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Pulp Weird Encounters #1: The Tomb of Squonk and the Silent Army
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/24/2019 05:20:25

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This supplement clocks in at 15 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

While this supplement is called “encounter series”, the encounters featured within could just as easily be pictured as pretty much two small modules that could be slotted in between longer modules. The presentation of the adventures within adhere to the layout-conventions of Goodman games, with general features noted in the beginning, and fonts used akin to Goodman Games’ modules. Similarly, we have detailed read-aloud texts for the respective encounters. The two modules both have functional isometric maps with grids and scale noted, but no player-friendly versions are provided.

“Tomb of the Squonk”, the first of the scenarios within, is penned by Daniel J. Bishop and is intended for 3rd level characters. The second encounter, Charlie Scott’s “The Silent Army”, is intended for characters level 1 -3.

All right, this is as far as I can go before diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All righty, only judges around? Great, so let’s take a look at “Tomb of the Squonk first. Nominally, this is an eight-room mini-dungeon, which starts when the heroes are approached by the eponymous Squonk-thing that can btw. be seen on the cover: Turns out that a being named Arvind Shar has been cursed/trapped in the body and wants the PCs to save him. This leads to aforementioned mini-dungeon…and oh boy. There is a cool critter, a snake that flickers through time, with initiative-decreasing venom. And traps. Oh boy, traps. It begins 5 feet inside the complex, when a massive, sealing bronze block will crash down, locking PCs inside, potentially separating the party (always fun for GMs) or even crashing PCs to pulp.

This is but the first of these, and there will be quite a few more. How can the blocks be reset (they can’t be disarmed)? Well, in the dungeon’s LAST ROOM. To get there, though, the PCs will also have to cross several magical rooms that are sadistic, to say the least: There are, for example, basically microwave-like fields that will toast you. On the plus side, wet towels etc. do help sprinting through them, but on the downside, they also can only be turned off, you guessed it, in the last room. Did I mention the fact that, being magical, they kinda lack means to properly telegraph them? And that they’re both vibration and lifesense-based, so PCs flying above the floor can’t bypass them either? The culmination of this dickish design-paradigm is the entrance to the final room, which, when not previously examined, will teleport the lower 3 feet of any being entering away, killing most creatures instantly. No save. This is not telegraphed either.

The second combat deals btw. with the PCs facing down the eponymous squonk – you see, Arvind Shar is actually a member of the trans-dimensional species of patricians, a sadistic and cruel lot that engages in dimensions- and reality-spanning games of humiliation and intrigue – and in the penultimate room, Shar’s original body lies, splayed and dismembered…whereupon he tries to paralyze a PC to inhabit that PC’s body. It gets better: The final room that can turn off those deadly traps? It has a device to fiddle with, but no true way to determine what does what; looting the inlaid gemstones may be very unwise, considering the lethality of the complex.

…I honestly don’t know what happened here. Daniel J. Bishop is usually a pretty sure candidate for providing top-notch material, but this dungeon is just frustrating and dickish. Maybe by design, but in contrast to e.g. “Death Frost Doom” or “The Grinding Gear”, this little complex never really earns its lethality, and just feels arbitrary and cruel, particularly considering the sucky and meager rewards. The temporal snake is solid and interesting, as is the squonk, but the complex needs some rewiring by the judge in order to…well…not suck.

The second encounter herein, “The Silent Army”, has a creepy premise: A dozen men, standing perfectly still, have their gazes turned towards the west, while a crying kid tugs at one man’s garments – to no avail. These are members of the “Silent Army”, and closer examination yields a strange, silverfish nodule laid into the back of their heads. They look towards the direction where the hermit-wizarad Lazarax lairs, and thus, the local townsfolk pay the PCs to investigate, preferably saving the afflicted men. Investigating the hills yields an impact crater, speaking of something from the stars falling down – and indeed, inside, there are strange alien devices and the goat-legged wizard attempts to deal with the PCs….but something is off.

