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Black Dogs 'zine - issue 3
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/02/2018 04:39:32

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Black Dogs‘ zine clocks in at 51 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page blank, 1 page ToC, 2 pages editorial, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 45 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

We begin this installment of the Black Dogs-‘zine with a brief call for submissions and editors – considering how installment #2’s rules-language fared, I really hope someone will volunteer/that the author improves in that regard. We also learn about future plans for the ‘zine.

In this installment, the focus lies on adventure locale creation, and thus, we begin with a summary of the very basics of adventure locale creation; for most referees, this will not be particularly useful, but we do get a table that provides general locations. And I mean “GENERAL” – entries include: “Traditional farming”, “Ancient druidic traditions” and the like – while not bad per se, the table is simply super-generic and would have made more sense as split up and more detailed tables. One for general themes, one for distinguishing features, etc. – in short: Don’t expect Raging Swan Press excellence regarding dressing here. Much more useful and nice would be the second table, wherein you can determine population and troubles – this one is still a general table, but it is more precise and focused on its subject matter. The sample monster table that’s next notes “A wyvern gone berserker” which made me smile. Picture it: A wyvern in furs, gnawing on its shield. (That should be “berserk” – and I figured that the presence of a wyvern alone would be bad news...) The monsters noted are classics – trolls, gryphon, etc. – solid, but unremarkable and more in line with traditional fantasy than I frankly expected. Something weirder or less vanilla fantasy would have been more in line with the tone established by previous installments of Black Dogs.

Then, we get something actually helpful, a d20 table of possible connections which can quickly tie things together: “Bent on hopeless revenge”, drugs, etc. – these and the alternative entries are helpful for quick scenario generation. There also is a handy “oracle”-table that is intended to help quick adventure/locale generation – once more, not exactly groundbreaking, but helpful. We then see an applied example of what could spring from using this means of generation. This does note the respective entries and, while not super-exciting, makes for a solid excursion.

The next section is interesting and something that quite a few players should probably read – Player Missions and responsibility. This is a nice advice-section. Experienced players will be cognizant of the advice provided.

After this, we take a look at combat as based on deployment. The system presented knows Front., Body and Rearguard. This deserves special mention, as the basic system of the 3 zones is simple and presented in a tighter manner than all rules in issue #2 combined. You can use this. However, the system is pretty lopsided. Most OSR and d20 games are lopsided towards the offense, and this system exacerbates this, providing a -1 penalty per enemy present for the Front, while providing advantage on either damage or attack roll, player’s choice. This can be problematic depending on the realities of the game. If mêlée tends to gravitate towards the more lethal side of things, then this may make sense, but also amplify this. Balance is impossible to judge without a cadre of suggested NPC and monster stats, but in comparison to the other positions, it’s the strongest. Still, as a whole, this system is worth expanding further and switching zones is presented in a concise manner. The combat options presented are also nice for the most part, though here, rules-language once more suffers from some grating ambiguities: What constitutes, for example “better weapons”?

The pdf further adds to the offense side of things with the danger die – basically a d6 that grows as 13th Age’s escalation die, and then acts as a surge upon reaching 6. I like the idea here, but I think that some defensive options here would have been nice; a counterflow, if you will. Alternate death/dying rules are okay, though nothing special. Now, what I did like was the wound system: When a character is about to take damage, the player can take a wound – this reduces damage by 1d6, but one ability score is at permanent disadvantage until treated; 2 wounds can be taken for 2d6, 3 for 3d6. A PC can have up to 3 wounds, and only one wound per ability score may be had at one point. The second and third wound are the GM’s to choose. This system has promise and is really cool. Like it! Wounds may only be recovered when consuming a ration and succeeding a Constitution save – but doing so does prevent the usual HP regeneration! Wounds, thus, matter mechanically, but aren’t necessarily crippling. Easily my favorite thing to come out of the first 3 Black Dogs issues!

Know how I complained in issue #2 about morale not being codified in a general manner? Well, the rules are in this one. They are okay, but I still fail to see the improvement they offer over the standard morale systems out there. We also get stats for some soldiers and an old troll and his army of weirdo woodland critters. There is a brief mass combat sketch here, but it’s confused and not really helpful; using Hydra Cooperative’s By this Axe/Poleaxe or Lost Pages’ Burgs & Bailiffs-versions makes more sense. We also learn of the toxic ivy hazard. There are more stats to accompany an uprising, a skeleton sorcerer, etc. Now, the presentation here is a very sketch-like and unstructured; for future installments a more clearly laid out scenario would make sense, for while there are connections here, you need to piece them together. The installment closes with two nice, player-friendly maps by Dyson Logos.

