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The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/02/2019 11:10:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This adventure clocks in at 31 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page kickstarter-thanks, 1 page ToC, 1 page to track monster hit points, 1 page to note down dead PCs, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 23 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

We begin this module with a brief author’s commentary before getting into the nit and grit of things. This module is intended for 4 – 5 level 1 – 2 characters, and the rules employed are LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) and may be easily adapted to other OSR-games. My review is based on both the PoD softcover and the pdf-version. Monsters note HD and HP as well, and come with move rates and ascending AC, in case you were wondering.

So, first thing first – that lady on the cover has nothing, AT ALL, to do with the content. Nothing. Structurally, this is basically a mansion-crawl that encompasses a quasi-Victorian mansion and the accompanying mansion grounds. The mansion has glass windows, and the story does assume some things that particularly picky history-buffs may consider to be a violation of the assumed early modern period quasi-historic setting of LotFP. It also mentions dwarves. Most folks won’t mind, though. The manor grounds come with a rather amazing isometric map by none other than Todd Gamble, meaning that it’s beautiful; a player-friendly version of this map is provided as well, which is a nice plus. A downside of this map? It renders the entirety of the manor grounds opaque, as it lacks a scale or grid or any other means to discern how far the respective areas are situated from one another. The map of the manor itself is top-down, less impressive, and puzzlingly lacks a player-friendly map sans labels.

The module sports 12 rumors, and the respective areas come with random encounters – d6 for the first two rough areas, d4 for the final one. A pet-peeve of mine: One of the creatures that can be encountered is a small serpent that has a bite that translates to save-or-die. This may be me, but I think save-or-die should be earned, the consequence of player actions, not the consequence of a random encounter.

Another thing you need to know: This is, in spite of what the title implies, NOT a horror module. Indeed, I wouldn’t even classify it as dark fantasy. This is not to say that it’s not deadly, but it never, at no point in time, is creepy. A theme of decay suffuses the book, but that’s about it in that regard. The respective rooms do not get read-aloud text.

As far as organization is concerned, it’s a bit weird that we first get the mansion descriptions, then those for the manor grounds, and then the ones for the stygian garden – mansion grounds, manor, garden would have made more sense, sequence-wise.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only referees around? Great! Abelia Prem was a peculiar woman of a scholastic bent, not interested in the trappings of marriage and child-raising, and more intrigued by honing her mind, hosting extravagant salon parties for the local who’s who, with a specific interest in the legendary eponymous Stygian Rose, a black plant that ostensibly grows on the banks of the river Styx, capable of reviving the dead. Her fortune squandered on research, she died, and her ghost ostensibly haunts the manor. In practice, this haunting is reduced to a soft humming in the background. That’s creepy once, but otherwise, the angle is not developed.

The manor grounds include a creeper that attempts to strangle you. Which translates to damage and no increased chances to surprise the players. The monsters also include stone archer cherubs (and later a kind of mini-boss statue that can birth a limited amount of them) and buzzard dandys! Yep, you read right! What do they do? Which powers do they have? They attack and have sucky morale. That’s it. I wish I was kidding. You have a concept as cool as buzzard dandies…and do nothing with it. There is a gargoyle with a devastating breath weapon (2d10!), and other encounters feature a fleeing hobo and a wild goat.

This, unfortunately, is a running theme for the module. There’s a pool with bright green water. Due to harmless algae. There’s a big toad. An insane and trapped fairy, and an oak that houses a spirit the PCs can potentially converse with. None of these things matter in any shape way or form. There is one thing that is cool about this book: The 12 different unusual plants herein are interesting: Super cannabis, a poison that only affects unmarried women (maidensbane…odd…I’d have expected that to tie in with virginity rather than matrimony, but yeah); there is the Love-me-not plant that fortifies against amorous emotions and advances (which is an interesting concept to explore), a rose that can petrify those pricking their fingers, etc. These plants do come with proper values and quick and dirty rules to grow them. The two pages featuring these are definitely the highlight of this book. The mansion hides a tunnel dug by dwarves, remains of an accident there, and a subterranean river that may or may not be Styx. There may or may not be a rose. It’s up to the referee.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, and the book’s layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard. The module sports nice b/w-artwork (original pieces), and cartography, as noted before, is inconsistent: The mansion grounds are beautiful and come with a player-friendly version, but lack a scale; the mansion gets a less impressive, functional map, but lacks a player-friendly version. The pdf sports a grand total of 3 bookmarks, which don’t really help navigating this – I recommend the PoD over the electronic version.

I am pretty puzzled by this module. Why? Because Clint Krause usually does better. There is something almost aggressively disappointing about this adventure. It almost feels like this is by intent, but if so, it doesn’t fulfill that promise. There are weird things, a purely cosmetic ghost, fey and hostile plants, sure, but they never gel together, always feel like they’ve been put there without much agenda or thematic consistency. The module touches upon fey, upon a ghost, upon plant monsters…but these never establish a leitmotif, a sense of identity. Paradoxically for the botanic theme, this module felt, to me, sterile. This extends to the chance of the finale being optionally a “tough luck” disappointment. And this is, in a way, a pity. You see, this module feels like it could have been a masterpiece. If the plants had actually been required for puzzles, etc., or had offered immediate usefulness in the module, if there had been a sense of cohesion in the enemies, this could have been cool. The ghost angle could have made this a somber, low-key experience that could have perfectly hit the small notes of sadness, tragedy and loss. It could have been an amazing tragedy, a great gothic yarn. But as written, this feels like it only developed its concepts half-way and lost interest in them, leaving us with a module that feels painfully disparate and unfocused. As noted, the author usually does much better.

This may sound devastating, and yeah, it kinda is, but this module does have nice production values, and it’s not a cash-grab; it feels like an orphaned module, but it’s not actively loathsome or bad. I can see groups enjoying this…but if you want my honest opinion: Skip this, and if you want to support Red Moon Medicine Show, instead get Vacant Ritual Assembly #6. The Rootmire crawl included in that installment is vastly superior to this adventure in each and every way.

