfect. I noticed a few glitches, but nothing glaring. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly one-column b/w-standard. The artworks and photographs in the pdf are really nice, particularly for the price-point, and sport the classic look the zine is going for. The electronic version does not sport any bookmarks, which represents and unnecessary comfort-detriment.

The first issue of Manor by Tim Shorts (shout out to Tenkar; found out about this e-zine there!) is something I frankly enjoyed more than I thought I would. It’s pretty difficult to get the classic, non-weird old-school vibe done right; there is a very thin line between being classic and being just redundant and boring. The mini-adventure’s racking up the tension, the diverse encounter and nice NPC-centric hook-set-ups all manage to evoke this sense of care, of passion, of the right aesthetics. The small details, the small hooks, are ultimately what makes this e-zine work. Now, I would have loved to see a player-friendly version of the sketch-like map, preferably with scale. Similarly, editing could be a bit tighter…but for the low and fair asking price, this humble installment most certainly delivered more than I expected. This is very much worth getting if you like old-school design-aesthetics. Fans of the weird will probably be less satisfied, but there are some nice angles here as well. Ultimately, my final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue  #1
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The Flayed King
by Nolen B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/23/2015 12:17:27

Pretty good short little story. I used this in my Dungeon World campaign and the players were pretty intrigued by it. It works in multiple settings and a little bit of tweaking could make it viable for anything really. Gave me an excuse to give my players a chance to find some answers. Good stuff.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Flayed King
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The Manor, Issue #8
by Paul G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/15/2015 12:24:14

The Grappling Rules in this issue are worth the price of admission alone. The other articles are great as well -- I think I've found some new torches, and henchmen to carry them.

Recommended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #8
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The Flayed King
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/29/2015 23:51:25

Tim Shorts produces and writes some damn awesome stuff, a combination of OD&D weirdness and solid adventure writing. Here we've got The Flayed King adventure done for Swords and Wizardry Appreciation day and in twelve pages he gives birth to a dark and twisted adventure of weird as well as horrid proportions. The man knows how to write a sold adventure to challenge and bring your PC's into the bowels of a heck of a ride. The set up time for 'The Flayed King' is less time then the intro to a classic 90's horror film and this sucker is tightly done with one adventure location as well as solid background steeped deep in the old school tradition as well as the blood of other adventurers who have come before your PC's. The adventure plays with several classic motifs of old school gaming from the adventure location to the treasure within the location all the while playing with the king in the barrow legends of old. The adventure dances around the pulp weird fantasy of yesteryear hearkening back to HP Lovecraft, Robert Howard, and several other classic writers whist putting your characters center stage for the slaughter. So do I think that this one is worth the download? Yes in point of fact if you haven't already then by all means stop reading this one and go grab it. Now. Tim Shorts produces and writes some damn awesome stuff, a combination of OD&D weirdness and solid adventure writing. Here we've got The Flayed King adventure done for Swords and Wizardry Appreciation day and in twelve pages he gives birth to a dark and twisted adventure of weird as well as horrid proportions. The man knows how to write a sold adventure to challenge and bring your PC's into the bowels of a heck of a ride. The set up time for 'The Flayed King' is less time then the intro to a classic 90's horror film and this sucker is tightly done with one adventure location as well as solid background steeped deep in the old school tradition as well as the blood of other adventurers who have come before your PC's. The adventure plays with several classic motifs of old school gaming from the adventure location to the treasure within the location all the while playing with the king in the barrow legends of old. The adventure dances around the pulp weird fantasy of yesteryear hearkening back to HP Lovecraft, Robert Howard, and several other classic writers whist putting your characters center stage for the slaughter. So do I think that this one is worth the download? Yes in point of fact if you haven't already then by all means stop reading this one and go grab it. Now.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Flayed King
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The Flayed King
by James C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/20/2015 10:11:17

Not a bad little mini-mod. I love the weird fantasy theme of the game and this is something a GM could have up and running in less than 30 minutes. Great adventure for a side jaunt or a one shot.