Conclusion:

Formatting is solid, and editing is still a far shot from good; however, the rules-language is better than in #2. It’s still a long shot from being good, but still represents a vast improvement. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and the artworks, as before, are nothing to write home about; same grainy, overexposed photographs in b/w. The cartography by Dyson logos is the aesthetic highlight of the issue. The pdf has no bookmarks, which represents a major comfort detriment.

Davide Pignedoli’s third installment of Black Dogs, while certainly not perfect, is a VAST improvement over the second one; there are some nice ideas herein, and some rules that actually warrant pondering; there is potential here. At the same time, I couldn’t help but feel like this is changing in focus – it may be creature selection in the adventure sketches, but in this issue, the material felt more akin to vanilla fantasy than the dark fantasy/horror vibe promised in the first installment; not in the rules, but in the dressing and creatures depicted. I am not yet sure where this Black Dogs-series is going, tone-wise, but it’s something to bear in mind. Now, this is still suffering from awkward verbiage and some components that are VERY rough, but there are quite a few aspects herein that do show promise. In fact, I’d love to rate this slightly higher, but as a reviewer, I have to maintain a consistent rating-standard, and thus, in spite of enjoying some aspects herein, I can’t round up from my final verdict of 2.5 stars. If you’re willing to mine for a few components, then this is worth taking a look at.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Black Dogs 'zine - issue 3
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Black Dogs 'zine - issue 2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/10/2018 05:24:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Black Dogs ‘zine clocks in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page blank, 1 page ToC, 1 page editorial, 1 page SRD, 2 pages explanation/index and roadmap of what’s presented when, and one page is a call for English native speakers/editors. This leaves us with 39 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

Now, let’s recap for a second of what this ‘zine is and how it differs from most such supplements: Black Dogs is basically a cross between a collection of house-rules and a setting-hack; it is based on Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP) rules and differs in focus by being set slightly before the early modern period/its beginning. The implied setting assumes that the PCs are members of the supra-regional Black Dogs, basically an anti-monster taskforce, which, while deemed necessary, is not by any means beloved. As you can glean from this premise, the focus here lies on dark fantasy, rather than full-blown horror, but LotFP’s magic-tweaks do lend themselves well to the playstyle. If you’d need a one-page summary, I’d probably consider this to be a cross between LotFP and Warhammer. Each player controls more than one PC, and is expected to alternate between them – this can be rather nice and prevent PC fatigue.

There is something I need to make clear here: This is basically sequential rules presentation, and that makes it exceedingly hard for me a reviewer to properly judge whether the tweaks on rules etc. are valid within the context of the implied setting; this is a system immanent issue of the presentation in its sequential form and a component I commented on in my review of issue #1. A central focus of the ‘zine would be the conflict between civilization and the wilds; as most folks know, the area between settlements, particularly in the rural countryside, was rather dangerous, and Black Dogs amplifies that – nature is, to a degree, where the horrid monstrosities lurk.

As such, we begin this supplement with a very basic breakdown of terrain types, which lists a couple of things for each terrain, comments on customs, religion, church and nobility and also presents a selection of occupations that folks may have. The respective sections have some bullet point-ish “think of”-lists that provide some specific terms. As far as the occupations are concerned, I found myself rather disappointed by them – noting the presence of the guild system and prestige associated would have made it easier to contextualize the respective jobs. Particularly since e.g. tanners generally were ostracized to a degree, while bakers were generally considered to be wealthy and, potentially, sinister. The profession of Black Dogs and their code of conduct is also noted – here, the pdf misses the chance to, you know, actually write down a code for the PCs to swear, instead just paraphrasing the basic tenets – which are, well, basic. Fight evil, protect humanity. Having a proper code to swear would have made for a vastly superior entry here.

The encumbrance system presented works by slots. Most items take one slot, big or heavy ones two slots. Some small items take up 0 slots. Characters can carry Constitution ability score + Strength modifier items. This should refer to SLOTS instead. That’s really basic rules-language, established in the previous paragraph, flaunted. The pdf does come with a basic inventory sheet and mentions over-encumbrance boxes. What are these? No idea. I ASSUME that the 4 entries for light, medium and heavy encumbrance are meant, but honestly, that is me guessing right there. The Medium and Heavy boxes have the header: “Each box slot = 1 + CON or STR modifier.” I have literally no idea how this system is supposed to work. This is particularly galling since LotFP’s encumbrance rules are already rather elegant in their simplicity, but I digress.

