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The Hill Cantons Cosmology
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/25/2017 10:56:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This brief cosmology clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 6 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, this pdf is exactly what is says on the tin - a description of the cosmology of the Hill Cantons, which serve as a backdrop for several of the modules put out by the Hydra Collective. But it is frankly more than that.

The world described here would be called Zěm, and after the header, which explains how the world came to be, we begin with a dialog-like frame-narrative that is hilariously irreverent. In the beginning, there was void (or has world-matter existed before?) and all Void was divided in 3 parts - the space of demons, the transitional zone haunted by the Uquitani and the sector inhabited by the mortals, the "Insufferable Void."

A somewhat doofy Overgod toiled...and then created drink, in order to stop caring. He got horrible drunk, danced upon a gas giant shouted (with a curse) and slipped from it, sleeping for aeons. His spilled drink would become the oceans and when he awoke, he watched. Before inventing Drink. Again. And so he languishes in drunken stupor, while petty demons and gods rage and fight, and below that, the mortals toil.

The world itself has a strong law-chaos leitmotif, realized in a rather intriuing manner: The world is separated in roughly three regions: The corelands, which are akin to our medieval age; no magic, rigid structure, no weird stuff. Contrasted with that would be the Weird, basically pure chaos and your excuse as a GM to throw anything at players. Planar instabilities? Temporal rifts? Every creature you can dream off, from the heaves to the realms of fey....it can just stumble out of the highly magical Weird.

Between the realms of Gonzo weirdness exemplified by the Weird and the rigid Corelands, there lie the Borderlands, where the fantastic exists, but is still beholden to at least some natural laws; it is in this hazy, dream-like in-between-realm that the Hill Cantons and the vast amount of adventure they offer, can be found.

Have I mentioned that this pdf actually managed to make me laugh? Let me quote from the section "On Alignment": "In his famous treatise Annals of the Fold-Fold Path, Gaxx the Jerk-King teaches us that five-fold alignment (LG, CG, N, LE, CE) is humanity's limited, warped, half-right theoretical view (or ontology, if you want to get really high-falutin') of how Zěm's cosmos works."

Regarding religion, we have Solarity (Praise the sun!...Dark Souls fans got a chuckle out of that...) and the ancient space gods. Gods are not beholden to mortal alignments and and the pdf goes on to explain various solarist sects, including the "official" one. We are told about the orders that serve the church and the other deities - Hebeka, the Celestial Lady, Ha-Vul the antagonist and also the Old Gods of Pahr.

Similarly, the first beasts, quasi-deific beings created by the grand god - these include the Regimental Goat Koza and Vlenosh, the angry sloth...and beyond these entities, there are the atrophied gods, for all things must wane and perish, even the deities. Finally, the silent god exists, enigmatically, a divine wildcard, whose endgame is yet to be understood.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good, though a few typo-level glitches can be found, most notably that the "cosmology"-header on each pages reads "cosnology"[sic!]. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly 2-column b/w-standard with solid stock art. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Chris Kutalik's cosmology is an irreverent, fun short pdf that made me smile more than once. It is creative, weird and at times even funny. The cosmology presented features several components I consider to be rather enticing and helps illustrate a creative and intriguing world. In short: This is a very fun read. Now, this also is PWYW, which should be considered to be an excellent reason to get this gem right now. It is fun,a good read and even inspiring - whether for scavenging purposes, as a mythology or to add further facets to Hill Canton-modules, this is very much worth getting and leaving a tip for. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Hill Cantons Cosmology
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Strange Stars Fate Rule Book
by Dillard R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/18/2017 23:04:34

Splendid. In the review of the Setting Book I stated that Art took precedence over content. Way more art in the first book than in this one. This book however is chock full of content. Everything is fully explained in Fate Core rules.

The first section of the book is taken up with how Strange Stars differs from regular Fate (not much). You could even run a game without the Fate Core rules if you wanted (but why since you can get the Fate Core rules for free on this site?).

The remaining sections cover character creation. You have High Concept, Trouble and Stangeness as your first three Aspects. Strangeness should add some weirdness to the mix. Life in the Strange Stars is going to leave you affected--maybe you have an unusual gadget, or ethos, what have you.

Clade templates--Each clade is referenced with page number in the Setting Book. There are aliens galore in the Strange Stars and most of them are "human". Every clade mentioned in the Setting book is here and encouragement abounds to make your own.

Adventures and campaigns. If you are used to Fate Core the lightness of this section will not daunt you. There are enough ideas here to get your juices flowing.

Threats. A plethora of threats to use, but not enough to fill a universe. Just enough to figure out how to create your own to match your weird universe.

Worlds and Cluster creation I'll lump together. If you have played Diaspora (for sale on this site) you will understand how this works. Several differences bear mentioning. You are not tied to just the worlds of a cluster. Hyper Gates connect to at least one other of the areas in the Setting book. Higher technology is sought after not feared.