Great Job!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Mini Manor: Faces Without Screams
by Sylvia R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/30/2014 08:00:49

I enjoyed this product. It's packed full of challenges and unexpected turns - one could say it puts a different "face' on things (lol). I especially enjoyed the new race and definitely intend to introduce it into my games. Tim Short and his team have done a good job



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
The Mini Manor: Faces Without Screams
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The Manor, Issue #7
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/10/2014 13:40:16

One of the cool things about the early days of this hobby was finding great little zines of new content. Sometimes it was an alternate rule, or new monster or class. Some of these were good, many were mediocre but all of them were a lot of fun. Back then I didn't care how good or bad it was, I was just glad to have something new and exciting to try out.

The Manor reminds me of the best parts of that time.

This is the newest one on the batch (for now) and it shows. The evolving layout and feel of the zine gives it a nice organic feel. I love the PDFs, but this issue makes me want them all in print form too. The other big difference here is that creator Tim Shorts is only the editor of this, he has no content of his own in it. I am taking that as a sign of good growth.
"Boltswitch's Mobile Potion Emporium" by Boric Glanduum is a great throwback to the traveling snake-oil salemen of the previous turn of the century. Whether his potions work is up to the GM I guess, but I like the idea enough to steal it! I hope he has some Guards from Issue #6 to protect him. "The Skinwalker (Coyote)" by Joshua De Santo is a Native American feeling lycanthropic class for S&W. It looks fun, but leaves me wanting more to be honest. Chris Coski is back an he has a number of magical mirrors in "Mirror, Mirror". His penchant for alliteration is amusing, but it could have gotten tiresome quick. A couple of smaller adventures are next. "Trouble Down the Well" by Simon Forester and "Horrid Caves" by Garrison James. Horrid Caves is the larger of the two. It has some new spells and a couple of new monsters.
Rusty Battle Axe brings us some Mind Flayer art and an Illithid haiku. Two words that I have never used that close to each other. We end with an ad for Tenkar & the Badger's OSR Radio podcast. Though no URL is provided. Here it is just in case, http://www.tavernradio.com/.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #7
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The Manor, Issue #6
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/10/2014 13:40:02

One of the cool things about the early days of this hobby was finding great little zines of new content. Sometimes it was an alternate rule, or new monster or class. Some of these were good, many were mediocre but all of them were a lot of fun. Back then I didn't care how good or bad it was, I was just glad to have something new and exciting to try out.

The Manor reminds me of the best parts of that time.

The Manor #6 is back to 28 pages and jam packed by the looks of the Table of Contents. The first adventure/setting is "The Brothel at Wargumn". It might be a little to risque for the youngest gamers, but it is sure a lot less risque than things I was reading at the time when zines were popular (70s and 80s). Easy to drop this into any game, any world or even any town.
The Guard class is next. It would not be right unless a new class showed up every now and then. I am not sure that this class adds anything above and beyond say a dedicated fighter, but it still looks solid and looks like it plays well. "Getting from Point A to Point B" is an interesting addition from Ken Harrison. It details three portal traps/puzzles of getting from A to B in a dungeon setting. A great little addition to any dungeon where a magic-user may want to keep something hidden (Point B) but still need to get to it time to time. "Witches of the Dark Moon" is a great little one-shot written by Tim Shorts himself using a lot of elements he had at his disposal. This includes using my own Witch Class for the witches. You don't need my book to play this, but it does add a little extra to the mix. Consequently this one shot also does the one thing my witch DIDN'T do well and that is provide a ready to play adventure for witches. The adventure it self is a lot of fun.

The only "ad" at the end is one for a the Manor Compilation of issues #1 thru #5. Now I do want to point out. I LIKE the ads at the end. I do. It gives the Manor a nice zine feel and reminds me of reading the Owl & Weasel or older White Dwarf magazines.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #6
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The Manor, Issue #5
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/10/2014 13:39:35

One of the cool things about the early days of this hobby was finding great little zines of new content. Sometimes it was an alternate rule, or new monster or class. Some of these were good, many were mediocre but all of them were a lot of fun. Back then I didn't care how good or bad it was, I was just glad to have something new and exciting to try out.

