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Mike's Dungeons
by Sean D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/11/2020 01:37:14

The bottom line is that this is a fantastic product, easily worth the money for anyone who plays any version of any fantasy adventure game.

There are some aspects of the product that may not be everyone's preferred cup of tea, however. Some people are very particular about these things, so I will mark them out here up front:

  1. Monsters are listed by name and equipment only ("orc wielding axe"). No hit points or other statistics are given, strictly to save space. It is presumed that if you don't know what the monster's relevant stats are, you can just look it up in your rulebook easily enough.
  2. The dungeon levels are very simple, orthogonal (NSEW) directions only. They are never linear or railroady, and all have multiple ways to go about them, but they are incredibly easy to map (I've had 3rd graders mapping levels just fine). The dungeon layouts aren't designed to confuse players at all, just to give them a place to explore while they battle bad guys.
  3. There is very little by way of narrative background to tie everything together. There is a pretty clever Evil Temple that snakes through the whole thing, and another pretty clever little Minotaur Maze that snakes through a smaller section of levels, and both of those are loosely tied to the Caves of Chaos in B2 Keep on the Borderlands—and that's about it. You can go hog wild with these connections if you like, but the dungeon's design philosophy is focused entirely at the microgame, providing interesting individual dungeon levels and fun individual room encounters, without really worrying about how different levels interact.
  4. As a result of (3) above, you will find many "fun house" rooms and levels. Red dragons sit in rooms without having any cares about how exactly they got there or how they expect to leave. Again, the author's focus here is not on verisimilitude or rational simulation, but entirely on providing fun and tactically satisfying gameable situations.

If none of those points are absolute deal breakers for you (and honestly, even if they are), then read on.

=================

Alright, now to the grit: I would seriously recommend that you consider perusing this product if you have any interest at all in dungeons. Even if you never play this particular module, it is a valuable resource for studying dungeon design. Here's why:

Authenticity: this dungeon developed as the author's actual megadungeon that was/is the focus of his actual, long-running "after school D&D game" for middle school students and teachers. He has been active in discussing his game's progress on old school D&D forums since its beginning, and sharing the insights he's gleaned over time from running the game and trying things out. Many large dungeons—even the best ones—get published with only minimal playtesting (or none at all!), but it is clear that the design of this dungeon is borne out of 100% real practical experience of running it constantly for varied groups of all ages. That's a pedigree that you just can't beat.

Simplicity of design: Each of the 78 level is roughly the same size, laid out simply on one sheet of paper. Think of something like Dyson's Delve in concept, but 1) the levels are about 2-3 times larger in size, and 2) they are far simpler in layout, to the extent that you can easily play with or without mapping if you like. Most of the levels still manage to retain clever layout and designs despite the strict limitations imposed on their design, although with 78 levels, there are some I find more interesting than others. At any rate, what this means is that the dungeon is equally accessible to school children as it is to adults, kooks and newbies to grognards.

Excellent editing: As mentioned, each level's map fits on a single page, and the key for each level is written, edited and laid out to fit on a single facing page. In other words, you always have everything you need to know about the level right there in front of you; no memorization or page flipping necessary. Room descriptions are simple, utilitarian and very clear, but may not always be evocative enough for those who like that sort of thing. Most will run something like, "4 bugbears armed with axes guard two chests holding 234 gp each. They fear dwarves and gnomes, and so their morale score is 5 if faced by these foes." You will also find a number of curious decoy rooms without further explanation ("Painted on the walls are nine 2' diameter disks, three each of green, pink, and blue"), and off-the-wall gonzo gimmicks that may not be everyone's cup of tea ("2 aggressive weretigers in tiger form bleed platinum, which hardens in 1 turn after being exposed to air. The total value is 2,295 gp").

Ease of play: In addition to clever editing of room descriptions so that everything will fit on one page, the author also repeats descriptions that might be relevant in another room, and anything you should know before the party starts exploring the level is clearly summarized at the top of the page ("The fiery tree in Room G makes the level dry and hot"). The end result is that you can literally run this dungeon without reading any of it beforehand, an astounding feat. I know this because I've already done it, both for a group and by myself as a solo dungeon. This makes it the ideal resource to keep around for those rainy days when someone randomly feels like playing some D&D, or when a friend asks about "this D&D game" and you feel like actually showing them instead of just telling them about it.