The ‘zine then proceeds to present rules for silver weapons, which has doubled costs, suffers a -2 penalty to damage (minimum 1) “in a normal fight” and it breaks on a natural 1. Okay, what is a “normal fight”? I have no idea. However, these weapons inflict double damage versus supernatural targets (and don’t suffer the penalty). I like this idea…but honestly, why would you EVER get anything other than silver-tipped arrows? Why ever go into mêlée? The breaking caveat is pretty damn harsh and irrelevant for ammunition. Oh, wait. Slings have no ammunition listed. So, I assume rocks. Which cost 0, as per the improvised weapon entry. Twice 0 is still 0.

A really, pardon my French, dumb houserule is how distance is handled. Missile weapons can perform a number of shots noted in brackets before an enemy can close to mêlée distance. WUT? So, guy turns up 30 feet away, you get 3 shots. Guy turn up 180 feet away, you get three shots. This makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER. Kill it with fire. The section otherwise attempts to graft some 5e-ish components on top of the weapon engine. As a whole, I fail to see any improvements coming from the item-houserules presented here.

Similarly strange: Firearms (oddly misnamed as “fire weapons”) misfire on a DAMAGE ROLL of 1. This means that you hit, and THEN, retroactively, realize that you didn’t fire at all. This is dumb. On a rules-language level, we also have the issue that firearms inflict multiple damage dice – a musket, 2d10. So, does it misfire if a single “1” is rolled? I assume that it does not refer to the total, for that is utterly impossible. Once more, the basics of the rules-language are broken and obtuse.

We do get a massive list of mundane items, codified in the slot/cost-system, though, which is a bit of a plus. The pdf then proceeds to provide VERY BASIC Gm advice on when to roll dice and when not, how to fail forward and provide interesting failures. This advice may be interesting for absolute novices, but most folks will be very cognizant of these. This is essentially the starting text of any “GM’s duties/best practices” section ever. That being said, in contrast to the rules above, I actually can see this being useful to some folks.

The ‘zine then proceeds to explain, once more, the tone of the game; I generally don’t expect to all these explanations, but they’re abstract; and in issue #2 of the ‘zine, we’re at a point where I’d say “Show, don’t tell.” Establish a tone by providing the tone, rather than tell the GM that it’s about XYZ – we don’t need to be told this. We get the tone. You only have to read Esoterrorists, LotFP, Pathfinder or the like to understand the tone. It’s pretty much self-evident.

The next section provides a couple of adventure seeds generated with the tables that will show up in issue #3. This, once more, is confused – why not provide the table and sample seeds in the same issue? I really don’t get it. This just hobbles its own usefulness. There also is a rule for morale – roll equal to or under HP left or attempt to surrender. Odd: Humans fighting for the Bishop roll d4 instead. Why not provide concise and more generally applicable rules with variations here? I fail to see the benefit of implementing these moral rules. We close the section with stats for the aforementioned Bishop, regular humans, witches and smart zombies. This section, while less useful than had it been presented in conjunction with the table, represents a saving grace of sorts for the pdf.

Conclusion:

Formatting is per se solid, though editing is not on par on either a formal or rules-language level; in fact, the latter is honestly really bad. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and the pdf has a couple of stock b/w photographs presented in a really grainy, overexposed b/w that only makes a couple of details clear. These take up quite a few pages. The pdf does not have any bookmarks, which constitutes a major comfort detriment.

Davide Pignedoli’s call for editors in the beginning is well warranted and shows a willingness to improve and consciousness of one big issue this ‘zine’s installment suffers from.

In short, none of the houserules herein are presented in a concise or worthwhile manner. They are all opaque in some shape or form, and beyond the issues in rules-precision, they also suffer from the issue that they come off as change for change’s sake, which is NOT a good thing, even if the rules were perfect. There should be some tangible benefit to the changes made, and I fail to see that for the vast majority of this ‘zine. The final section with the adventure/seed-sketch is okay, but doesn’t really offer anything groundbreaking either. I’m really sorry. I want to like Black Dogs – it’s, premise-wise, a play-style and premise I really enjoy, but the execution of the rules herein is so deeply flawed as to become almost unusable. I hope that the author is not discouraged by this and instead starts to read carefully and closely how rules-language is presented in supplements and then adapts that level of precision in the future. As written, though, my final verdict cannot exceed 1.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Black Dogs 'zine - issue 2
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Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/11/2018 05:43:00

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The first issue of the Black Dogs-zine, intended for LotFP-rules, clocks in at 47 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page back cover, 1 page intentionally left blank, 2 pages of editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction/credits, 1 page SRD, leaving us with 39 pages of content, which are formatted to adhere to the classic 6’’ by 9’’ standard.

This review was requested by one of my patreons.