If the PCs don’t investigate, they may be in for more than they can take, as “The Silent Army” activates and they are stalked by the hermit-wizard’s true master. In the caves, they can find a recording device-like prism…and the perpetrator of the crimes against the townsfolk, an alien monster called Tsinchin, who may well integrate PCs into its growing army of slave-drones. Defeating the thing ends the threat, for now, but the somber ending of the module sent a little shiver down my spine… The tsinchin, just fyi, comes with a neat 1-page b/w-artwork as well. I enjoyed this one, in spite of its brevity, though I did wish that there was a bit more complex to explore here.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal level, very good on a rules language level. I noticed no rules-snafus, but a few typo-level glitches. Layout adheres to the same two-column b/w-standard that Goodman Games’ supplements use and established. The b/w-artworks provided are nice, and the isometric cartography is solid and features squares and grids. No player-friendly, unlabeled versions of the maps are provided. The pdf comes with basic bookmarks, one per encounter, but not more.

Huh. I bought this for Daniel J. Bishop’s encounter/mini-adventure, and ended up absolutely hating that one – it’s a solid scavenging ground, but I wouldn’t want to run this as written. It’s just dickish in an unfair way, and doesn’t properly implement this notion of fairness that usually tempers even the most deadly of DCC adventures. I have no idea what happened here. Mr. Bishop usually delivers only excellence.

I wasn’t familiar with Charlie Scott’s work prior to reading this, but thankfully, his encounter really rocked. Mechanically, it’s not too interesting, granted, but the atmosphere evoked actually makes this one genuinely creepy, and the denouement-text actually sent a shiver down my spine. That’s a good sign, and as a whole, this encounter is a great and dangerous one.

How to rate this, then? Well, this is pretty much the definition of a mixed bag (I’d give adventure #1 2 stars, the second one 4 stars), though I’d have to concede that “The Silent Army” feels a bit shorter in actual gameable content. Still, my final verdict will clock in at 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Pulp Weird Encounters #1: The Tomb of Squonk and the Silent Army
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In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/22/2019 06:21:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This collection of sidetreks, encounters and meta-scenarios clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover,1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 41 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Sometimes, passion can help overcome even a nasty failure – this was a failed IndieGoGo, but it honestly doesn’t show. It’s readily apparent that the creators believed in their book and poured their own money into this supplement, because they believed in it. It’s also a freshman offering – the first thing the company has put out, so let’s take a look at how this turned out, shall we?

This is a collection of side treks, encounters and connective gaming tissue – i.e. small metaplots you can insert between adventures. The respective encounters and adventures do come with flavorful read-aloud text and mimic, in font and presentation, the official Goodman Games supplements. The maps, if featured, are isometric and pretty damn solid, particularly considering the genesis of this supplement. On the downside, some of the maps, particularly those depicting natural environments, tend to lack a square grid, which makes determining positions and dimensions not always as easy as it should be.

I will thoroughly spoil the content of all of the material herein in my discussion below, so if you plan on playing these as a player, stop reading NOW.

From here on out, the SPOILERS rule! … .. . All right, only judges around? Great!

-“In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer” by Ken Jelink: Intended for low levels (1st level), this encounter for low levels kicks off with a bang, as a superior hydra of pure water attacks the PC’s seafaring vessel. Rescued by pirates of dubious repute, the PCs are roped into researching a Cthulhu-cultist/wizard imprisoned…said cultist is related to the local lord, and the prison is a brief mini-dungeon, where coral oubliettes and a brutish mauler loom – and betrayal is afoot. I liked the premise here, and the execution isn’t bad either, but this one would have worked much better as a full-length module that allows the mythos components and the unique backdrop of the dungeon to shine.

-“Mermaids from Yuggoth” by Daniel J. Bishop: Also intended for low levels (level 2 – 3, though), this one is really interesting in that it’s one of the meta-narrative encounter collections within; it is based on the PCs assuming control of an ostensibly haunted and abandoned manor. As they get to know the local populace and their home, slowly but surely the weird and unsettling is settling in, spanning, ideally, multiple adventures and weeks in the meantime between escalations. Add to that the unique monster (and the lavish and utterly alien b/w-illustration), and we have a true winner that is more efficient in conveying the feeling of a traditional mythos-story than many CoC adventures. Two thumbs up!