System neutrality: The dungeon was designed for the Moldvay-Cook "BX" version of D&D, but there's nothing here that can't be used with any other version of the game. This is done by omitting stats entirely for creatures that can be found in the book's monster list. What you get are descriptions like "13 orcs wielding polearms," and that's it. Whatever orcs are and do in your game, that's what you'll use. This does mean you have to do some lifting on your own no matter what system you use, but personally I prefer this method: by your 3rd enounter you'll already have the monster listing for "orc" memorized, and it really doesn't take much effort to roll up the creature's hit points the first time it gets hit in combat. Heck, I'm currently even toying with the idea of soloing a party through this dungeon using D6 Fantasy, just to refamiliarize myself with the rules, and so far I think the only things I'd have to put any effort into converting are a few generic items of the "Ring of Protection +1" variety.

In all, I find this a near perfect product for what it is. At the time of this review, the author is selling the thing for less than $4, which is an absolute steal for the amount of content and work that has gone into this. Furthermore, the author also currently allows you to preview the whole dang book before you purchase it, so there's really no reason not to check it out and see if it's right for you.

-Starbeard



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Mike's Dungeons
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Dreams of the Lurid Sac (Psychedelic Fantasies #4)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/24/2019 08:52:07

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/setting supplement clocks in at 11 pages, one of which is devoted to the front cover, so let’s take a look!

This, like all psychedelic fantasy-modules, sports a pretty minimalist approach to module presentation – two columns of black text in a white background. Headers are bolded, but the small statblocks have no internal formatting – this is as minimalist as can be. As for the rule-set, the module does not subscribe to a particular OSR-game or edition, claiming general compatibility, which means that you will have to do some tweaking to modify the module for your preferred old-school game. 60’ (20’) are the default movement rates, HD are noted, and AC is provided in the descending convention; the monsters state a single save as a static rating, and note e.g. “diffuse – receive only half damage” or “climbs as spider”– you get the idea.

This is also a sandbox without a clearly indicated target level, but low-level to mid-level parties should have a good time here, since this module is less about murder-hoboing everything, and more about the wonder of exploration. What’s inside is less of a straight-forward dungeon.-crawl, and could be likened more to a setting supplement depicting an environment to explore. You can, of course, attempt to purge everything with fire, but that doesn’t offer the most satisfying means of using this one. It should also be noted that this dungeon is more organic than the other two psychedelic fantasies penned by the author – this has a couple of effects. For one, several creatures within have functions that it would be possible to liken to e.g. immune system, infection and the like; there also is a nascent sentience involved, and the actions of the players and how they ultimately will interact with the dungeon is a driving factor. And yes, the dungeon may be slain.

As before, we have a map on the final page, which this time around looks very much like a massive array of bubbles – the structure of the sac is itself a bit less interesting than the one of the plaque in “Gleams of the Livid Plaque”, but does its unique own atmosphere surprisingly well. While attempting to go full-blown combat on everything can be deadly, the adventure is per se fair – save or die effects are thankfully rare, but careless PCs may find themselves transcend their bodies, lose limbs and the like – this is, after all, an old-school adventure.

Like the other two psychedelic fantasies penned by the author, we have 3 new spells that should help exploring the place. These, once more, are not presented in a proper manner, lacking spell levels, suggested classes etc. – but there is one significant component that makes this matter less. The PCs don’t really need the spells to properly navigate this complex, so you can just ignore them and run this without much hassle in your favorite rule-set.

While the lack of adherence to a specific OSR rules-set means that there won’t be too intricate abilities regarding the new creatures and how they behave, this module does one thing better regarding the strange creatures employed than its two brethren: Due to the structure and theme of the adventure, and due to the names used and analogues to some organic structures we’re familiar with, it was much easier for me to keep the different creatures apart. It’s a subtle thing, but it’s one that made this a bit easier to run. This is also emphasized by the presence of advice on running the place. Also convenient for the referees – the sac comes with a d6-table to determine sac patterns, and a d10 table to determine sac color.