Now, this differs in a way from most ‘zines you can find out there, in that it presents pretty much a hack/mode of play for LotFP, basically supported by houserules etc. In a way, one could argue this to be the first book of a sequential presentation of a setting.

As such, it makes sense that we begin this pdf with a summary of differences regarding setting assumptions. First, one should be cognizant that the Black Dogs mode of gameplay assumes a setting that is based on our earth, but slightly earlier than LotFP’s assumption of basically the early modern period. We’re talking, in essence, about the very end of the medieval age, with all that entails – in cities, the first breeze of freedom wafts around the noses of city-dwellers, while the chokehold Christianity had on the populace is slowly but surely undermined. The contrast of cities vs. rural areas, and more pronounced, the wilderness, is tangible. It’s a time of change and transition, where firearms and the new warfare exist side by side with classic knights and the respective forms of medieval Weltanschauung. This is per se an interesting premise, though one that is not that radically different from what LotFP offers per default. Something that galled me slightly would be the lack of notes when exactly we’re supposed to assume the game to take place. While precise chronology is not required in a fantasy setting, one of the big plusses of setting a game in a variant of earth lies, ultimately, in being able to draw on a detailed and rich historic background, something that becomes harder to pull off precisely when you do not have precise dates to go by.

Rules-wise, the system makes use of e.g. 5e’s advantage and disadvantage mechanics, and takes a cue of sorts from DCC’s funnels, but extends it. Each player is assumed to control multiple characters, two to be precise, with the GM similarly controlling two GM-PCs, with some picked for any given adventure. This, obviously, means that there will be more character-management up front, but it also means that PC-death is bound to be somewhat less jarring. The relatively rules-lite framework of LotFP also means that less of a strain is put there on the PCs. An important restriction here is somewhat akin to that in Darkest Dungeon – you need to alternate between characters. You can’t just run one character through all sessions. A brief, basic no.frills one-page sheet for new recruits is provided.

The pdf notes upcoming differences regarding the Black Dogs setting/game and similar hacks, noting different score system, another encumbrance system (pretty interested in that – LotFP already does a rather impressive job there, as far as I’m concerned), etc.

But what are the Black Dogs? Well, think of these folks as a kind of informal organization of monster hunters, often feared by the general public. The PCs are assumed to be part of this order, not longer in service to the church or any higher authority, fighting to protect an ignorant and often hostile public from the darkness that learns in a mostly untamed and harsh wilderness. They are, in short, monster hunters, ostensibly good, but it may well be a matter of time before they succumb to corruption…

Now, I’ll be honest, this resounds with me tremendously. My longest-running campaign, which did span more than 7 years of weekly play, focused pretty much on that idea, save that my PCs were members of an organized church that kept the ignorant public unaware of the extent of magical powers, I used complex, rules-heavy systems and focused on questions of humanity regarding growing power, about religious strife, the notion of ignorance vs. knowledge, etc. In short: The premise resounds with me. A similar way to think about Black Dogs, would be to assume the group to operate as a part-equivalent to the solitary fighter/mutant assumed in e.g. the Witcher-franchise. Or, well, to consider this to be a means to blend the aesthetics of Warhammer with LotFP, with e.g. the parallelism of medieval and early modern aesthetics immediately reminding me of that game. There are some differences, obviously – beyond IP-related, obvious components, the invention of Gutenberg’s moveable type would be one important factor, though literacy, obviously, is still a scarce thing.

The pdf explains the role of the Black Dogs in the setting, how they’re perceived, etc., before providing a bullet-point summary. While this is helpful, I still maintain that properly placing the game in a chronological context would have made sense.

On a rules-level, we get 3 secondary scores, which range from 1 to 6. These are Luck, Talent and Saves. You can burn a point of Luck to reroll a roll. Talent allows you to burn a point when reaching a new level, increasing the related ability score or the related Save. The presentation here is a bit obscure, mainly due to the pdf not specifying a uniform rules-language term for ability scores. The secondary attributes mentioned are applied for EACH of the classic six ability scores. You thus have Luck, Talent and Save for each of the 6 ability scores. You roll 6d6 and may apply these freely, but you may NOT apply 6 to a Save value. After that, for every ability score, you roll 2d6. This means that you have to assign one number to each of the ability scores, which is not readily apparent. These then fill up the rest, with Save getting the lowest value, followed by Talent.

Ability score modifiers range from +3 to -3, with 9 -12 being the +0 range. This is, oddly, noted AFTER the secondary ability scores, which may come off as needlessly confusing, since these apply to the classic 6 primary attributes.