Final verdict…well. I had forgotten all about this module, something that usually never happens to me. I had to reread this, and frankly, I wouldn’t buy this again. As a person, this is a 2-star file for me; as a reviewer, though, I can see this work for some groups, which is why my final verdict will be 2.5 stars, but I can’t bring myself to doing anything but rounding down – I just can’t find a reason to get this over e.g. the Rootmire crawl from Vacant Ritual Assembly #6.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #6
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 01/15/2019 10:48:20

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly-‘zine clocks in at 53 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of introduction/editorial/recommendations, 5 pages of advertisements, leaving us with 45 pages of content. These are laid out in approximately 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), and it should be noted that one advertisement also serves as the back cover. The other advertisements are spread throughout the ‘zine, but thankfully, none of them bisect an article – they are used as breaks between articles, which is okay, if not ideal – at least in my book.

In case you’re new to the ‘zine – the default rules-system assumed within is LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess), and thus, we’re looking at a comparably low PC power-level (though magic generally can have super serious repercussions). Conversion to other OSR-systems is pretty simple as far as the material within this ‘zine is concerned.

So, let’s start with the material within that I can discuss without going into deep SPOILER-territory. The first article, penned by Clint Krause, would be “Grigoro’s Wonders Untold”, a travelling sideshow of weirdos. The write-up contains stats for the cast of NPCs, which include magically-conjoined twin orange yetis, a frog demon pseudo-aristocrat, a bubbly four-armed fairy, and a melancholy spirit trapped in a glass tube…to note a few. Much to my surprise, we get a rather well-drawn b/w-artwork depicting this cast of characters, and beyond stats, we also get a breakdown of how a show actually runs and can purchase some slightly magical oddities, that include cake that makes you dance, and brownies that give you explosive diarrhea. No, I have not made the latter up. They are called…Browntownies.

Later in the pdf, Clint Krause also presents us a twist on the killer-children trope, with a brief one-page excerpt of the Grimsly Hill Cherubs, taken from the long-time upcoming Driftwood Verses book – which I backed and still very much look forward to, though, when compared to what I’ve seen there, this sneakpeek seems comparatively conventional. Not my favorite piece herein.

The Gallows on Heretic Hill, and the Noosefriars, are two articles also penned by Clint Krause that do a much better job at highlighting what he’s capable of. In a way, these two brief articles represent a whole campaign template that will prove to be a godsend to many gamers out there. With a fully mapped cathedral and stats for Penitent jack, this section does have rules-relevant components and map-support, but the strength here is the concept: Basically, you can picture the Noosefriars as a kind of church-sanctioned black Ops strikeforce…one that is immortal. You see, when the noosefriars get a noose from gallows’ hill, they won’t die. Instead, upon death, their spirits are transplanted into one of the corpses dangling from aforementioned gallows, with them retaining their personality, but losing 50% XP. This set-up allows you to retain one “character” through multiple deaths (of which there are plenty in LotFP) and also explore identity-questions, transhumanism, questions of faith and free will…all through a dark fantasy lens. It’s a brief two connected articles, sure – but it’s really inspiring, not just for LotFP. If you ever wanted to play a really deadly campaign, but have players that really dislike having to come up with new character identities time and again, this makes for a great solution. Similarly, for Dark Souls/Salt & Sanctuary and similar gamestyles, emulated in RPG, this does its job rather well.

Speaking of jobs done rather well – the ‘zine also includes an interview with Emmy Allen, the mastermind behind Dying Stylishly Games and author of “Wolf-packs and winter snows”, a book that I really want to finally see the PoD version for the revised edition. Anyhow, I digress.

These are the aspects of the module that I could discuss without going into SPOILERS – but the ‘zine actually contains not one, but two fully-mapped modules, and one particular environment/complex encounter/sidetrek. All of these are generally suitable for low level parties, approximately from levels 1 -4. The second adventure I’ll discuss will be exceedingly hard at these levels – 3 to 5 seems like a better level-range there.

In order to discuss these, I have to dive into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only referees around? Great!

So, the first adventure, penned by Kathryn Jenkins, is “From Dunnholt it Rises”, and it is a brief, but furious dark fantasy yarn that is easy to expand upon. It is presented in a pretty barebones general level of detail considering its complexity, but without that ever really bothering me. Dunnholt is a miserably island, some distance from the coast of Scotland, or any other locale you choose, really. In fact, with barely minor cosmetic reskins, it can be easily be transplanted to pretty much any cultural sea-adjacent sphere. Dunnholt doesn’t have much to offer – a few docks, a fortified hold, atop cliffs, a bit of rock, and a bit of forest…and it recently got worse and less welcoming than it was before. Dunnholt has been transformed into a quarantine island, receiving plague victims and not much more. Now, the PCs are faced with the task of investigating the late arrival of the latest ship – and when it comes, the crew is riddled with black tumors, black rats scurrying in the shadows, carrying “Dunnholt’s Gift”, a horrid degenerative disease that basically slowly turns those afflicted into tumor-ridden plague-zombie-like things, so-called yearning ones. The spread of this darkness must be stopped, particularly if the PCs want to find a cure against the horrid disease.