-“Shadows of Malagok”, penned by Jon Wilson, is intended for mid-level characters (5th level is suggested), and represents a slightly expanded swamp wilderness encounter that have the PCs find a shrine of Malagok and face the eponymous shadow as well as the servants. Okay, if not outstanding.

-“Swindled at the Laughing Harpy” by Paul Wolfe can theoretically be run for any levels, though low level PCs will probably have to run at one point. This encounter focuses on grafters attempting to swindle the PCs – where once they did so out of greed, they have now been enslaved by an insidious artifact tied to the horrid entity known as “The Painted Woman.” This is a fun little encounter that sets the PCs well up to “Quest for It”, as any judge worth their salt can craft a unique angle from the aftermath.

-“Slaves of the Visitants” by John Humphrey comes with a nice isometric map of the escape room-like basement, in which the encounter takes place. It is also a puzzle-counter, though one that requires a bit of work to translate to other languages, in case you’re not running this one in English. I’d consider this to be a solid encounter, though one that that could have used a tad bit more depth and complications.

-“Sails Aflame!” by Jon Wilson is as straight-forward a low-to mid-level encounter as can be: The PCs are on a ship, when basically a ginormous burning beetle that makes a nest out of flotsam attacks the vessel! It’s a great way to wreck a ship, a unique critter and a truly deadly adversary for low level PCs, intentionally beyond their easy means to defeat. Unique, fun, to the point – and all on a single page! Two thumbs up.

-“Caves of the Ice Mistress” by Ken Jelinek is crafted for level 5 characters, and is a fun little 3-room ice-themed mini-dungeon, with an Appendix N-style ice spider theme. Per se nice, the third room of the isometric dungeon map is a bit hard to grasp, a fact exacerbated by aforementioned lack of a grid on the maps.

-“The Long Sleep” by Ken Jelinek is a pretty straight-forward mini-dungeon funnel, wherein the undertaker has gone missing, requiring stouthearted folks to investigate. They are bound to find more than they bargained for. This one is nice, particularly if you want to start a bit more low key to have room to build up material in the future.

-Paul Wolfe’s up next, with “The Cult of the Flickering Sign”, intended for level 3 characters, is pretty cool – aforementioned sign is reproduced in the book, and while happening upon the cult and wrecking their party’s pretty simple, it’s a great way for the judge to kick off a longer adventure by lacing in the storyline of the sign. Efficient, neat, like it.

-“Another Man’s Treasure”, intended for low level characters, can be somewhat fatal for 0-level characters, and focuses on an interesting, cursed magical item. Big kudos: Via logic and observation, the PCs actually can deduce the parameters of how it works. Like it!

-“The Nazhghad’s Invocation” by Paul Wolfe is basically about the PCs stumbling into a spell duel between two factions of equally vile entities and their servants. Solid if you need to establish a conflict between factions, but otherwise not an encounter that grabbed my attention. A round by round breakdown of the spell duel is nice to see, though.

-“Icon of the Blood Goddess” can be started as soon as level 0 or level 1, but the main draw will probably require at least level 3 for the finale. It is penned by Daniel J. Bishop, and is the second of the linked meta-encounters that can provide a narrative framework between modules. The PCs pass an alley, where they can see a gaunt statue – over the course of multiple adventures, the believers in the statue and the offerings left will increase, as the malign blood goddess, growing ever more monstrous in appearance, draws in more and more adherents, escalating the danger…that can only be stopped by entering her realm, where a deadly puzzle combat, including unique spellcasting side-effect table and spellburn side effects are included. This one is a resounding success and is well worth my seal of approval when judged on its own!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level – I noticed a couple of minor glitches, but not enough to sink this supplement. Layout adheres to the classic two-column b/w-standard you know from Goodman Games’ offerings, down to the font. The b/w-artworks similarly mirror Goodman Games’ aesthetics, and while the isometric maps don’t always live up to that exceedingly high standard, they still exceed what you’d expect from this project. The pdf comes fully bookmarked, with one bookmark for each encounter.