As you can glean from the presentation, save scores behave more like in 5e than the regular OSR-games in that they are assigned to ability scores. However, you roll a d6 equal or under the save score related to the attribute in question. 6 is an autofailure, and a save score of 6 nets you advantage on the respective save. Ability checks are roll under ability score with a d20. While I get the rationale for the design decisions here, I couldn’t help but feel it to be odd that saves now are directly tied to attributes, but attributes don’t really influence them. They are neither disjointed, nor connected in a linear manner, which makes them feel a bit weird to me. The ‘zine may develop that further in the future, but right now, I fail to grasp the benefit/improvement.

The ‘zine then proceeds to present an introductory adventure, situated in Flussburg, a German village. As a native German, I can say that the name is plausible, translating to “Rivercastle/burg”; I don’t know a place with that name, but nomenclature-wise, it makes sense. The village (fully mapped in b/w) is presented in a brief summary, noting the need to repair an Imperial bridge as well as the desire of a local clan of powerful Smiths, the Schmieds (which literally means “Smiths” – btw. how many of our family names came to be!) hoping to improve commerce and their situation in town, i.e., gain more influence. Small eyes and big hands are directly correlated to ability score traits, i.e. high Strength and an inability to grasp plotting/scheming, as well as clearsightedness. Whether you like that or not depends on your preferences.

Now, the module presents the clan and its agenda, as well as the village, in a per se clear and concise, sandboxy manner. The local happenstance are complicated somewhat by the presence of a cadre of dangerous beings (with a nice Achilles’ Heel to exploit) and the place also has a weird phenomenon to exploit, adding a second layer of complications to the proceedings. The sequence of events is depicted by faction, if you will, and timelines. The adventure provides full stats for adversaries featured within, as well as for a unique and disquieting “creature” of sorts, which further drives home the strangeness of the Wild. This creature is only featured regarding a random encounter table that supplements the module. All n all, this is a per se solid introductory adventure, that shnes primarily regarding its weirder components. The village of Flussburg, apart from the key NPCs, does remain a bit pale as far as I’m concerned, though. The module does not sport read-aloud text or a synopsis, but does have a couple of sentences to paraphrase.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are per se good on a rules-language and formal level, but both categories suffer from the organization of the material being somewhat counterintuitive. The sequence of rules-presentation and setting-assumptions as a whole feels less cleanly structured than it should be. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column standard. Artwork is thematically fitting public-domain art for the most part. There are a couple of one-page b/w-pieces of e.g. a tree and the like – these are not aesthetically-pleasing, eat a lot of ink/toner, and one of them is horribly pixilated. Considering that there are 4 of these, I’d have preferred none/more content. The pdf, puzzlingly, lacks any bookmarks, which makes navigation needlessly complicated. The cartography is the aesthetic highlight here, but unfortunately notes the territory of the monsters, which means that it can’t be used as a SPOILER-free player-map. A map sans key/notes would have added value here. I can’t comment on the virtues or lack thereof of the print version.

Davide Pignedoli’s Black Dogs tugs at my heart’s strings. It hits a lot of the right tunes and presents, in essence, a more dark fantasy-like approach to LotFP, which, theme-wise, is something I can totally get behind. Black Dogs has a ton of potential, but leaves me, as a reviewer, in a tight spot.

On one hand, the book manages to present some interesting deviations from LotFP’s basic rules. On the other hand, since this is not the entirety of the rules-tweaks/houserules, it’s hard to objectively judge the merit of these deviations or lack thereof. While I for example like the notion of the secondary attributes, the rules-language regarding the respective nomenclature and sequence of presentation could be tighter. Additionally, judging just from the material presented herein, I so far fail to see the reason for them. This feeling of being incomplete, system-immanently, also extends to the small rules components: LotFP for example does not have versatile weapons. While a somewhat cross-system savvy reader will understand what’s meant, this generally makes the rules-aspects less useful for immediate use.

Now, chopping apart a system of houserules is hard; I get that, but at the same time, this feels like the presentation could be somewhat streamlined. The ‘zine, in short, is an interesting first sojourn into the world of Black Dogs, but it is one that does not stand as well on its own as it probably should. That being said, this pdf is available for PWYW, which allows you to easily determine for yourself whether you’ll enjoy what this offers. My final verdict, taking this and the freshman offering bonus into account, will be 3 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1
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Creator Reply:
Hi Many thanks for the review! If you'd like to get in touch, I'd love to share the other PDFs with you and hear your opinion about those (so that you can also see how the Black Dogs idea develops in subsequent issues).
Crying Blades: free preview and character sheet
by Cold C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/05/2018 16:47:22

There are some innovative ideas here. The gift system gives you a new way of looking at attributes. It is thickly themed with randomness, which it mentions at the start. I have never liked the idea of taking my rolls and letting them decide my characters class before, but these talents and traits make it seem interesting.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Crying Blades: free preview and character sheet
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The Tall Witch - OSR adventure
by Wind L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/01/2018 21:01:59