Dunnholt itself is a foreboding place, and while each individual location is only briefly sketched, they all have something going for them: As the PCs explore the island, they’ll be attacked by the tumor-ridden yearning ones. In the hold, an anthropomorphic giant rat flutist asks for a dark pact, while a dying plague doctor utters cryptic warnings…and indeed, beyond the forest and beneath the hold, there lie the labyrinthine plague dens (alas, sans scale), the tunnels in Dunnholt where the miserable truth can be found. The only reason that the island’s vileness hasn’t yet spread further is the state of checkmate between two of three dark forces: There is a coven of three witches, which have been drawing power from the dark heart of the island. They want the PCs to eat from the heart of the island – they’ll provide a cure…but unbeknown to the PCs, this will be fatal for them. The island is alien – an alien parasite of vast proportions, which has, tick-like, afflicted our planet. Eating from the heart will have a new island gestate years later, rupturing the PC, spawning a new such den of evil. The other faction is a horribly disfigured plague doctor, known as “The Good Doctor” – fused with his plague-mask, the grotesque thing of tumors and mutations is behind the spread of Dunnholt’s Gift…and slaying him is a condition for the help of the witches. Killing the heart will have cataclysmic effects, as the island sinks and the floods will destroy coastal towns…so the decision the PCs are making and the consequences thereof will not be pleasant…

The second adventure, “Death Planted the Esther Tree”, is penned by Kreg Mosier, and is labeled as “A Rootmire Mansion Crawl” – much to my chagrin, I found no additional scenarios written by the author, and frankly, that’s a damn pity, for this is not only an excellent mansion crawl that is genuinely horrific, it also represents one of the best iterations of what I’d consider to be Southern Gothic traditions in an RPG-adventure. Not only is the prose absolutely excellent, the mystery pertaining the fates of a well-to-do, if clannish family, the Relecroix, is absolutely genius. We have a three-level mansion-crawl with a plant-theme and rot/dilapidation suffusing every location – not just in theme, but also in rules-relevant aspects. The horrid tragedy that is at…the root (pardon the pun) of the tragedy here can be discovered by the PCs as they explore the perpetually overcast and rain-shrouded house. Vat-born albino-slaves and animated twig-things roam the grounds, and skin pierced with ebonwood can afflict the PCs with a kind of rot. An undead mire dragon can be found in a subdued optional boss battle (and nod towards fantasy traditions), while the true final boss proved to be not only evocative, but downright nasty. This is easily one of the best modules I’ve read in a ‘zine, and I seriously hope we’ll get to see more from the author in the future! I want to know more about Rootmire! And yeah, the amazing map does not have a scale, but it does have squares, which allows you to easily run this.

Can this be topped? Well, it depends on your preference. As much as love my classics, I am always enamored with things that are thoroughly novel – and Anxious P. delivers in the final article that I have to comment on: “Papa Lathmos Sugar Cane Crop.” This series of extended encounters/environment is, by its own subtitle, a “hyperglycemic nightmare”, and this description pretty much tops whatever I could say regarding the content presented. The prose here creates images of sweltering, relentless heat and hallucinations. To give you a brief excerpt: “The sugar cane shakes without breeze as you waddle or tromp towards its edges, like thousands of rattlesnakes in a rain storm. The stalks are striped in a violent black camouflage [...]“ – we learn about the people of sugar, subsisting on a sludge of dehydration and sweet rot, speaking dreams through rotting teeth, chattering a language too „dripping“ to be understood. Their swaying is infectious, and being in the presence of an elder may make you…move..into the sugarfield, where 4 different nightmareish encounters hearken. With dream-logic and truly disturbing and resounding visuals, as you turn into sugar, only to have it melt away, rendering the clearing a sludge…with strange things of multiple bodies attacking you, laughing, as you can see a man punctured and drained by sugarcane…and worse. These brief encounters are not meant to be an adventure, but they are genius and understand how nightmares work. I’d totally buy Anxious P.’s book of nightmares without a second’s hesitation after reading this article. It’s a masterpiece of weirdness, supplemented by the stats of ephemeral, but deadly things. It’s not mechanically complex per se, but it doesn’t have to be. I love it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. While I noticed a few minor hiccups, nothing really impeded my enjoyment of the articles within. Layout adheres to a two-column b/w-standard, and the ‘zine sports a surprising amount of neat b/w-artworks I haven’t seen before. The cartography for the adventures is b/w and impressive – particularly for the Rootmire crawl and the Cathedral on Gallows’ Hill, though I would have loved to get player-friendly, unlabeled versions of these maps. The pdf version has bookmarks, but only three of them, which limits usability of the ‘zine. I strongly suggest getting the softcover PoD version – I actually got it right here in my hands, and it’s definitely worth owning.

Clint Krause’s decision to move Vacant ritual Assembly to PoD and expand its breadth is a great call – the expanded room for material makes this easily the best of the installments of the ‘zine so far, and while usually, the lack of bookmarks and player-friendly maps would see me penalize this in some way, I frankly can’t bring myself to doing so here. Why?

Well, for one, even the weakest article herein can still be considered to be “good”. The majority of the content, though, is, frankly, awesome. Clint Krause’s noosefriars are a stroke of genius and blow his previous factions clear out of the water. Kathryn Jenkins delivers with her dark fantasy island-tale – it’s compressed and requires that the GM fleshes it out, sure, but if you’re good at improve, you can get a ton of sessions out of this one. I know I’m going to expand it!

Kreg Mosier’s Rootmire crawl, though, and Anxious P.’s nightmare-encounters are, what ultimately, to me, elevate this issue above all previous installments of Vacant Ritual Assembly. They are absolutely inspired – the former as a near perfect execution of genre-piece in a genre that is all but unrepresented in RPGs, and the latter for just being so…disturbing and novel. Either of these articles would have imho warranted the asking price, but combined? Yeah, this is a ‘zine that’s very much worth owning, particularly if you have even remotely a thing for Southern Gothic themes. My final verdict is 5 stars + seal of approval, with the caveat that the pdf-only version loses a star due to the comfort detriments noted above.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #6
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #5
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2018 07:00:59

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fifth installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly ‘zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC and notes on recommended files/media, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, so let’s take a look. It should be noted that the pages are laid out in the standard 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) pamphlet style for many OSR-zines, which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper – in theory. In practice, printing this one out yielded issues for all printers I used, which may be relevant to your interest. I am not penalizing the pdf for that, though.

As before, the default OSR-rules assumed herein are the LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) rules. The content is suggested for mature audiences.