Finally, Factions are given several pages and a reason for existence. Many Fate Core books mention factions but this is the first time I remember any one discussing how they impact the PCs during roleplay.

Overall this is a very good addition to the Fate Core products that exist out there. It will take a bit of work to create your universe, but that is unlikely to deter anyone used to many of the Fate products out there.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars Fate Rule Book
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Strange Stars
by Dillard R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/16/2017 10:04:18

A bit expensive for just 32 pages...if you want your books to be jam packed with writing. If you go with the author's "bottom up" method of universe creation it won't be such a problem. And if you like evocative art to get your juices flowing then this is right up your alley.

If you were to cross Guardians of the Galaxy with the Heavy Metal movie and toss in a dash of MST3K you are begining to get the idea of what this setting can be. However, since this is a Player driven creation you could really use whatever comparisons you want.

This would be a great framework for any group that wants to explore/create their setting as they go, because it has enough info to get your creative juices flowing without putting you in a strait-jacket.

There is a Fate Core add on that you can purchase separately, because this is a system agnostic product.

I didn't give it 5 stars because I wanted more. However the concept is intriguing and well executed.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars
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Strange Stars OSR Rule Book
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/10/2017 00:02:28

Sometimes you get to see an artifact from another alternative time period, a strange 'what if' book that ports itself into your hands. Unfortunately this sort of thing isn't real but Trey Causey has finally released his Strange Stars OSR Rule Book and its aimed straight at the heart of the Stars Without Numbers rpg system rule book as an alternative setting. "It’s the far future, Old Earth is lost and shrouded in legend, and the children of paleo-humanity have long ago populated the stars, branching into new forms and strange cultures. Adventure is measured in light-years!" This is a zipped down, stripped down, Stars Without Number setting book spun through the blender of Trey Causey's warped imagination. This book reads like a combination of a late 70's classic era Marvel space opera comic book setting with a completely different take down of the Stars Without Number setting on its own terms. So is this a good thing or a bad thing? Well, in many respects its a good thing, this book has actual playable OSR alien races that make you want to play them. There is a an entire boat load of worlds, materials,and adventure hooks sewing through out the setting book. This book is an exercise in compactness and interstellar utility. The layout is smooth, easy to read, & gives not only a gist of the interstellar setting but an entire setting straight out of the box. Here's a sample of the type of quality material that your going to get. Is it a complete setting? Yes and no, yes its perfectly suitable for running adventures in the Strange Stars universe mixed along side the Stars Without Number universe & system. But is it worth it if you already own the Strange Stars setting & resource book? Well that's going to depend if you want to convert the whole setting, plus races, material, etc. into Stars Without Number or into your favorite space OSR clone such as Hulks & Horrors, White Star, etc. This book covers all of the bases but making the buyer go for another purchase all over again is a bit of a pain in the ass for the consumer. So it loses points for that. But I get the reason why multiple versions of Strange Stars have been done. Trey is trying to get his hands into the gaming public's hands for sheer love of his setting & in a word its worth it. Especially for the Stars Without Number game universe because in many ways Strange Stars fulfills the retro gaming promise of SWN without all of that OSR system's setting baggage. I've DMed lots & lots of Stars Without Numbers over the years & in some respects there's way too many books, settings, etc. for SWN. In thirty seven pages you get factions, alien races,NPC's, adventure hooks, etc. ready too go for that group of player's that coming in fifteen minutes. This is a great setting book for Stars without Number because its ideal suited to take the PC's to the stars and beyond for months or years of old school play. Much of the Strange Stars setting echoes both SWN and its own internal 70's space opera groove. Could this work with other OSR gaming systems? Yes, in fact it would be an excellent fit with Venger Satanis's sleazy Alpha Blue rpg system. But without the adult sex & sleaze bits. Instead you get some very fine quality material that can literally generate months of 70's space opera play at the usual author's quality and output. There's some really fine pieces of artwork in here as well. Could Strange Stars OSR be used with other OSR retroclone systems such as White Star or Swords & Wizardry? In a word quite easily, not only the author's other work setting Weird Adventures the crunch is done in such a way to make porting over into your favorite game system quite easy & somewhat painless. This piece by Jason Sholtis, is especially evocative of the Seventies comic space opera. There is idea after idea here with homages to classic 70's films such as Logan's Run, Star Wars, Star Crash, etc. But Trey has free reign to let his imagination run wild. It does indeed lead into some weird & dark corners of his universe but that's half the fun here. What about using Strange Stars OSR with say the White Star rpg? Well after doing a bit of looking I found that Trey pointed me in the right direct it seems that friend already has done exactly this; " Mike aka Wrathofzombie has run some sessions of Strange Stars in White Star with some adaptation of the setting book of his on devising. Here are some races/classes: https://wrathofzombie.wordpress.com/2015/05/17/playable-alien-races-from-strange-stars-for-white-star/