I ran this as a one-shot and it was great--the deep existential questions that it raises are worth the price alone. I love the dark, twisted impact that it made on our campaign.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
The Tall Witch - OSR adventure
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BioMet Infection
by Nicolas S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/22/2018 12:12:50

Man, this game is the perfect fusion between Lady Blackbird and cyberpunk. Everytime that I run it or played with my group is guaranteed good time. I wish there´s more :D



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
BioMet Infection
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Creator Reply:
Thanks Nicolas! Indeed Lady Blackbird was the main inspiration. (and perhaps, in the future, I'll come back to write something similar and short like this... who knows) If you don't mind, could I ask you to write me a little of how it played with your group? (write me at davide.pignedoli at gmail.com please)
Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/01/2017 14:58:01

So today's been a bit on the crazy side but I did actually notice something new in the OSR G+ stream this morning. A handy little new Lamentations of the Flame Princess / OSR campaign setting fanzine called Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1 From DaimonGames. Its an interesting campaign setting beast masquerading as a LoFP fanzine folks. This is a pay what you want title with a suggestion of three dollars on the check out Que. "Black Dogs is a dark fantasy collection of house-rules, materials, adventures, monsters, and together a toolbox to generate new content for OSR systems, particularly focused on Lamentations of the Flame Princess. Black Dogs shares a common set of rules and aesthetics with Lamentations, but it has its distinct flavor. Whenever a rule is not found (or not presented yet) in the Black Dogs ‘zine, just use the default from Lamentations or whatever OSR system you’re running. " It goes on into the weird fantasy aspect of the spirit of the setting; "There’s less horror in Black Dogs, although the material sticks to clearly dark fantasy tropes. In just a few words, Black Dogs is a dark, late medieval setting, for monster hunters and mercenaries

  • kept together into the loose frame of an informal organization that lends some purpose to your characters. When you play Black Dogs you play for three things mostly: monsters, wilderness and its encounters, and non-playing characters’ communities. Basically, the material from Black Dogs aims to bring together three of the most popular fantasy literature and gaming tropes: fighting monsters, traveling in a foreign and fantastic world, interacting with a fantasy community and its people." So essentially this is a Pike & Shot B/X Dungeons & Dragons fanzine with some dungeon master's house rules, monsters, etc.? Alright got it but then this bit got me in the spirit section on monsters;"There is not too much fighting: fights are a few and are risky and important, with emphasis on tactics. Monsters are many but your characters encounter them with a purpose and a fight is also an encounter, with its complexity." So the fanzine is sounding more War Hammer Fantasy then Lamentations of the Flame Princess from here on out. That's not a bad thing but as I continue to read its like the the campaign setting, house rules, character generation for Black Dogs is trying to keep its feet into both pools, the Lamentations & Warhammer fantasy pools. Here's what I'm speaking about with the summery of the campaign setting's world of Black Dogs; Think of Europe in a very late medieval time: there’s a new expansion and a growing economy; a new sense of wonder and discovery; and the feeling that even if there is not going to be an empire, ever again, the single nations and city-states will provide safety and prosperity. It’s a world divided in two: culture and fashion, print and social changes, prosperity and new emerging classes rule in the major cities but the majority of the land still lingers in a feudal, oppressive and brutal social order. It’s a world where a knight might still wear full plate armor and a winged helm, while another favors a light cuirass, a dagger and a musket. A world divided Religion still dictates what’s right and what’s wrong, and fire burns heretics; but a new authentic desire for freedom also infiltrates the most solid religious orders. Monasteries and abbeys collect sacred books, and also foreign tractates, manuscripts of magic and alchemy, mysterious maps and bestiaries among them. Almost everyone is Christian but many worship, in secret, the local spirits of the ancient times. A few talk about a new faith in reason and science. Even fewer know that whatever you believe in, you must guard yourself and human kind against The Wild and the demons of the night." So you get a history of the Black Dogs adventurer organization, background history, character generation, and so forth. But Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1 is trying to do traditional OSR Dungeons & Dragons Pike & Shot with conventional Dungeons & Dragons. What I mean is in on the introduction campaign setting of Flussberg city for the Black Dogs;"This Black Dogs introductory adventure aims to give you a taste of the world of Flussburg; a small village with local political troubles and a greater menace looming on the horizon. There is also an element of weirdness with monsters and a tree that breathes life into the dead. Flussburg is probably wrong in German. If you speak German and it sounds weird to your ears, you could call it Villa Flumine in Latin. Or just pretend it’s a weird name because it’s medieval." Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1 does an alright job giving some Gygaxian ecology on the trolls, fleshes out the setting, PC generation twists, and the background of the city . But again this felt more like a Warhammer Fantasy back water city then an LoFP. I wanted more from this setting,more flavor, more weirdness, and more of the quality of the weird that I've come to expect in a product that even unofficially bears the LoFP moniker. This product is trying to hard to be everything to everyone & loses its product identity half way through. Well I'm really spoiled when it comes to Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I'm used to the Red Moon Medicine Show's Vacant Ritual quality of material of LoFP fanzine. Now with all that being said, I think that Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1 is a fine Pike & Shot style campaign city & wilderness setting for B/X Dungeons & Dragons. Given its direction, ideas, etc. its a perfectly suitable animal for a campaign jump point into its world setting as a quirky later Medival style game setting if your looking for something that will emulate a Warhammer Fantasy style low level adventure setting.