All right, we begin with an article by Judd Karlman, depicting “Koster’s Knob” – a hobbit shire depicted in an INSPIRED and gorgeous two-page isometric map by Todd Gamble, with reasonably player-friendly annotations added instead of the annoying numbers that break immersion. The map may make this worth getting – and while it looks like something straight out of picturesque Tolkien, the place has a great twist: You see, the halflings here grow (pipe)weed. Halflings that venture forth are semi-shunned, called Kosterbacks…and there is a local slang word for wizards that settle down and refuse to leave. Think about how often that must have happened for that to develop! Iron cages where the shunned and doomed are left add another, slightly sinister angle to the latent, implied arch-conservative xenophobia, and indeed, ALL points of interest on the map get read-aloud text from locals, kosterbacks and such wizards, painting a vivid picture indeed. Sample stats, brief tables for criminals, encounters, etc. are included as well. A total winner! Loved this!

Fitting and supplemental here, would be the introduction of the Pipe Arts skill, which allows spellcasters to forget prepared spells to heal – spell level times skill ranks. Cool! 3 sample weeds are provided, including silver values and unique effects.

Kathryn Jenkins presents a new LotFP-class p next, the Ritualist, who is a variant magic-user. The article has a black background and white text, just fyi. They have no spell slots and but ONE spell, which they must roll for. The idea here is to depict a more grim type of spellcasting – the class, basically, has to sell their soul, risking possession and constant loss of hit points – permanently, mind you! This is paid for with the one “spell”, soul selling, which is not presented in LotFP’s usual format and rather as a component; the article suffers a bit from calling the ritualistic magic spells, when they’re more like curses or items. We also do not get a class table or the like, so yeah – this is, presentation-wise, a bit rough and could be more precise; at the same time, I enjoy this rather…grim type of magic. For e.g. a quasi-historic/medieval low fantasy game, I’d most definite contemplate building on this engine, particularly since the sample “spells” provided net some guideline.

The next section depicts “The Synod” – a grimdark quasi-Catholic anti-version of that Church – and frankly, I liked this article. The organization and its deviations seem interesting enough to potentially warrant expansion to a full book at one point. One of the factions here would be the Sineater wolves, basically “sacred” (haha) lycanthropes drawing from a few of our lesser known and obscure pieces of real-world mythology. Beyond stats for these, we also have a nice, brief section on lycanthropy and PCs.

We close this installment with an interview with none other than James Edward Raggi IV, the man behind LotFP.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal level; on a rules-language level, the pdf is also pretty precise, but could have done a slightly better job regarding the ritualist. Layout adheres to a 2-column b/w-standard, and the artworks and particularly, the cartography (by Todd Gamble!), are astounding, considering the low price point. The map this time around is bereft of immersion-breaking numbers or spoilers, which is a big plus. However, the lack of bookmarks for the electronic version represents an unpleasant comfort-detriment.

Clint Krause, Judd Karlman and Kathryn Jenkins deliver a neat little ‘zine – Mr. Karlman’s article alone makes this imho worth getting, and the ritualist could have been pure gold, had it gotten more room to develop its cool ideas; even in its current, pretty barebones state, it’s interesting and very much relevant for the right campaign. In short: While this installment of Vacant Ritual Assembly doesn’t reach the lofty heights of the previous one, it still represents a file that’s very much worth getting. My final verdict will hence clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #5
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #4
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/20/2018 04:54:16

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The fourth installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly ‘zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC and notes on recommended files/media, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look. It should be noted that the pages are laid out in the standard 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) pamphlet style for many OSR-zines, which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper – in theory. In practice, printing this one out yielded issues for all printers I used, which may be relevant to your interest. I am not penalizing the pdf for that, though.

As before, the default OSR-rules assumed herein are the LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) rules. The content is suggested for mature audiences.

We begin this issue with an article on “The Abstract” – no, not the general notion, but rather an etablissement where dope-fiends, disgraced scholars and other patrons cavort in the hazy twilight. In short, this sounds like my kind of place. Here, you can meet Albertus Crowe, leader of the esoteric Severn Circle, Gretchen Silt, the rather wealthy “whore of Sable Priory”, a man caught in the lotus-dreams of Narcosa (nice nod to Rafael Chandler et al.’s massive community project) and the dope-victim Vole, ever stumbling around on errands for his fugue masters. 8 esoteric discussion subjects and a nice artwork kinda made me actually want the place and its eclectic crowd to be real. For one pace, this is an impressive little section.

Speaking of Narcosa – we get a mini-adventure in the setting next, namely “The Lotus Eater” – to briefly discuss it, I need to go into SPOILERS. Players should skip to the Spoiler-end.

..

.

Only referees reading this? Great! So, Francolo Pennington is a young and privileged dilettante, escaping his rather overbearing family with Amber Lotus – however, his dreams have become persistent between highs, and so he fashioned himself Czar in his own narcotic dream. If you’ve played “What Remains of Edith Finch” – it’s that type of scenario, only that his physical body remains comatose and alive. In order to “free” the lad, the PCs will have to physically kill his avatar in Narcosa! We get a one-page handout (well-crafted!) and a 1-page hex-map, as the PCs explore this part of the ephemeral drug-vision land! Strange villagers, sporest of the smoke wolf (yes, with stats) and weirder things (particularly if you have the FREE Narcosa-book!) await, and we even get some rumors! The PCs, ultimately, will make their way to the Godhead Citadel, the symmetrical, head-shaped (smoke billowing from the eyes) lair of the Czar, where he makes for a nice boss. Really cool mini-adventure! While the maps don’t come with a player-friendly, key-less version, I still was rather happy with this one.

/SPOILERS.

A guest joint venture with Anxious P is up next, with the Oolai Cloth-Skins and Blackhides as two cultural traditions, where alligator priests sew magical cloth in strange rites to select few; 6 different magical effects are presented alongside 4 different drawbacks; where regular cloth-skinning leaves parts of the body exposed, Black-hiding essentially creates a warrior/killer-caste of folks sewn, from head to toe, into magical black alligator hides… 4 different prices demanded by the Oolai sewers are included. INSPIRED! I adored this grim and twisted little article. My one complaint here would be that it’d have been nice to get a suggested approximate SP-value for these…services.

