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Dirge of Urazya
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/04/2020 04:40:48

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, leaving us with 12 pages – each of these pages is presented in a tabloid-style, so essentially you get two facing pages per side; the supplement also comes with a 4 page world-building prompt guidesheet. My review is based on the electronic version; while there was a limited edition print version, I don’t own it.

This review was requested by my patreon supporters, to be undertaken at my convenience.

So, what is this? It is essentially a guided Session 0 cooperative world-building guide that helps you develop the world of Urazya in the incarnation suitable to your campaign.

As far as inspirations are noted, we have White Zombie, High on Fire, Kovenant, Nile,C radle of Filth, Zeal & Ardor. Good taste, promising! Beyond that, the Castlevania games, and Vampire Hunter D – the latter is, by far, the biggest inspiration, and this, in a way, is the biggest weakness of the supplement, but I’ll get back to that later.

We begin with a promising introduction that will have the genre-savvy cackle: Essentially, we have a post-apocalyptic gothic setting, with the vampiric Noble Houses ruling all: Draghul, Karlok, Skarnstein, Várgori. Evil fey steal kids, serving the Unhallowed Court, and beyond cthulhoid things lurk. Okay, so world is pretty much screwed, got it.

Here’s the thing: If you’re looking for the Vampire D gothic, you won’t find it, because the post-apocalyptic struggle for survival is inimical to gothic themes; cosmic horror is similarly rather distinct from those themes, and once you enter monstrosities, things become rather thematically confused. Instead of thinking this as “Gothic” as a genre, consider it more in the sense of “gothic” as an architecture descriptor.

Particularly considering the Capital, or, as I’d like to call it: Bloodborne-land, if the Hunt actually wasn’t constant. The Borderlands are points of light and essentially outlaw/Grimm fairy tale county. In the Devastation Zones beyond, we have the science-fantasy/horror land. I LIKE all of these, and the pdf consistently presents summaries of aesthetics, prompts and leitmotifs, as well as several helpful world-building prompts.

There is an issue here, though: These sub-themes don’t gel together. They aren’t really fused properly. There is no connective tissue that bridges themes. And honestly, the book isn’t that creative regarding its faction suggestions. Let me give you a few examples: “A fraternity that crafts monsters from corpses.” “A cadre of mystical gunslingers.“ “A sect of inquisitors obsessed with eradicating heresy.” “A consortium of merchants and traders.” … That is NOT something any GM needs spelled out. Ever. This is basic as all hell, and boring at best.

And this frustrates me to now end, because the author can do much better! Compare two entries from knowledgeable Nonplayer Characters: “A cantankerous sage or hermit.”

That’s a non-entry if I ever saw one. Boring. Bland.

“A phantasmatrix adept at stealing dreams.” That’s evocative. What’s a phantasmatrix? Does she use Dominatrix-like techniques? How are dreams stolen? With one sentence, the mind’s aflame! Unfortunately, these genuinely inspired entries that showcase the author’s potential, are the exception, not the rule.

The highest density of the things that excited me, was in the section of one/two-word character-concepts: Absintheur warlock? Battle nun? Hexbride? Yeah!

Compare to “Drifter”, to “disciple” to “mercenary.”

A pet-peeve of mine: In spite of the vampiric aristocracy and the world going to s****, everyone’s totally egalitarian, and prejudices are rare. Nonhumans and mutants get full rights. Buahahahaha. Yeah right, that goes against EVERYTHING that creates a sense of threat of not belonging. I get it. Prejudice sucks. Heck, I’ve been spat on, insulted, etc. But dark fantasy and horror are efficient because we can engage with such themes in a safe environment. Particularly in such dark environments, playing against social prejudices is so rewarding. It makes a hero. When e.g. Geralt stand up for nonhumans in the face of prejudice, does that not ennoble him? This feels like a cop out that makes the whole setting feel inconsistent.

And then there’s the language. Common’s spoken everywhere, but, you know, there are some isolated communities and ancient texts. Language barriers create a sense of estrangement, of the Different – a crucial aspect of horror. That this booklet drops. sigh

Finally, no good ideas are given regarding the gods. “Religion in Urazya is a mix of monotheistic religions, polytheistic pantheons, and esoteric spiritual paths.”

…Do I have to comment on this?

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of glitches. Layout adheres, as noted, to a tabloid-style two-opposing pages-style, with one to two-columns per page. We get solid, hand-drawn b/w-artworks. The pdf has no bookmarks, but needs none at this length.

Damn. I wanted to like Jack Shear’s guided world-building. I’m the target demographic. I love dark fantasy, horror, post-apocalyptic stuff; I used to cosplay as D. … And that’s the problem. If you’re immersed in dark fantasy/horror media, this book has almost nothing to offer. I got a grand total of 4 words (!!), yes, “words”, out of this pdf. These 4 words inspired me. But if you’re already a fan of the themes, this will not have much going on for you.

The intro was promising, but nothing comes together. The heavy lifting of blending the themes? You and your group will have to do that, and the pdf does a lot of bad concessions to D&D-standards that compromise its themes and the rules by which the world operates.

This booklet plays it safe, and horror can’t ever be SAFE.

Heck, even Ravenloft had the outcast rating! A frickin’ WotC-property has more cojones in that regard than this!

Anyways, for me as a person, this was a total dud of a booklet; even for the low price, I was utterly disappointed. I printed this before reading it because I prefer reading on paper, and seriously wish I hadn’t. For me, as a person, this is a 1.5 stars-dud. If you’re experienced regarding these themes, don’t get this.