There isn’t much of a plot per se to be spoiled here. This is a classic sandbox, very much all about adding players to the mix and letting them explore the strangeness, but since said strangeness is part of the fun, consider this to be a SPOILER-warning for potential players; only referees should continue reading.

… .. .

All right, so, like in the other two psychedelic fantasies penned by the author, we have a number of species that can be grouped in various factions, but this time around, I found it easier to keep them apart – this is partially due to slightly stronger leitmotifs – three species act as Symbiotes of sorts; two species are parasites, and then there would be the invasive species – refugees from a dying world, whose only contact with the PC’s world so far has been the eponymous sac. These include tube-like creatures that tie to the nearest incision, a planar rift of sorts, and the commanders, dubbed “surgeons” are actually engaged in their own petty struggles as well as the overall notion of an exodus. The supplement also mentions 2 hybrids that tweak other creatures, and there would be the manifestations – you see, the lurid sac does have a kind of will that is constantly changing and evolving: The aurmind. And thus, there are 3 so-called Manifestations, embodiments/sentient phenomena. The factions have pretty strong leitmotifs here, which, while a small thing in and of itself, really enhanced the experience of running this.

The living nature of the sac is ever-present – from the ellipsoid chambers to the way in which a small engine allows you to tweak means of furling/unfurling openings, this adventure never lets you forget that you’re exploring something truly strange. Rooms may well be slain (Hit Points etc. provided), scar over, and a whole table is devoted to the strange and magical humors that suffuse this complex. These may yield comprehension of activities, be acidic, flammable – or, if the “aurmind” wasn’t clue enough...gold.

You see, the sac is actually growing from a root that proceeds ore; gold to be more precise. The lurid sac’s sentient and expansion is fueled by gold, which makes for a genuinely unique angle – the sac needs to find more gold, and traversing the wrong room may feed gold to the entity…and the sac rewards those that feed its expansion, though in an alien manner indeed. This organic, nigh-incomprehensible entity is contrasted with the invasive surgeon’s potential magitech/science-fantasy-angles. The sac has a lifespan, specialized chambers that serve as odd organs, and notes how the sac responds to damage, to rooms being destroyed, etc. – 12 such unique places/organs inside the sac are provided, and yes, there is a means to spread the sac or even seed new sacs with a unique “treasure” seed. The appendices also include a variant of one monster, and 10 sample events add further to the immediate usefulness of the complex. As in the other psychedelic fantasies penned by the author, we get a massive selection of 6 d10 tables – from invasive components to sac debris to odd beings, these once more add to the strong themes here.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, though the latter suffers more from not sticking to a rule-set than the other psychedelic fantasies. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks or artworks. The cartography does its job, but lacks a key-less player-friendly version.

Paul Keigh’s “Dreams of the Lucid Sac” is the best-structured of his three psychedelic fantasies – the sac didn’t require much pondering to get an idea of how its alien vistas work; the stronger leitmotifs for the factions help setting them apart, and the notion of the dungeon itself being literally alive in a thoroughly alien manner. It is slightly less unique than the scenario presented in the “Gleams of the Livid Plaque”, but it is much easier to pull off, and feels stronger regarding how it uses its materials. It can be easily inserted into your games, and it may actually spawn consequences far beyond the confines of its location. All in all, this is perhaps the best of these three from a structural point of view.

While, as a person, I prefer the stark and uncaring hostility of the potentially cataclysmic “Gleams of the Livid Plaque”, this one is easily the module that is easier and smoother to run and implement. My final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down. While the spells still aren’t good, they may be ignored, and as a whole, I consider this to be very much worth getting. As before, you shouldn’t run this and the other psychedelic fantasies by Paul Keigh in the same campaign due to structural overlap, though it is less pronounced here than when in comparison between the other two; if you want my recommendation for running two of them, I’d suggest running this one and the plaque-adventure in the same campaign, as they have pretty different themes. This is a good example of a supplement that is all substance, and if you don’t mind the absence of artwork or beautiful layout, do as I do, and round up – and check out an adventure locale unlike any you’ve ever subjected your PCs to.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Dreams of the Lurid Sac (Psychedelic Fantasies #4)
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Gleams of the Livid Plaque (Psychedelic Fantasies #7)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/18/2019 06:28:52

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/setting supplement clocks in at 11 pages, so let’s take a look!