After this, we take a look at another mini-hex environment, the barbarian territories, where three dreaded barbarian tribes loom; Glacierhorde, Skiverhorn and Gnashmaws. The first worship mighty Ghosthide (lavishly depicted in a great b/w-artwork!)…and much like the other tribes, we get multiple stats for members and “gods” of the tribes; for the sSkiverhorn, that would be Impalor, the Armored Death, a triceratops-y godbeast. Gaining favors from these titans is noted, as are mechanically-relevant benefits from doing so. If you’re playing e.g. “Wolf Packs and Winter Snow”, then this should be a must-have section; even if you don’t, it’s very much worth getting, ending the content section of this issue with a summa summarum verdict of all killer, no filler.

The interview this time around is with none other than David McGrogan.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are back to a more precise standard than previously. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and artworks and maps are surprisingly copious for a humble little ‘zine; as a whole, aesthetics-wise, this is pleasant indeed. The pdf has no bookmarks, however, which serves an unpleasant comfort detriment.

After the disappointing third issue, Vacant Ritual Assembly is back with a bang! Clint Krause and Anxious P deliver one amazing little ‘zine that oozes ideas and cool things in every single component. The Narcosa-adventure is suitably weird and does not suffer from last issue’s magic item inflation; stats are precise and the writing is smart – this is by far the best Vacant ritual Assembly installment I’ve covered so far, and is definitely worth checking out if the weird and outré are even remotely to your tastes. Considering that this pdf is super-inexpensive, I feel justified in rounding up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars. Were it not for the lack of player-friendly versions of the maps (srsly – this has really nice ones for a ‘zine!) and bookmarks, this’d have received my seal of approval sans hesitation. Definitely recommended!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #4
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #3
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/13/2018 13:46:28

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly ‚’zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of editorial/ToC and notes on recommended files/media, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, so let’s take a look. It should be noted that the pages are laid out in the standard 6’’ by 9’’ (A5) pamphlet style for many OSR-zines, which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper – in theory. In practice, printing this one out yielded issues for all printers I used, which may be relevant to your interest. I am not penalizing the pdf for that, though.

As before, the default OSR-rules assumed herein are the LotFP (Lamentations of the Flame Princess) rules.

The first article herein depicts the “Dragon trench”, inspired by a real life site in Missouri . the trench ostensibly was created by a dragon crashing down onto the earth with incredible force, The location features a brief introduction, a nice b/w-full-page artwork and a stylized hexcrawl map spanning two pages – the hexes use cut-outs of the cover art as a backdrop, for a weirdly artistic use of resources that I somehow ended up enjoying. A hex is noted to span 5 miles and 6 rumors and an event/weather table is provided for your convenience. The section includes a mini-bestiary of 6 creatures – fairies require that you make up effects, and there are 3 sample plants with supernatural effects, though annoyingly, no silver values for them are provided. This is particularly relevant, since one of them can prevent spell slot loss upon casting a spell, which can be super potent.

The region itself comes with 7 keyed locales noted, though these, as a whole, are pretty potent – some guy has boots of water walking, while an intelligent +3 longsword, sans drawbacks, just awaits being found. I consider this, magic-level wise, to be somewhat overkill, considering the dangers faced. Not a big fan. Furthermore, magic item formatting is inconsistent throughout the installment.

The area also contains the Dragon Clan, a legacy organization that fights the minions of The Sting, the big antagonist here. Their VERY brief write-up doesn’t tell me that much about them, and the map for the fortress they inhabit is solid. The section also introduces the falconry skill and notes stats for the critters and use in combat. Fun aspect. Stats for 4 notable knights/dames are provided, alongside stats for their squires, dubbed “The Lost Boys”, which got a chuckle out of me.

After this, we are introduced to the Thundercloud druids, the primary source the Ghoul Market (see VRA #1) has for fairy amber, an order of druids that wield a new type of flintlock musket. These druids also fabricate three types of flutes that act as spells in a can. Odd: The Play Wind skill used to activate them isn’t fully depicted, as the falconry skill is. My favorite aspect of this article would be the brief symbol language provided for Ogham. Notes for PC thundercloud druids are provided.

After this, we take a look at the timberwives, who get my favorite illustration herein – and no, the reason for this is not the exposed nipples featured here, but rather the badass, dynamic pose. They are horrific thralls to father Sycamore, neither fully human nor plant, and manage to evoke more atmosphere in their one page than any article herein before them. I liked them. Stats are provided.

The next article, based on a traumatic experience with stinging insects, includes the stats of the aforementioned lord of stinging creatures “The Sting” (not to be confused with the weird wrestler), and we get a nice map of a wilderness locale and an associated little dungeon themed around this adversary and the creatures and folks serving the being.

The final section of the pdf sports an interview with Rick Saada on the roguelike he wrote.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are good, but not as tight as in previous installments, formatting is simply not as tight. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard and artworks and maps are surprisingly copious for a humble little ‘zine; as a whole, aesthetics-wise, this is pleasant. The pdf has no bookmarks, which serves an unpleasant comfort detriment.

Honestly, after #1 and #2, I was rather disappointed by this installment of Vacant ritual Assembly. While Clint Krause’s imaginative potential shines through here and there, this is, as a whole, a rather vanilla experience. Now, don’t get me wrong – I do enjoy the idea of taking a childhood mythology and developing it into a location/module, but the supplement doesn’t do that compelling a job here; the innocent eyes widened in abject terror at the sight of stinging things is not truly conveyed; more hazards and terrain features/peculiarities would have done wonders there. The installment, in short, feels less refined – which can also be seen in the rules-language hiccups and omissions.