As a reviewer, I can see this have some value for GMs and groups less immersed in darker themes and media. If you’re new to the wondrous worlds of dark spires, vampiric nobilities and vile cults, then this might well be worth checking out. For you, this may be as high as a 4 star-booklet. My official verdict, will clock in between those, at 2.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Dirge of Urazya
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Hexmoon Sabbath: A Folk Horror Doom
by Kyle M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/21/2019 12:01:36

Regardless of the system you're using, this excellent small supplement will prove useful. It's organized in such a way that the GM can quickly find what they need when planning a session. Even more importantly, you will have the tools to react when the players inevitably do the unexpected. I'll be dropping this in a Krevborna game, but honestly it would work just as well in any setting with witches.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Hexmoon Sabbath: A Folk Horror Doom
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Umberwell: Blackened Be Thy Name
by Matthew P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/17/2019 10:42:36

Chock full of wonderful and flavourful ideas, characters, factions, places and events. It compares well the the best of the current generation of rpg products that combine elements of setting book, campaign and monster manual, with a style that hints at a deep and rich world rather than attempting - and so often failing - to describe every detail (take note WOTC!). For my money Umberwell is up there with best of OSR - Silent Titans, Mask of the Blue Medusa, Veins of the Earth, Yoon-Suin, Into The Odd and Troika!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Umberwell: Blackened Be Thy Name
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The Liberation of Wormwood
by Scott M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/15/2019 21:37:58

If you're looking for the next leap forward in RPG scenario construction, this is it. Great situation-driven systems for building out a one-shot adventure or an epic campaign, 5-10 high-quality plot seeds / creativity prompts per page . . . and a surprising number of pages.

But where this really gets exciting is the way Shear seems to be building toward something. Recent books from Dolorous Exhumation have integrated mechanics with setting and genre guidelines to comment (always with fine subtlety) on bigger themes: here it's oppression, tyranny, bullying, liberation. Are these "relevant" adventures? If that's what you're looking for, you'll find amazing things here. And if you couldn't care less, you won't even notice. It's just pulse-pounding thrills.

Bottom line: Story, "old school" or both at once, this is the shape of things to come. Get on the bus now or you'll need to wait for the next one.

Minus 1/4 star because the display font is a little too clever, plus 1/2 star for that amazing cover art.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Liberation of Wormwood
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Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera
by Jordon C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/20/2019 22:54:12

This is a great book for anyone who wants to play gothic horror. SO many great ideas, names,places,etc. to assist a GM. I found it very helpful in my own gothic horror game and my players loved the hooks that the book provided.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera
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Cinderheim: The Land Under the Demon Sun
by Brian M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/28/2018 09:08:04

Cinderheim: The Land Under the Demon Sun feels like a mixture of Dark Sun, Heavy Metal, and Mad Max. The world continues to burn as the few oases (which are themselves corrupted by demons) drive mortal leaders to war with each other until one of the demonic patrons can take over the world. This book follows the same format as Jack Shear's Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera in that it's a very broad strokes campaign. So, if you like that sort of broad campaign setting that lets you fill in the finer details, Cinderheim will work great for you.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Cinderheim: The Land Under the Demon Sun
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Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera
by Kyle M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/31/2018 21:45:34

This is everything you need in a setting book, with nothing you don't. Krevborna starts off with four pages each on major locations, complete with important NPCs, example names, example quests, and encounter tables. Locations of lesser importance get two pages. Then you have material on player characters, religion and magic, and factions. The book wraps up with some succinct guidance on Gothic themes, adventure creation, and a bestiary.

Note that Krevborna is system-neutral, although it does include some suggestions on making it work with D&D 5e. You could use other systems without any trouble, though.

This is a setting book that invites the DM to make it their own. Krevborna encourages you to build and create, but it provides enough substance that you could sit down and run a Session 0 without too much trouble.

I do wish the map were a bit more legible, and a bit more interior art would have been nice. But those are small complaints and they don't take away from how much I enjoyed Krevborna.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera
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Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera
by Cesare C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/28/2018 17:33:05

Here's the thing. If you are looking for a campaign setting where everything that has ever happened is minutely reported and where every meter of the world is accurately described, this is not the book for you.

Krevborna is presented in a very particular way, letting you get a really good idea of the main themes and atmosphere of the setting, while being vague enough in the small things in order to easily let you come up with your own stuff. Other campaign settings tend to drown you in details like dozens of dates, gods and other stuff, often limiting your imagination in the process, while Krevborna strikes a balance between being both flavorful and inspiring at the same time.

This is a setting meant to be played, not just read about.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Krevborna: A Gothic Blood Opera
by Andrew S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/16/2018 09:10:58

I reviewed the .pdf. For disclosure, I have played in the setting with Jack and also spent considerable effort adapting his previous Gothic Fantasy setting, World Between, to another game system. I'm mentioned in the book briefly as a player. Here are my thoughts about this book!

The rule for a good campfire is also good for a setting book; close enough for warmth, space enough to breathe. Jack Shear nailed down enough relative location information and suggestions beyond the edge of the map for those flavors to matter, but left a lot of vagueness all through the book for each game table to operate free of constricting canon.

He also provided the skeletal structure to support the GM. In addition to all the squirmy wet flavor bits, there are lines and joints and load-bearing anchor points that give direction for how to get in and started, with names and places and themes presented together.

There are cities, and they are focused to be gameable. There are factions, and individuals, and suggestions of threats and rewards. This setting is inspirational and functional right out of the box.

I could pick this book up, select a location and a prefab idea or two of things to do in it, grab a random NPC or two, maybe a faction for background menace. Add a monster or two. Jack's work aligns really well with the needs of the GM running the game in this book.

Jack Shear has my hearty congratulations on making a fine setting book that can proudly serve in the OSR, Indie territory, D&D, or (best of all) the wild space in between.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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