The Manor reminds me of the best parts of that time.

The Manor #5 is a bit shorter than #4, but at 28 pages it is still a great deal. First up is the "Vineyard of Villain. Four Evil NPCs to use in your game and illustrated by Jay Penn. "Cursed Concoctions" by Chris Coski is a collection of 7 new poisons/potions for evil GMs. There is a random table of tavern names if you need a dive in a hurry. The "Sullen Hagfish" has good food I am sure. There is a lengthy article on doors. With a nice font for the header. Made this feel like a cool 70s Zine, The article itself is a good one and a good read for GMs. There is another longish article on random city encounters. Like before, we end it with an ad (of sorts).

I am not as overtly enthusiastic about #5 as I was for #4; but there is a lot great stuff here all the same. Taken as a body of work it is still fun and still gives me that same thrill that I got when discovering Zines in the 80s.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #5
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The Manor Issue #4
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/10/2014 13:39:21

One of the cool things about the early days of this hobby was finding great little zines of new content. Sometimes it was an alternate rule, or new monster or class. Some of these were good, many were mediocre but all of them were a lot of fun. Back then I didn't care how good or bad it was, I was just glad to have something new and exciting to try out.

The Manor reminds me of the best parts of that time.

At 39 pages this issue takes the Manor beyond the Zine world and puts it more firmly in "magazine" territory. Even the Owl & Weasel or the Strategic Review got to this size. We start out with an adventure for Swords & Wizardy for 4 to 6 characters of 5th to 7th level. The adventure is 15 pages and includes 2 new monsters including a very cool, Lovecraftian-feeling "big bad". The last part of this adventure with the monster (the Or'Drog) and it's lair are worth the price of this Zine alone. Slap this bad guy into your generic Caves of Chaos and suddenly the stakes have gone up a lot. I am kicking myself for not reading this sooner. This was out in July of 2013. I could have used this very monster in exactly what I mentioned above when playing Keep on the Borderlands with my kids. Yes, this 11 HD monster would have been too much for them, but it would have up the stakes considerably. SO if you have copies of these laying around, READ THEM! There is good stuff in here.

"From Beneath the Manor" is so great. It is a feature that I hope to see more of; Contributors send in their monsters to be stated up for any OSR compatible game and illustrated by Jason Sholtis. It reminds me of the old Fiend Factory from White Dwarf.

We end with a couple of ads (for that full Zine feel). Seriously though, The Manor #4 is awesome and I can't wait to read the next ones.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor Issue #4
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The Manor, Issue #7
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/27/2014 09:31:47

The Manor, Issue 7 is a short publication dedicated to the OSR (Old School) branch of fantasy roleplaying. This issue contains the following articles:

Boltswitch's Mobile Potion Emporium, a traveling seller of potions, all done through prose which is an interesting choice. Skinwalker, a trickster/minor shapeshifter class based on the Native American view of Coyote. Short and direct, my have a place in some campaigns. Mirror, Mirror, a selection of rather potent magical mirrors. While I would not use them as written, good inspiration. Trouble in the Well, a short adventure for when you need something to fill time between largest adventures which is always useful. Horrid Caves, a longer adventure exploring a cave network containing things from the distant past and ancient magics. I had great fun running this adventure for my Pathfinder group. Lastly, a Mindflayer Haiku and picture wraps this issue up, disturbing but amusing.

All in all, quite fun and full of tools for OSR (or other fantasy) games.

Disclosure: As a featured reviewer for RPGNow/DriveThroughRPG, I received my copy of this product for free from the publisher for the purpose of this review.