All in all, I did not get much out of this installment, though that may be different for you. However, if you do end up using this, be well aware of the rather powerful magic items littered throughout, which imho not only lack LotFP’s usually unique flavor, but which also are in no true relation to the challenges faced. As a whole, I consider this to be a rather sparse mixed bag, my final verdict clocking in at 2.5 stars, rounded up due to the low price-point and appealing aesthetics.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #3
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #2
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 06/19/2018 08:34:19

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The second installment of the Vacant Ritual Assembly ’zine clocks in at 24 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages editorial/introduction/suggested reading/listening/watching, 1 page advertisement, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 19 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

As before, the rules assumed here regarding OSR-system employed would be LotFP. As such, it is intended for mature audiences and has a weird/dark fantasy vibe. The pdf sports vulgarity, if you mind the like.

The pdf’s proper content begins with a d66 table of names, with male, female and family-name column provided, and family names focusing on a somewhat English/French-style: Chamberlain and d’Aguillon, for example. This is followed by a nice, painless page that depicts the different, classic zodiac signs, assigning a +1 ability score bonus and suggesting personality traits for the signs. Solid, if not exactly mind-blowing so far.

This changes immediately on the next pages: On a two-page spread, we get a top-tier, gorgeous isometric b/w-map of the forlorn fishing village Dretcher’s Bay. Seriously, I was utterly flabbergasted to see a map of this quality in a humble fanzine, and the map is annotated in a player-friendly, key-less style, thus not breaking immersion. Led by three crabber captains (who come with mugshots on the lower border of the page), the place is pretty miserable, but ties seamlessly into the next article, on carcinology, where the naturalist living in Dretcher’s Bay shares his observations on the local bell crabs and highlights the costly sea coat. And yes, aforementioned Bell Crabs get monster stats. Oh, and there is the issue of the nephropids, lobster-like humanoids that live on a nearby island, making for a further complication for the region. Scratchy pencil-artworks add an illusion of looking into a notebook, and the read-aloud text for these crunchy bits adds to this conceit. Heck, we even get a size comparison.

The next double-page spread deals with the secrets of Acray, ruins nearby, swallowed by the sea. The article mentions briefly e.g. the presence of a dolphin sorceress (alas, sans stats) and loot to be found under the sea, as well as Bell Crab icons noting where these dangerous beings can be found. This is a nice addition to Dretcher’s Bay, though here, we only get a keyed version – no player-friendly version is included, which is a bit of a pity, for the top-down map is pretty nice.

After this, we have a guest article by none other than Anxious P, known for creative and unique artworks in various OSR-supplements. Here, we learn about oarsmen and the strange fares they may demand – from years to fingernails and vitality, this section makes paying the price…interesting. This one also comes with a d66-table of various woes the oarsman may confess to. Another winner!

After this, we take a look at brief sidetrek module inspired by a LotFP-artwork, intended for low level characters: Long ago, a Cyclops roamed the world, doomed to roam the world for the sin of treason. The titular eye has very potent effects and comes with full stats as a magic item. The Cyclops, doomed, died one day, and when an insane backwater guy found the tomb with its cyclopean motifs, he managed to create a misguided pseudo-religion of sorts around it. The hillbilly-ish man has since spawned a clan (called “Behelden” – and yes, the author knows this is no word!) of devoted beings. Wandering monsters and a solid map accompany this mini-adventure, and we get stats. While a player-friendly, key-less version of the map would have been nice, I consider this to be a solid sidetrek.

The ‘zine concludes with an interview with Greg Gorgonmilk.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. The b/w layout deserves special mentioning, as does the artwork and cartography – this ‘zine is absolutely GORGEOUS and aesthetically-pleasing. The cartography of Dretcher’s Bay alone makes the low $2.00 asking price of the otherwise pretty brief ‘zine totally worthwhile. The maps are really cool, but I wished they were layered or came with player-friendly versions. Unfortunately, the pdf has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.

Clint Krause and Anxious P provide a surprisingly inspired installment: Anxious P’s article is great and the connected articles on Dretcher’s Bay are amazing, generating a cool, compelling atmosphere. The crunch-density increased in comparison to #1, and all without compromising the atmosphere. The adventure side-trek is slightly less amazing, but considering the extremely low price, this is absolutely worth getting if you enjoy the slightly odd. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #2
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
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
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #6
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 06/23/2017 02:00:31

Original review on the blog.

Vacant Ritual Assembly #6 delivers flavorful and thematic content for Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP). Or other OSR games. It is choke-full of grisly locations, adventures, encounters, and factions. And it comes with an interview that introduced me to another interesting old school game.

Spoiler Alert!

First, you'll get Grigoro's Wonders Untold. It is a traveling circus full of weirdos. It comes with some background info that could add plot hooks for your players. But nothing very obvious. You have orange siamese yeti, a demon that is charmed by human society and the enslaved ghost of the owner.

Next is an island adventure by Kathryn Jenkins called From Dunnholt It Rises. It has a dark tone and horror theme with the plague, rats, witches and an island's heart that can be eaten. I like the two evil factions that play against each other: the witches vs. The Good Doctor. But the adventure looks very linear, so that is a downside.

Then there is a campaign hook plus a faction that players can join. Again of the macabre vein. The Gallows on Heretic Hill and A Light in the Black detail an interesting in-world-justification for "resurrecting" players as undead agents. That helps mitigate the mortality of old school games. And it offers a way to send players on missions for the faction, the Noosefriars.

You'll also get a mansion crawl by Kreg Mosier, Death Planted the Esther Tree. I love the pretty maps and the adventure premise. A cursed demon tree that was once the household's daughter and now wants revenge. There is also a curious illness: the Ebonwood Rot which transforms you into an Ebonwood Tree. It would be devious to confront your players with this...

The zine also features some monsters and weird encounters: The Grimsly Hill Cherubs and The Lathnos Sugar Cane Crop (by Anxy P.).