This collection of encounters penned by Paul Wolfe, Ken Jelinek, Daniel J. Bishop, Jon Wilson and John Humphrey feels like a passion project, in the good way. It is a nice means for the judge to bridge “big” adventures, and while some of the encounters left me rather less impressed, many actually go beyond the call of duty. In particular the two meta-encounters that span multiple sessions penned by Daniel J. Bishop represent glorious additions, and frankly, I’d love to see more of those, regardless of system. You know, little sidestories that you can easily and painlessly weave into ongoing campaigns. These two, at least for me, warrant the fair asking price on their own, and both should be considered to be pretty much 5 star + seal material.

I do have to judge the collection on its own, though, and it does have a few rough spots here and there, which is why my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, though with a definite rounding up here; this is worth getting, and represents a fun and handy kit to have.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer
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The Curse of Cragbridge - DCC RPG
by Alex P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/17/2016 18:30:57

I had the fortunate experience of play testing Curse of Cragbridge last year, and in short, it was a blast. I am glad that this adventure is now available for purchase… and typical of Paul Wolfe’s previous adventures, Curse of Cragbridge does not disappoint.

Curse of Crabridge is a level 0-2 adventure and contains 40 pages of pure DCC goodness! Great art, memorable locations, new spell, random tables and memorable NPCs. The entire adventure should take 2-4 sessions to run, and can be incorporated into a larger campaign with little effort. The art does a good job conveying the feel of the adventure and the random tables can be repurposed for other DCC adventures.

DCC has been my go-to system for the past year and what I really like is the high quality of third party publishers adventures, e-zines and art work. This adventure hits all the sweet spots for me!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Curse of Cragbridge - DCC RPG
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Galaxy War 1939 - Legacy of the Oros
by Ryan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/20/2015 13:05:39

Galaxy War 1939 is a retro sci-fi setting for the White Star RPG. Set in the WWII era, Galaxy War supposes that the war has spread into space using Flash Gordon 50's style future tech. The setting places the characters in the role of Space Operations Executive (SOE) agents fighting a shadow war against the Nazis (in space!)

The setting pushes all the right buttons for me. I love retro-sci. One of my favorite graphic novels is Ignition City by Warren Ellis and I love the old Dan Dare comics. British and Nazi rocket-ships dog-fighting over Mars really fires up the imagination.

In the adventure the PCs travel to a former British colony world now under control of the Reich. There they must rescue a scientist trapped on the planet. The adventure is cool, for though all the great source material in the book is the real treasure. There are stats for tons of new alien creatures, Nazi spacecraft and tanks, and a spaceship for the players to use. There's even details on some new psychic abilities.

The art in this book is fantastic. The images of the Nazi stormtroopers or Raketekommandos and the WW II era spacecraft capture the retro sci-fi feel perfectly. There's even a short multi-panel comic that I'm dying to read the rest of. If you like retro sci-fi, I highly recommend this adventure.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Galaxy War 1939 - Legacy of the Oros
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In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer
by Daniel S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/27/2014 17:48:32

[Originally found on www.whatwouldconando.blogspot.com] In the Prison of the Squid Sorceror is the kind of book I like: full of bits and things. Twelve of them to be exact, as per the front cover. Each is a weird adventure of varying length written in the spirit of Michael Moorcock.

Firstly I'll get what I don't like out of the way: italicised read-aloud text. Horrible, ick, I hate the stuff. At best it makes the GM sound like he's reading off the back of a menu, at worst he turns into a primary school teacher enthusiastically telling the children a story with all the blood-soaked, night-falling, flame-flickering clichés you can handle. What's more it makes it hard to gather up information for processing into something more natural. If details are hidden in a block of prose you're likely to miss them.

The best bits are the small encounters that could be used pretty much anywhere with no planning. The Cult of the Flickering Sign is the best of the little ones, in my estimation; the party stumbles upon a grisly murder in an alleyway with typical oogly cult signs on it and quickly end up rumbling the bad folks and having a wonderful time. I'd love a book full of these little vignette adventures, as they always get to the point without any padding and are easily disassembled for the juicy bits.

Let's talk about Moorcock: we know that he often worked on a tight schedule, so much so that he would sometimes just throw out a bunch of weird stuff, drag Elric through it and call it a night. Some of the adventures (the eponymous scenario being one of them) felt a lot like that, with strange stuff dropping in and weirding up the place without warning with the aim of entertaining a herd of murder hobos. As with Moorcock, you'll either like it or be put off. Make of it what you will, but I'm happy with to deal with some dodgy verisimilitude occasionally. Besides, we're smart GMs, season to taste.