Note: Read more reviews and other gaming articles at my journal https://seaofstarsrpg.wordpress.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Manor, Issue #7
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The Manor, Issue #7
by Alexander L. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/29/2014 08:02:44

Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/08/29/tabletop-review-the-manor-issue-7/

The Manor is a OSR style fanzine that I haven’t had a chance to pick up until now. Like most gaming magazines, it contains a range of articles, adventures and new things to dismember. Like a lot of magazines, the quality of the articles varies, although which ones are worth reading depends on the point of view of whoever is paging through it. After all, what interests one person may bore another.

I will say that I enjoyed this issue of The Manor and I will probably be coming back for more. There were six articles and my biggest complaints are in fact minor ones about layout. The copyright information on page two cuts off abruptly after “All Artwork, Maps and Articles are the,” which I first took to be a bad sign, but thankfully the content was pretty good. The other weird layout issue was with the “Tenkar & the Badger” radio ad on the last page. The entire magazine is laid out in portrait, but the ad for this is in landscape, meaning you have to turn your head to an odd angle to read it…or just turn your e-reader if you’re not at a computer.

There are six articles in The Manor, Issue #7, along with a one page introduction from Tim Shorts. The first article is “Boltswitch’s Mobile Potion Emporium.” It’s three pages of fiction where a Gnome named Mikklum Boltswitch is hawking potions from the back of a cart, snake oil salesman style. Seven potions are discussed, with the name in Italics, followed by a description of what the potion does. This was a fun little piece and a neat way to showcase new items. Usually new items are done in a very dry straightforward manner, and I liked the method in which this was done.

“Skinwalker (Coyote)” is the next piece and it’s about a new playable race/class. This was the only article I didn’t care for, but that’s because it felt unfinished. You’re given an XP chart, abilities gain by level and the usual weapon/alignment restrictions, but the saving throws and THAC0 bits are also missing. There is also no indication if the piece is a PC class, NPC class or the like. What’s here has a decent start but it really needed to be fleshed out more. Right now it just feels like there are huge gaps in the piece.

“Mirror, Mirror” is article #3 and it gives us eight magical mirrors to throw into your game. Unlike “Boltswitch’s Mobile Potion Emporium,” “Mirror Mirror” is done in the usual descriptive narrative instead of a fiction based one. Each of the mirrors in this piece are a lot of fun and I really loved the artwork in this article. The Mirror of Mugging and the Mirror of Morbidity are my two favorites. Each mirror only gets a paragraph of description, but that’s on par with what you would find in the DMG, so I’m fine with it as the whole piece is a lot of fun.

“Trouble Down the Well” is the first of two adventures in this issue. You get a one page map and a one page description of the adventure. A well in a small town has dried up and it has started to smoke. The local blacksmith went down to see what has occurred and never came back. Now it is up to the PCs to save the day. It’s a pretty simple and short affair with only a single monster to deal with. You should have no problem playing this in only a single session. It’s a fun little adventure for what it is and that’s all that matters.

The second adventure in the piece is “Horrid Caves” and it is a full length adventure that only has nine locations so it too should be able to completed in a single session. However, the adventure also contains a ton of new monsters and spells. It’s a pretty routine hack and slash dungeon crawl, but the new monsters and spells that show up are quite weird and remind me of something I’d see in Dungeon Crawl Classics. I really enjoyed this piece and since it is for first or second level characters, it’s a great way to let people try out their new characters or to pad out another short adventure.

The sixth and final article is a haiku about a mind flayer. It’s amusing and the full page of art really makes the piece.

In all, this seventh issue of The Manor was a lot of fun, and if I have time, I might pick up some of the earlier issues to see if they are as good. The issue is short, with a page count of under thirty, but it’s also only $2.50, so it’s not as if the zine will break your bank. The two adventures and the two magic items articles are well worth reading through if you are a fan of retro clones like OSRIC, Swords and Wizardry Castles & Crusades and the like. I wish I had more room in this review to showcase the artwork too. If you have the time and spare change, definitely pick this up.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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