Every issue of VRA has an interview. I know that some people have no interest in that. But I found them mostly worth reading. This one has a conversation with Emmy Allen. She wrote a game that was unknown to me. Wolf-packs and Winter Snow is a prehistoric fantasy game with influences of LotFP, Warhammer Fantasy and ACKS (Adventurer Conqueror King System). It also has random world generation. That sounds mighty alluring to someone like me, so I'll need to check it out.

Look'n'Feel

The paper quality is much better, one of my main gripes with VRA. Layout, font choice, boxed text make this easy to read. Nice artwork round up the appealing production. Like many zines, this is not a fancy art book but a good looking minimalist booklet nonetheless.

tl;dr

VRA zines are always a delightful read of the bizarre and gruesome kind. This issue lives up to the high quality of the previous copies. It even has more content than before.

Even if you don't use all the material, there is something you could use. I find that most entries are easy to insert into your campaign if you like the tone.

P.S. Reviews of previous issues can be found here.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #6
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Don't Walk in Winter Wood
by Lars L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/10/2016 14:00:45

Nice, to the point. Minimalistic horror. Reminds me of Dread and Lamentations of the Flame Princess.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Don't Walk in Winter Wood
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Don't Walk in Winter Wood
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 11/01/2016 10:48:13

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This game clocks in at 46 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 3 pages of credits/thanks/reference, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 40 pages of content, so let's take a look!

So, what is this? The simple answer would be that this is a cooperative, narrative, rules-light HORROR game set in a vaguely colonial setting in the United States. Society is one of rough and closely-knit, often isolated communities. Superstitions run wild and even well-meant belief may seem barbarous to us. Transportation is still mainly defined by equestrian means and print books are rare and expensive. AT night, it is still candles that are used to pierce the dark. Against said backdrop of, quite literally, dark times, there is the village. On its east side, there is the Winter Wood...and pretty much everyone agrees that its strange, unseasonal cold is not natural. The perpetual fog, its nature as unexplored and the people going missing - all of these mean that it is a place usually not visited.

Children grow up with folklore pertaining said dread wood - the first would be supplemented by Indian legends, underlined by e.g. The Algonquin Legends of New England, and war chiefs may still haunt this place. Similarly, the cowardice of erstwhile settlers may have brought the ire of a woman scorned, deprived of her husband upon the place - strange, legless apparitions and vanished women do not bode well...

The sad tale of Nelly Anderson supposedly has her taken by a strange crone of clouds and changing eye-colors; the purported Roe Witches, caught, according to statements, in some pagan rites and thus executed, replaced with effigies...deer with wolf-like, sharp teeth...and then there would be the soothsayer Caleb, who averted calamity from the village, only to give his life...consorting with a strange trophy...

Within the forest, there is a hole, which may lead to hell...and there was a strange tendency and occurrence of a grave robber paying dearly for his crime. A strange, horribly mutilated, perhaps undead bear, Scarfang...and, of course, wars and skirmishes among the colonial powers have also cast a dark shadow on this land. The chittering tress and a tale of cannibalism and, purportedly, eternal youth...and Mr. Buglesuede...the grey wolves and the dread meadow in the midst of the foreboding woods...oh, and those ghosts on the Indian hill... it is not wise to thread where so much darkness gathered...

The village does have a series of entries pertaining folk wisdom: Red thread around the throat of women does supposedly cloak them from evil. White grass supposedly kills you, inciting horrible hunger; doors are warded with iron nails or crucifixes and there is a secret sign to ward versus evil...of pagan origin, some belief. Similarly, the burial customs sport silver coins under the tongue and separate paths are taken home after burials. Of course, children's games are about dares here...but is it smart to recite the rhyme about the women of Roe?

So this would be the basic set-up - complex, evocative and suitable dark. How do you play it: Well, you have two types of players: The Walkers, each of which controls a single character. The second type would be the Watcher, who is basically the GM of the group. You need one six-sided die per player and some sort of object you can use as tokens. That's it. Regarding atmosphere, a dark place, slightly cold, is obviously ideal.

Character creation is dead simple: Make up a name, concept, motive - there you go. As a default, actions are described in the past tense and 3rd person, thus making it akin to the cooperative telling of a story. Whenever a character comes across something frightening or harmful, he hands the walker a cold token. Entering the wood nets you cold token #1. To determine whether you encounter something and for conflict resolution, the basic system is easy: You roll the d6 and compare it to the cold tokens you have: If you roll more than the cold tokens held, your result may become less pleasant - in short, this does mean that things escalate further, increasing the pace in the latter stages of a game. Upon gaining 6 or more cold tokens, you are taken out. And that's it. As simple as can be, right? Yep, but also deceptively efficient.

The game continues to provide a section on building proper scenarios for the game - these steps are simple and contain the notion to build a premise, then the woods, mood and climax of resolution. Sound advice regarding the generation of folkloric fear (subtlety is king, my friends, and so is the rule of omission) bespeaks an obvious knowledge regarding how to run evocative horror. (Fyi: A solid b/w-conceptual map of the area's provided.)

The pdf also features ready-to-play scenarios, which focus on saving a girl from a witch's curse, strange lights in the woods (love that one's antagonist(s), but won't spoil it here; there's also a gory take on a classic creature's haunting from American mythology; there are foolish kids, seeking to steal totems..The sample scenarios with their details mean that, basically, you can just take this pdf and play sans any preparation.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a 1-column standard in b/w and the book is intended for A5 (9'' by 6'') in size, so you'll rather have a booklet-style offering. The pdf's artwork is thematically-fitting photo-montage-ish artwork I enjoyed. The pdf has 3 rudimentary bookmarks, but I'd strongly suggest printing this out - navigating this in its electronic iteration can be distracting and none too comfortable.

