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Vacant Ritual Assembly #1 Pay What You Want
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 06/05/2018 06:23:18

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first installment of this OSR-zine for LotFP clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of introduction/editorial/recommended reading/watching, 1 page advertisement/back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, laid out for pamphlet-size (A5, 6’’ by 9’’).

The reviews of this series of ‘zines were requested by one of my patreons.

The first thing you’ll notice past the introduction is a black background, with white letters – this stark contrast ties in well with a visual element depicting a white, smeared ankh, which also is an indicator that there is an entry to the mythical ghoul market nearby, a means to access this strange hub of dark transactions, where players may not only purchase magic items, but do so by permanently lowering their ability scores – the concept noted here is “essence”, and while the pdf comments that it’s a good way to get rid of excess Charisma for power, for example, though, if your game is like mine, that may be a bad idea. The article also sports a sample stat-array for ghouls and mentions a couple of interesting pets/beings to purchase, including wind whales and ego raptors, which come with prices noted properly in silver coins, but without any mechanics to accompany e.g. the nice idea of ostrich-like egoraptors, which can “fly in short bursts. Faster than a horse.” Okay, specify. Alas, the pdf does not do that.

Nice here: The place also sports dirgists, four-armed bards that play dissonant bagpipes of ghoul bones, offering services as fortune tellers. Salves also may be purchased, and the write-up also notes fairy amber, which can be attached to items to render it magic, stacking with itself, though every subsequent addition has a chance to render the item nonmagical. This…can be kind of problematic for LotFP’s more story-driven aesthetics, rewarding lucky players with a bonus-extent that is not necessarily assumed by the math underlying the system.

Anyways, one of the coolest aspects here would be the skinsmith, a corpulent cyclopean demon that can be found here. This entity gets its own article, which no longer sports the black background. The demon hearkens to Diablo’s butcher in a way, but actually offers some services that include reviving the dead, adding replacement/additional limbs, etc. The additional limb aspect could have used a bit of clarification – does an additional arm provide an additional weapon wielding capability, for example? If so, there would have been nice ways to balance that advantage via LotFPs rules, but we don’t get this. More crunchy would be that the demon’s services to revive the dead may come with a list of 12 sample mutations/grim alterations. Cool and elegant (and studded with proper rules), the being can also carve magical tattoos, which allow for the 1/day casting of a spell as if it were regularly prepared; it may also be cast 2/day, but the second time is burns the user for minor damage and loses its potency. Only magic-user spells qualify – thankfully! Anyways, I like this, though I do believe there should be a stated limit on the amount of such tattoos a given character can have. His final service would be the preparation of artisanal cadavers.

The next article depicts Vespero, the antiquarian, who receives a surprisingly amazing b/W-full-page artwork. This fellow is basically a magic item peddler bearing the accoutrements of a plague doctor, which is pretty damn cool imagery. He also comes with a handy GM-work-sheet to track stock, and his presence interacts with how settlements behave regarding purchasing opportunities – no complaints here, I really enjoyed this fellow. While we don’t get stats for the vendor, considering his role, I’m good with that.

We once more return to the black background with a white text, with a one-page article depicting Luminari, Lady of the Golden Lamp, a deity that resembles a firefly with human arms; lamp maidens follow the bidding of the being, and it is said, she can guide you into the dark recesses of the forest. This brief article comes with stats for a being that may be a servant of the entity itself…and it is creative, sports great use of evocative prose and is really fun to read. I can see her, coming down to drink the fire… Really potent stuff.

Next up is a brief low-level adventure, “Brahnwick is dead”, which takes place in the fully mapped thorp of Sylvan Lake. Huge kudos: We get a player-friendly map here!! That is a big plus, so you actually can print out one map. Heck, the houses of interest similarly are fully mapped, going beyond what I expected to find here (though here, we don’t get a key-less, player-friendly iteration). The module is basically a mini-sandbox that takes place in a village in the throes of madness, where looting goes on a damn has burst. It is a nice, free-form setpiece that is easy to integrate without much fuss. It didn’t blow me away, but the maps mean that it’s easy to quickly prepare and spontaneously run.