So four out of five stars for Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1 Eric Fabiaschi Swords & Stitchery blog Want To See More OSR reviews & support for many OSR games Subscribe to http://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.com/



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Black Dogs 'zine - issue 1
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Crying Blades: volume one
by sean m. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/19/2017 03:06:01

Lots of interesting new takes on the OSR genre.Great buy.Very much looking forward to Volume 3.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Crying Blades: volume one
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Demon~marked
by Abraham Z. P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/21/2015 18:19:43

For a pay what you want game, this is really good! The PDF has some pretty beautiful illustrations, very dark and gothic. It's written well, although there are some ambiguous or loose parts at times.

The theme is great, powerful, it reminds me of the Dark Souls and Demon Souls video games; the world it represents, a world of despair, governed by demonic forces, is easy to imagine, it feels like the dark ages during the blackest moments of inquisitorial assaults. The player fights as a supernatural warrior who can wield demonic power. Darkness fighting against darkness; the main storyline behind the game also communicates this very well.

Gameplay consists of simple checks by generating dice pools, and the player needs to employ his demonic power without letting it control him. It's all a big balancing act. The 'level up' system is pretty simple as well. Those who are looking for a simple, gritty and dark game, need look no further.

Some may not like the dying system, of creating or picking a character to continue the deceased warrior's mission, as there isn't too great an incentive for it. But keep in mind that it was designed like that not only for difficulty purposes, but to communicate the lethality of the game world as well.

Some things have been further balanced and fine-tuned since I played this.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Demon~marked
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Demon~marked
by Michael T. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 05/15/2015 16:59:39

Why Review a Free Product? It will still cost you some time to read and some ink to print if you choose. I'd like to know if it's worth it and I thought someone else might as well. I will not hesitate to spoil the adventure (SPOILER ALERT).

Physical Product This is a 15 page PDF that I paid to have printed out. But because of the font colors (red on white or white on light brown) and the fact that it printed landscape it was too small to read and/or the type of hard to read. I wound up having to read it on my phone.

Introduction This interested me because it was a two-player game and I was curious as to how it would be designed.

Description The setup for the world is that the Chaos Overlords and Demons have taken control of the fantasy land for years. Sorcerers have pacts with demons; all magic is evil and all about demon summoning. Sounds like "Midnight" so far.

Somehow there is a way to bind a demon to the PC, but this requires a strict code of conduct to keep the demon from taking over.

There are two moons and the sun doesn’t shine very much. This is Dark Fantasy with an emphasis on Dark.

To because a demon-marked hero the mark seeks you out like a Green Lantern ring. I like that they state there are only 99 demon-marked. But since if one dies they just go get another I guess there will always be 99. I'd prefer if they could truly be eliminated. It would make survival a priority. After all, if you die, so what - you just roll up another character.

It also states specifically that the GM ("Master") is deliberately out to get you by design. I'm okay with that.

The task resolution system is a six-sided dice counting successes against a difficulty number. It also includes a Partial Success result. I like that. You roll black 'demon dice' as well. The will result in either nothing, more successes to add to yours or more successes and adding a 'Demon Point'.

Damage is subtracted from hit points.

As you get more and more 'possessed' (stages) it becomes harder and harder to hide your demonic nature.

You also gain "Code Points" as experience points for acting in character. These allow you to remove Demon Points which slow down your possession's progress.

Demon Points are spent to use Demon Powers.

Next are two character sheets. These have pick lists for motivations, equipment, stats, skills and which Special Moves you can use your Demon Points for. These are pretty well done. They also give you a choice of what your demon-mark (tattoos) look like.

Next is the "How to GM" chapter. The first rule is (of course) "Keep it Dark!” Pretty typical 3-act structure advice, but of course, a little vague on details.