Clint Krause, with additional material by Daniel Bayn, Jason L Blair, Rafael Chandler, Jeremy Keller, Daniel Moler and Jason Morningstar, has created a ridiculously simple, amazing little game that shows that horror needs no vast rules. This game is simple, works amazing as a means to show non-roleplayers how amazing RPGs can be, understands its genre and generates a truly evocative, disturbing atmosphere. The fact that you can play it literally with one die, if you want to, makes it a perfect companion for urban exploration or trips in the wilderness...or spontaneous games on days like Halloween, amidst the darkness... You can explain the rules in less than a minute and a watcher who has read this book (and has a good memory) can literally run the game without a book! Handing off, deliberately, slowly, a cold token can be nerve-wracking and the various ideas presented should carry a ton of games.

This is as simple as it gets and as efficient as it gets. This understands proper horror. An awesome, inexpensive little game - 5 stars + seal of approval. Get this!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #5
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/11/2016 14:41:53

Right out of the gate Red Moon Medicine Show continues to impress me with their Lamentations of The Flame Princess fanzine, Vacant Ritual Assembly issue #5 which is going to be the last one for awhile now. At least until Klint Crouse and his crew decide to do another issue. So let's dive right into the pdf of this issue. This is a pretty jam packed issue with lots of factions and content the pdf is perfectly timed out to use and drop right into the deep end of your Lamentations games.

Issue #5 Includes:

New Artwork from Jeremy Duncan, Aaron Hamric, Olli Hihnala, Sean Poppe, and Xolis

Koster's Knob: A ready-to-use halfling village by Judd Karlman.

Weedwise Wizarding: An accounting of the Knob's more popular strains of pipe weed. New "Pipe Arts" skill.

The Ritualist: A new LotFP character class framework by Kathryn Jenkins.

Unholy Inversion of Hope: A grimdark, psuedo-Catholic religion from my campaign.

The Sineater Wolves: A heretical order of lycanthropic monks. Rules for lycanthropy.

On The Raggi: An interview with James Raggi IV, author of Lamentations of the Flame Princess.

This fanzine is like a shot in the arm of old school Pre code horror comics fun and games for a Lamentations of the Flame Princess blended with a fine coating of David Lynch and Mario Bava splatter punk sensibilities. This is followed by a ready to drop in Halfling village for your campaigns and its a quality adventure setting piece. I don't want to spoil it but its very nicely done. Weedwise wizarding is that herbal gardening and popular pass time of the Halflings including new skills, strains, and high weirdness for LoFP this is another thing that Dragon Magazine sort of hinted about. But here the adult pass times of the Halflings are revealed. The Ritualist is a welcome addition to the pseudo historical and Gothic brand of adventuring of LoFP but could work in other old school OD&D style games. There plenty of room here to twist and bend this class to your home games to make it work but I liked what I saw. The Unholy Inversion of Hope is a shot in the arm and a very grim and nasty piece of pseudo Catholic styling of a religion. The piece drips with lots of potential to be a giant factional pain for characters and PC's. There's also plenty of fodder here for further NPC's and adventure hooks. These are guys your going to love to hate.

I absolutely love the Sin Eater Wolves! Finally some decent rules for Lycanthropy and a heretical order of monks to boot! I'm a werewolf kinda guy and and this faction really hits the spot. There is enough adventure meet on the bones to really bring these guys home and with a bit of work they can be a perfect addition to a Red and Pleasantland campaign. Lots of adventure fodder and further bits of wonderfulness to add into any old school OD&D style game. This for me was one of the highlights of issue five. Another interview with James Raggi and a nice in depth piece on the creator of Lamentations of the Flame Princess. I honestly have to say that Full Moon continues to produce some of the best pieces of gaming material for Lamentations outside of official releases from Raggi and company. Five out of five stars for a very well put together fanzine that you can use all kinds of horror related LofP or OSR games.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Vacant Ritual Assembly #5
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The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem
by A customer [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/27/2015 20:08:28

The anachronism... it burns. This location reads/is mapped like a mansion out of Jane Austen, not something for the LotFP timeframe, let alone something that'd work with any sort of typical OSR renaissance/medieval/ancient fantasy.

On a more minor note, the spatial relation of the eight levels and dozenish outdoor features is left to be inferred from the details of the keys, which end up unclear. It could have used a half page or so describing the overall arrangement of the spaces, which would be a reasonable replacement for the wasted "blank page to track monster hit points". The second-lowest level has a layout that reads like a d&d convention, rather than having any clear relation to the narrative reason for the existence of that level. There's also a completely unexplained mystery in the second-to-last location (#50); there's no motivation, no viable cause within the bounds of the module for why that event happened 10 years ago or presents itself to modern explorers in the way it does. This reeks of authorial laziness.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
The Stygian Garden of Abelia Prem
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #1
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
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #3
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/07/2015 22:26:37

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 3 starts with an introduction, table of contents and recommendations for inspirational reading. Most of the material in this issue centers around the wilderness of the Dragon’s Trench area (the history behind which is quite delightful) including several organizations (heroic and villainous), multiple places to explore, new monsters and a full dungeon in the Grand Vespiary. An interview with Rick Saada, programer of the roguelike Castle of the Winds 2 concludes the issue.

The Legend of the Dragon’s Trench provides a lot of potential play either as straight exploration adventure or a major part of a campaign setting. It is a very fun read and many strange ideas to be used or adapted.

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 #3
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Vacant Ritual Assembly #2
by Sean H. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 12/07/2015 22:25:48

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 2 starts with n introduction, table of contents, recommendations for inspirational reading/ viewing/ listening. The resources begin with a table of names, then a simple astrology table for characters. Then we arrive at Dretcher’s Bay, where monster crabs are hunted among underwater ruins and strange creatures prowl, an excellent place for adventure and treachery (with two maps). An article on the Oarsmen and their unique ability to travel along with a random table of woes that drive them on follows. A short adventure, With Thine Eye Beheld, introduces a crazed cyclops-worshiping family cult, appropriately disturbing. Lastly, an interview with Greg Gorgonmilk about his Dolmenwood project wraps up this issue.

Another useful collection of bits and bobs with Dretcher’s Bay useful for either a quick adventure locale or as part of an extended campaign.

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 #2
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