The next 4 pages sport a fantastic artwork on one page and use the remainder of the space t conduct an interview with Chris McDowall, creator of the “Into the Odd”-game (review forthcoming). The final article is a DIY manor – it’s fully mapped with a keyed, but no key-less version, and sports a worksheet that you can quickly fill out. Handy!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are pretty good, I noticed no glaring formal issues, though the rules-language components for some of the evocative concepts could have been tighter. Layout is definitely remarkable. This magazine looks surprisingly professional and the artworks and impressive maps make this one of the best-looking ‘zines I’ve read so far. That being said, I had issues printing this with 3 different printers, until I finally caved and reviewed it basically from the pdf. That was a bit of a bummer. Speaking of which, the pdf, alas, sports no bookmarks, which is a comfort detriment.

Clint Krause’s first VRA-installment is a pleasant surprise, as far as I’m concerned. It is a very stylish, neat little installment that sports quite a few fantastic, dark fantasy/horror-ish elements that are pretty evocative. The prose, as a whole, must be considered to be an impressive feat, though I couldn’t help but feel that a slightly tighter focus would have benefited the pdf. I wanted to see more on that butchering demon, more on the ghoul market, more on luminary… you get the idea. I do enjoy that this is unpretentious and irreverent in that it suggests stuff to hack and references other books, mirroring the DIY-aspect of OSR-gaming sans compromising presentation-quality. As a whole, I consider this to be a success, and the installment is available for PWYW. And know what? This is very much worth leaving a tip for. While it’s somewhat brief, it’s worth taking a look at if you enjoy dark and weird fantasy. It’s not necessarily a milestone, but even if you dislike all of the content, I wager you’ll still appreciate the surprisingly nice cartography. All in all, I consider this to be worth checking out, and taking PWYW into account, I consider this to be well worth a final verdict of 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer]
Date Added: 12/07/2015 22:29:49

Vacant Ritual Assembly is an OSR (primarily Lamentations of the Flame Princess) focused ‘zine published by Red Moon Medicine Show. They are done in B&W and provide a mixture of house rules, inspiration, adventures, maps and interviews.

Issue 1 starts with some house rules and recommendations for inspirational reading/ viewing/ listening. Next is the ghoul market, where all sorts of interesting (and occasionally distressing) items are for sale, two of the inhabitants of the market (the Skinsmith, who rebuilds flesh, and Vespero the Antiquarian, a fixer) are described in greater detail. A handout for Vespero’s shop in the market is provided as well. A petty god, Luminari, Lady of the Golden Lamp, gets a brief but evocative description. The adventure locale of the drowned village of Brahnwick is presented with maps of the area and surviving building. An interview with Chris McDowall, author of Into the Odd is included. And it concludes with a map and blank key to Greycandle Manor.

Overall, a good collection on interesting resources and you can sample it inexpensively as it is Pay What You Want.

All of the issues of VRA have interesting and inspirational material, while light on rules they provide a wide range of old school wackiness and adventure which should be usable in any game (though requiring a bit more work to adapt to something like Pathfinder).

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:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by VE P. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 10/10/2015 00:22:10

Neat little zine for horror fantasy. Packed with great ideas. Definitely picking up more of these.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/27/2015 13:31:55