Looking at what he did there, I don't think it would be very hard to convert over, as White Star looks even "rules lighter" than SWN, but with a similar OSR chassis. " This begs the question could Strange Stars be used with OD&D or say Swords & Wizardry? Well judging by the research I've done with it. I'd say definitely & because, "the children of paleo-humanity have long ago populated the stars" it would not be hard to take your favorite campaign setting or old school fantasy world & make it a back water planet in the Strange Stars universe. There are also lots of PC racial options from Atozan librarians to armored thrax warriors which can add new dimensions to character racial development.This is especially true for retroclones such as Swords & Wizardry or for other favorite OSR system. Could Strange Stars be used with Traveler, Star Frontiers ( the loving homage of the cover is a dead giveaway), or even Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, or Star Ships & Space Men Second Edition? In a word, yes. But where I think that Strange Stars OSR loses some points is in the fact that if you bought the first Strange Stars book, this is a companion piece & while I totally understand the reasons why. Now the reason why this pdf costs five dollars & fifty five cents is because its full of some really nice artwork, a solid layout,editing, & more all of this costs time, money, & high quality costs. Even though the page count is only thirty seven pages, this pdf is so chalk full of great OSR retro sci fi ideas that its well worth your time & money. The fact that its geared for Stars Without Numbers only adds to the value. My recommendation is to grab this one and start playing among Strange Stars. Five out of five in my book for solid OSR space opera for your old school campaign settings.

Eric Fabiaschi Swords & Stitchery blog Want to see more reviews, support for this & other OSR rpg systems plus original content? Subscribe to http://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.com



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars OSR Rule Book
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Ruins & Ronin
by Thomas R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/15/2016 16:44:35

I found myself pretty dissapointed with Ruins & Ronin. The level of content is pretty much limited to giving you permission to change the names of your character classes. Anyone with the ability to just look at their games and ask themselves 'how can I make this more japanese' has nothing to gain from this product.



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[2 of 5 Stars!]
Ruins & Ronin
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The Hill Cantons Cosmology
by Ray W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/23/2016 17:35:09

Not only is this book packed with great ideas, but the writing is absolutely hilarious. As GM, it's up to you whether you want to pass these jokes on to your players, or keep them to yourself. You might be tempted to do the latter, because you don't want your players missing all the great ideas amidst all the great jokes. I'd quote from the PDF, but it's cheap and short so just go get it.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Hill Cantons Cosmology
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Slumbering Ursine Dunes
by Anders N. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/31/2016 02:17:17

A fantastic and inspiring adventure, just the right size for a few sessions of gaming and for giving your players a taste of the surreal Hill Cantons. Highly recommended!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Slumbering Ursine Dunes
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Weird Adventures
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/30/2016 15:43:58

This is seriously one of my all-time favorite settings. Sure, there are a few big-name games with settings I enjoy, but Weird Adventures literally had me running for a notebook to scribble ideas in every page or two. I cannot WAIT to read more about this setting!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weird Adventures
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Fever-Dreaming Marlinko
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/30/2016 13:25:41

This isn't really a traditional city supplement. Rather, it's a set of adventure locations and a ready-made web of intrigues to plug into more or less any fantasy campaign (though it dovetails most clearly with Hydra's other campaign setting books, such as Slumbering Ursine Dunes).

It's possible to run it completely straight, but there's a lot of dry humour and the sensibility is strongly coloured by Vance's Dying Earth books. Essentially, if you like Vance's sardonic innkeepers and eloquent ne'erdowells, you'll probably like Marlinko.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Fever-Dreaming Marlinko
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Hill Cantons Compendium II
by Jim G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/30/2016 10:05:14

Handy and useful compendium of material from the excellent Hillside Cantons blog. The new rules, classes, etc. presented herein are well thought out, nicely presented and fairly easy to adapt or adopt as you see fit.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hill Cantons Compendium II
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Weird Adventures
by Jim G. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/30/2016 10:00:23

This setting guide is a real gem and can be used with any edition and nearly any rules-set you prefer. The writing is crisp, clean and provides loads of inspiration for delving more deeply into The City and its surrounding environs. This is a setting full of pulpish-mystery, noirish-intrigue, and all manner of under-handed shennanigens and nefarious schemes playing out in the background, making it a smorgasboard of adventuring opportunities and perils to confront. Quite a few of the entries invite further exploration or a closer examination by player characters; this is a setting meant to be played-in. But more than that, it is fun.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Weird Adventures
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Slumbering Ursine Dunes
by Rich F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/30/2016 09:59:46

well-implemented point-crawl, perhaps the iconic example of that style.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Slumbering Ursine Dunes
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Ruins & Ronin
by Simon K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/16/2016 00:53:15

I picked up the PDF only of this product and at 80 pages (including endpapers) it represents very good value to a group wanting something like a simplified 1E Oriental Adventures for OD&D rules. The price tripped me to rate it 4 stars though if I was rating on content alone it would be closer to a 3.5 star rating, due to a couple of issues I will highlight below.