Yep, we get basically a fifth of a page editorial and the like – and then, the rest is adventure. This series adheres to a pretty minimalist approach to module presentation – two columns of black text in a white background. Headers are bolded, but the small statblocks have no internal formatting – this is as minimalist as can be. As for the rule-set, the module does not subscribe to a particular OSR-game or edition, claiming general compatibility, which means that you will have to do some tweaking to modify the module for your preferred old-school game. 60’ (20’) are the default movement rates, HD are noted, and AC is provided in the descending convention; the monsters state a single save as a static rating, and note e.g. “diffuse – receive only half damage” or “climbs as spider”– you get the idea.

As in all psychedelic fantasies, this has only the strength of its prose to lean on. This is also a sandbox without a clearly indicated target level, but low-level to mid-level parties should have a good time here, since this module is less about murder-hoboing everything, and more about the wonder of exploration. What’s inside is less of a straight-forward dungeon-crawl, and could be likened more to a setting supplement depicting an environment to explore. You can, of course, attempt to purge everything with fire, but that doesn’t offer the most satisfying means of using this one. It should also be noted that this is the most “inorganic” of the psychedelic fantasies penned by the author – it does not mutate or change to the same degree as the other complexes, and generally has a starker tone; the factor of survival is a bit more pronounced herein. This is not a per se easy adventure location to traverse and is a tad bit tougher than e.g. “Streams of the Lucid Crack” due to this module’s environmental effects being more dangerous; on the plus-side for the players, it does not feature save or die. While crippling and disfiguring can result from exploration and combat, the module, as a whole, turns out to be a pretty fair endeavor.

There is a rudimentary map on the final page, which depicts a side-view of the livid plaque, no player-friendly version is provided. The layout of the complex may take a bit of getting used to, and wrapping your head around, but as a whole, I considered it to be a pretty interesting complex, to say the least.

There is one more thing to be noted, and that pertains the rules – there are 3 specific spells included, and they lack indicators for the classes they’re supposed to be for, suggested spell-levels and the like, potentially requiring some tweaking – probably due to the supplement not subscribing to a specific rule-set. These spells note range and duration just fine, butt to navigate the livid plaque, the PCs will want to use them – animate/deanimate mineral, open/close calcis and incalcify/excalcify allow for some pronounced modifications to the complex itself, which is very much intended, so this time around, there’s no bypassing the spells or ignoring them – they should be adapted to your favorite rule-set.

Another structural peculiarity herein would be that there is some overlap between this adventure and “Streams of the Lucid Crack” and “Dreams of the Lurid Sac”, not in concept, but in the stats/abilities and features exhibited by the creatures within – the Drevok are pretty similar to the Drevod from “Streams of the Lucid Crack”, for example – a few adjectives and minor tweaks have been employed, but as a whole, they’re very similar – not copy-pasted, but pretty darn close to it. That being said, this may be intentional to evoke a sense of “familiar, yet different” for those who explore more than one of the author’s locations/modules.

There isn’t much of a plot per se to be spoiled here. This is a classic sandbox, very much all about adding players to the mix and letting them explore the strangeness, but since said strangeness is part of the fun, consider this to be a SPOILER-warning for potential players; only referees should continue reading.

… .. .

The file includes a d6 table of suggestions where the general location, the Void the holds the plaque, can be found, and a d10 table of things you may have heard, the place has to explored to be believed. The livid plaque is a transreal growth of mineral calcis clinging to one wall adjacent to the Void; as a layered structure, the plaque contains growing and diminishing pockets subject to the pressures of the plaque’s layers, with outermost entry-vectors for the PCs being possible via the use of the so-called galleries.