So I'm always late to the party and when it comes to fanzine doubly so, issue number #2 of Vacant Ritual Assembly is already hitting the stands and I'm just learning about the zine now. Its sort of like an underground zine that back in the late 90's would have hit the streets if you were into the sort of dark and weird that is Lamentations of the Flame Princess all in one fetid place. Reading through Vacant Ritual Assembly is sort of like turning into an OSR indie horror movie at about four A.M. and coming into the middle of the movie. You stay up to watch it, you know your enjoying it but you just not sure what the hell you just saw but you enjoyed the hell out of it. This zine has everything that I loved about old school horror gaming with a dangerous Lovecraftian sensibility and none of the pretentiousness of other BS rpg stuff. It simply presents a solidly done horror OSR kick in the head. Besides some dangerous and weird artwork. Vacant presents some actual useful content for Lamentations of The Flame Princess in an easily digestible form. The Goblin Market is actually one of the best setting set pieces of the zine. It presents a small Lovecraftian ghoul colony who trade with the living, the damned, wizards, and madmen all in one place under a chapel. Very dangerous and deadly wares are traded here but your PC's will never be the same. The Skin Smith - This is the sort of demon who can do resurrections and alterations to your PC's but man the horror factor is very high. Vespero the Antiquarian is the sort of guy whose business ideals and interests intersect with those who do business with macabre and weird. The guy however can be down right nasty and could be a dangerous NPC as all those who are in a LoFP campaign can be. Luminari, Lady of the Golden Lamp is the sort of minor goddess who can make things very interesting and downright weird for a set of PC's. She's exactly the sort of a goddess who you want to use as part of a one shot adventure. Brahnwick is Dead: one part adventure and one part throw your PC's into a flooded town inhabited by madmen and with weird occult bits happening around their ears. An interview with Chris McDowall about his new opus Into the Odd. Shrugs I'm here for the Lamentations of the Flame Princess material. If your looking for more information about Into the Odd then this is your interview. Greycandle Manor: An abandoned manor on the edge of town, which makes a perfect side encounter for use as a location between Lamentations of the Flame Princess adventures. The PC can be used as is and used just to make the PC's very,very, nervous or filled with those NPC's you've been itching to use. Go grab this issue right now and get cracking with the material as part of a horror themed campaign. This is a tight,tight, well done fanzine. Vacant Ritual Assembly is the sort of a fanzine that replaces so many things that have been missing from OSR horror gaming for a while. It presents a bunch of actual usable elements and dares you to put them into your games. There's no manifesto simply a whole bunch of well assembled parts to install into a Lamentations campaign. The ghoul market frame work is the corpse from which everything else is hung and that is part of the form and focus. This issue really pulls everything that I love from the Kult rpg and puts it in one easily useful package. Everything in this issue is perfectly focused and useful for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess campaign. Fact is that I can see using this material in a number of OSR horror games and still coming back to raid this material time and again. That my friends is utility. And that's what makes this product utterly useful in my mind.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
Publisher: Red Moon Medicine Show
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser]
Date Added: 03/14/2015 04:10:30
http://dieheart.net/vra-zine-one/

What do you need to know?

Vacant Ritual Assembly is a brand-new OSR zine by Clint Krause from Red Moon Medicine Show. The PDF is Pay-What-You-Want at Onebookshelf, the print version costs USD $ 4 with worldwide shipping(!).

So, what’s the deal?

The zine stems from the author’s own Lamentations of the Flame Princess-campaign. That means that the content is usable with most old school games. Overall, the material is influenced by LotFP’s weird tone so depending on your campaing world it will fit in right away or only might be useful as inspiration. The first issue of VRA has some interesting stuff. The Ghoul Market introduces a thematic way for your players to spend money. I like this idea because of its strange flavor: there are ghouls (of course!), spider demons, undead slaves and the Skinsmith. The Skinsmith is a demon that can resurrect you from death for a price and some creepy side-effects. Vespero the Antiquarian might be the most utilitarian entry of the magazine. In the end, he is some kind of fixer for unusual items and can be a quest-giver, too. The illustration by Sean Poppe is really nice as well. Furthermore, there is Luminari, a firefly goddess and Greycandle Manor, a simple map of an estate where you need to fill out the map keys/contents yourself. VRA also features a location based adventure called Brahnwick is dead. It is placed inside a flooded village and has some escaped mad inmates from a sanatorium and a lake monster. It looks like a nice macabre run. The issue closes with an interview with Chris McDowall about his new game Into the Odd. This was a fascinating read as I am excited by this game.

Look

The zine comes with 22 pages of content in black and white. The illustrations are very good except one which is just a rough doodle. The maps are made professionally with Adobe Illustrator. They look modern and are easy to read. The layout design is solid: font choice, use of tables, block text etc. are good. The electronic version has no bookmarks but with 24 pages total that’s not a necessity. Nonetheless, I would appreciate it. The paper quality of the print version is a bit flimsy but for $ 4 I can’t really complain. All things considered the production quality is astonishlingly high.

The Good

The material is interesting and weird. The quality of this new zine is good. It’s a free PDF (with tip-jar, pay-what-you-want) and a cheap investment if you want to have the print version. I am very happy about the low price point. As an European I’m used to sorrow when it comes to shipping costs from the US.

The Bad

If you don’t need the strange and creepy in your adventures there isn’t much to use right away. VRA clearly shows its roots from Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

The Ugly

Nothing really. Take a look at this, it’s a cool thing for your old school needs. It is a worthwhile investment if you like strange things in your OSR game.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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