It is marked as S&W compatible but is basically playable by itself as it has a simple rule system rundown. This is one area I personally would have deleted as the bulk of purchasers are likely to already have access to one or more OD&D ruleset. The product organisation is basically a take on the standard OD&D manual with a distinct oriental adventures twist.

Instead of the fighter you get the Bujin (I approve of the name- samurai is too restrictive, closer to an occidental cavalier class) who gets a few neat proficiencies like 'follow through' strike after reducing an enemy to 0 HP. Like fighters they are a generalist martial class so could be used to portray samurai, ronin, ashigaru or bandits equally. Instead of wizards you have Shugenja, and instead of clerics you have Sohei warrior priests. The remaining race-as-class is the Half-Ogre, a neat idea for a tank that could be used much like a beserker/barbarian class. There is no equivalent of the rogue/thief class which is a shame, it would have been nice to see a yakuza or ninja class, or even a hengeyokai race-as-class fulfilling this role.

You get a nice run down on armour and weapons with a simple yet satisfying piecemeal armour system (though not illustrated, like the rest of the PDF bar the old school cover), and the bulk of the rules. Then comes the magic section. The Sohei spells are essentially cleric spells with a few druid ones thrown in, the Shugenja spells are standard magic-user/illusionist fare. This was a disappointment as with all the iconic eastern mythology around positive and negative qi, feng shui, pakua etc it would have been nice to see a new approach to magic, or even just altered spells fulfilling similar functions. No 'fire shuriken' here. It also adheres to the occidental conception of elements as earth/air/fire/water rather than the oriental conception of air/water/fire/wood/metal, which impinges on atmosphere somewhat. Sohei performing zen based magic while Shugenja use the power of tao, that I could really get on board with.

After a GM's section we hit the bestiary, which while not illustrated is quite descriptive with some cool monsters. Anyone who has seen the animations Ninja Scroll or Wicked City will nod sagely on reading this. But, perhaps in an effort to make a complete game rather than an OD&D supplement, the bestiary is padded with many primarily occidental and Tolkienesque beasties. Do we really need goblins as well as bakemono, ghouls as well as gaki, wererats as well as nezumi, and ogre magi as well as oni, which are fundamentally the same. Much better to have just put in the oriental equivalents, which have slightly divergent evolution from their occidental cousins. Also while there is some discussion of creating more godlike dragons, the ones listed are standard chromatic fare. I would rather see wingless, serpentine lung combining the functions of both the elementals and dragons listed. Sometimes, less is more.

The magic item section does exactly what it should- provide flavourful alternatives to the standard occidental list, sometimes with tongue firmly planted in cheek. Heal yourself with Balm of the Tiger anyone?? No setting information is included, but that is fine, there is general discussion of setting as befits OD&D play.

Overall this book does some things very well but misses a few opportunities. At this price the PDF is well worth the purchase by any OSR group, though you may have to draw on some other sources. Layout is very clean and neat with no obvious typos. This book is good value, a revised and expanded edition could well become a 5-star essential purchase.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Ruins & Ronin
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Slumbering Ursine Dunes
by Ahimsa K. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/28/2016 13:24:04

Every part of this module is pure radness. It's a good length--detailed, but not too detailed. In a similar vein, the art is incredible, but there's not an abundance of it.

My personal highlights are the Men at Arms and Hirelings table, which, though small, are packed with some disproportionately interesting details. The bestiary adds quite a bit of the right flavor. The dunes themselves, a literal sandbox, are great although neither the Golden Barge nor the Glittering Tower dungeons inspire me as much as the rest of the book.

The War Bears are actually the coolest part though. I mean, the name alone lets you know that.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Slumbering Ursine Dunes
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Strange Stars Fate Rule Book
by Steven W. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/26/2016 13:34:56

Together with the main Strange Stars book, this would be a solid 5 stars. Having to buy them seperately makes me rate this at 4 stars.

What you get is a summary version of the core Fate rules, as well as very well done, very detailed examples of the Strange Stars clades (races), political groups and organizations.

Howvever, seperated from the art and fiction of the main book, this book came off as somewhat dry and text book-y.

Still, solid 4 stars, great example of Fate space opera/transhuman sci fi. I look forward to seeing more Strange Stars.



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[4 of 5 Stars!]
Strange Stars Fate Rule Book
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