Next is Example Difficulties for Actions which is nicely done. Then the Combat rules. Lots of dice involved but it looks like it's at least been played with things like Size accounted for.

There is no Initiative in combat. Just a roll for attacking without being damage and a free attack round if surprised.

It also specifically mentions guidelines for House Rules. You will definitely need them if you try to play this as written.

It also gives a brief guideline on money and a starting amount of coins.

Next it talks about Balancing an Adventure. It mainly talks about balancing the difficulty numbers around the different Acts of the adventure. When you're only tool is a dice pool, every problem because a difficulty number.

Next it talks about being possessed by a Demon and how you can move up and down the Stages by your actions and accomplishments. Ultimately if the demon possesses you, you rush to Act 3 die somehow.

If you even get to Stage 2 (out of 3) stages of demon possession you are permanently inflicted with a 'condition' of Wounded, Shaken, Confused or Broken. None of them sound good.

Next is the Enemies chapter. There are 14 stated out examples here including Regular Humans so this is a nice way to get an idea of the type of balance needed for the game. There's also a large illustration of a Chaos Warrior. The illustration is good, but takes up a lot of space. All in all a very useful chapter often overlooked by free RPGs.

Next is Chaos Magic and Combat Stories. Chaos Magic gives seven simple spell examples. Combat Stories is rather confusing. It starts out "When describing the combat, Master and player should try to be narrative in their descriptions." I'm guessing it just means "make it up as you go along". But the general intention seems to be to using descriptions and the dice to generate the story while letting the player make tactical choices. I think. It also talks about ending the adventure and retiring the Demon-marked character. It doesn't usually end well for them.

Next is Adventures Seeds. There are six of these and they are as useless as any other adventure seeds.

Next you are given ideas on how to assign the dice to player characters and rules for how to build characters. The traits give skills which are simple one word descriptions of characteristics related to the traits of Bod, Skill, Mind and Spirit along with a choice of Special Moves. I'm a little unsure of the relationship between Special Moves and Demon Moves, but that's okay.

Next is a blank character sheet. After that is the Story Sheet and a section on Adventure Preparation. Very short advice is given here including "Do not plan in advance for a specific outcome of the Scene or the Act.” Okay. Guess there's been a lot of railroading going on. About a quarter of the page is blank for 'notes'. Why would you have notes if you're not planning for anything to happen?

Overall Well Demon-marked is good at what it does. It presents a very hand-wavy make-it-up-as-you-go-along story of a single Elricy, Chaos-tainted doomed hero. It covers most what is needed for the idea and only leaves holes where it wanted to. Personally, it's something I wouldn't ever play, but I wouldn't object if a player wanted to play a character like this and it would definitely be a good for many Conan-style Sword & Sorcery games. The idea and expression of the way being demon possessed works is neatly done.

I didn't expect to like it much, but I actually didn't get sick of reading it like so many free RPG projects. If this Chaos style of hero is what you are looking for, you could definitely do worse.

I can't say there would be a lot of replay value - the character is pretty much doomed after all - but it could provide for some interesting games.

I should note that it is very well illustrated (5 color) and laid out.

Should I Check Out Their Other Products? Well, even if there are other products, what would they be filled with? Given that the entire game is pretty much 'colorful words' I can't really see that they would need other products. But let's check out www.daimongames.com. Apparently they have a lot of other free games that seem to be along the Fate/Apocalypse World axis.

Well, I learned what I wanted to know. Games with a single player and a GM seem to be heavily 'storytelling' style in order to work. Now I know.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Creator Reply:
Hi Michael Thanks for downloading the product and for the exhaustive review. I am sorry the printing didn\'t go well; I did one test print at home which was OK, but I\'ve always used the rules on a tablet myself. Besides the printing, it\'s my understanding that the game didn\'t really strike you as done well, nor that it suited well your taste - hence the 2-stars. I have no objections to this: your review is precise, just perhaps a few characteristics of the game you perceive as limits or flaws would be considered in an opposite prospective by others. But yeah, you understood how Demon~marked would work and it doesn\'t sound like a game you\'d enjoy. In my defense I can only point out that this is a free product, and as you wrote you didn\'t get sick of reading it, it\'s well illustrated and laid out. Perhaps it deserved a little mercy :-) More important though: you say that \"Games with a single player and a GM seem to be heavily \'storytelling\' style in order to work\". This might be a bit of stretch. This is just how I designed this product. Other products of other authors I\'m sure would have a different approach. Regarding my other products: they\'re different, because they address different play-styles, different settings, etc. So if you\'re interested, check them out. They\'re not related to Demon~marked. Again, thanks for the review!
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