Considered as a whole, In the Prison of the Squid Sorceror is a solid and sometimes inspired bunch of adventures that I'll be pillaging in the near future.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer
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Pulp Weird Encounters #1: The Tomb of Squonk and the Silent Army
by Noah S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/01/2013 10:50:05

In "The Tomb of the Squonk", the foolhardy adventurers would probably suffer a TPK either at the hands of the Squonk himself or in their efforts to assist him. I think it would be a good evening's one-off game and maybe even a mixed funnel/regular party adventure, in that it seems very likely to me that players not conversant in the old ways would suffer many many casualties. It has a couple of good tie-ins to multiplanar adventures and even a useful long-standing enemy/patron concept.

The Silent Army poses some excellent ethical dilemmas at the outset, and is fairly straightforward after that. The antagonist would probably make short work of a low-level party but the difficulty could be moderated by adjusting stats down or up, and its power for assimilation could be used for much consternation among players who are attached to characters.

I would love to play these as a DM, gleefully cackling and whisking players into the hearts of a sun or implanting nanobot coated spikes into brains. For my part, I would even enjoy having a couple of characters die this way. That said, I happen to play with folks who do get attached to characters, who would probably sulk about a few rooms with little loot very deadly traps. I might add I don't think players like this ought to play DCC owing to its bent for lethality.

They're both short, linear, and suitably weird and pulpy in that they involve extra-dimensional or extraplanetary adversaries, and likely a lot of fun to play of an evening. I am going to introduce the Patricians into my own campaign, probably, just to mix things up and make for some weird unexpected Appendix N stuff. Actually, these kinds of strange and varied adventurers are exactly what DCC is good for and they make a good match.

Might be a hard sell for players coming from, say, D&D 3.5 or pathfinder or something but they'll learn a new way, eventually.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Pulp Weird Encounters #1: The Tomb of Squonk and the Silent Army
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In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer
by erik f. t. t. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/19/2013 16:50:21

(this review originally appeared on tenkarstavern.com)

It's been a bit since I've reviewed something for the DCC RPG. At the moment I'm not running any DCC RPG sessions, but that's more from lack of available time than any lack of desire - the DCC RPG is an awesome game to run and is fun as hell. I need to find time to squeeze a session in as a player myself at some point ;)

Now, just because I'm not running any DCC RPG stuff at the moment doesn't mean I can't get good mileage out of In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer. I may just use this in my Swords & Wizardry Campaign that's just starting up.

You see, it's a prefect fit for a group that is limited to 2 to 3 hrs play (including requisite bullshitting time) at a clip.

In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer is full of mini adventures or in some cases, more like extended encounters. Twelve of them to be exact and suitable for various levels of play although about half are in the third to fifth level range, a range under-represented in the assortment of adventures that are currently released.

Heck, these are also useful to help pace the campaign you are running, as they add bits of side spice to whatever storyline you are currently running.

The adventures are by various authors, but I'm always partial to Daniel Bishop's work on the DCC RPG, and he doesn't disappoint. Actually, I think he has the largest piece running at 8 pages (and a second piece that runs 4 pages in length). These are the prefect sized adventures to run in a single session via G+ Hangouts or the like.

I really love the isometric maps that are the hallmark fo the DCC RPG, and In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer is no exception. They aren't as flashy as the ones by Goodman Games, but I'd still gladly takes some of these as prints. Why doesn't anyone ever listen to me? ;)

Now I just need to figure out which one I should be converting to Crypts & Things first...



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer
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In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer
by sean c. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/12/2013 14:18:46

Effectively this product is a collection of short stories dripping in appendix N gold. It came along at just the right time for me as I am looking for more shorter stories that I can use on line and in conventions and this is just perfect for that. Don't get me wrong many could be expanded very easily all the hard work has been done for you. The best way to describe this collection is a brilliant bag of your favourite sweets. There is something here for everyone. Not everything was to my taste however there are so many good bits that you can't help forgive any minor nit picks and that's why I gave it a perfect 5***** Well done Mystic Bull!!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
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