Much like in “Streams of the Lucid Crack”, this strange place is inhabited by a plethora of different, strange creatures, which may be likened akin to several factions: The “Media” and the “Glimmers” represent species that have adapted to life in the calcis and contain 4 different species; the second faction sports 3 species, and has arrived due to the plaque’s growth negatively impacting some components within the Void – these are the “Purifiers”, who want to remove the plaque. Finally, there would be the “Scenders” – entities that have reached the plaque by climbing up or down. 4 such species are provided. Finally, there once more would be two hybrid entities to be found here.

Sounds familiar? Well, I did claim that these modules have similarities, right? We have also have some dressing tables and quest generators – the intelligent species of locals and the Purifiers both get their own sample d6 quest tables, and both also provide a d6 table of gifts they may award for furthering their agenda. Speaking of items and creatures – there are two additional creature entities as optional appendices, an additional item generator, and a name generator that allows you to quickly generate names for spaces in the plaque with 3 1d60 tables. Structurally, this adheres to the same design-paradigm.

That being said, the plaque does feel very much different from the other modules; this is achieved via a variety of tricks: For one, the plaque’s structure is different, and the importance of the new spells to navigate this smoothly sets it apart. Secondly, it feels like being caught in almost a tectonic kind of shift – the plaque is not in a kind of equilibrium – it changes and while growth mechanics are provided, the place feels harsher – also because several key-locations can collapse and be destroyed. Species may become erratic, and the PCs may witness an exodus of species, warfare, etc. – all as the strange an uncaring mineral layers evolve, uncaring. Similarly, I mentioned a survival aspect. These are mainly enforced by the nasty global effects of the calcis – navigating the plaque is a dangerous endeavor, and damage incurred from the terrain may see the PCs impregnated with calcis, which will uncaringly start destroying body parts over several days! This provides a reason to interact with the species within, to learn the new spells, and to make sure that you’re careful. It creates a notion of a hostile, uncaring and structurally-unique wasteland, making the exploration feel genuinely unique. It’s a small thing, but the plaque’s structure and environmental effects, its dynamic nature – all of these do make this adventure stronger than e.g. the “Streams of the Lucid Crack” as far as I’m concerned. I have literally never seen any module like it.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, though the latter suffers more from not sticking to a rule-set than the other psychedelic fantasies. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks or artworks. The cartography does its job, but lacks a key-less player-friendly version.

Paul Keigh’s exploration of a strange, layered and calcified thing overlooking a grand void is genuinely a novel experience. In spite of its structural similarities with the other psychedelic fantasies the author penned, this is unique and distinct. I wouldn’t advise in favor of running it in the same campaign as the other two, but I’d genuinely consider this to be a very fun and exciting little offering. If you can look past the rudimentary presentation and adapt the spells accordingly, you’ll have a definite winner on your hand. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gleams of the Livid Plaque (Psychedelic Fantasies #7)
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Streams of the Lucid Crack (Psychedelic Fantasies #6)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 10/17/2019 12:39:10

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This module/setting supplement clocks in at 11 pages, so let’s take a look!

Yep, we get basically a fifth of a page editorial and the like – and then, the rest is adventure. This is a pretty minimalist approach to module presentation – two columns of black text in a white background. Headers are bolded, but the small statblocks have no internal formatting – this is as minimalist as can be. As for the rule-set, the module does not subscribe to a particular OSR-game or edition, claiming general compatibility, which means that you will have to do some tweaking to modify the module for your preferred old-school game. 60’ (20’) are the default movement rates, HD are noted, and AC is provided in the descending convention; the monsters state a single save as a static rating, and note e.g. “climbs as spider” – you get the idea.

So, this has basically only the strength of its prose to stand on, and if you want artworks and fancy layout, this may not be for you. This is also a sandbox without a clearly indicated target level, but low-level to mid-level parties should have a good time here; since this module is less about murder-hoboing everything, and more about the wonder of exploration. What’s inside is less of a straight-forward dungeon.-crawl, and could be likened more to a setting supplement depicting an environment to explore. You can, of course, attempt to purge everything with fire, but that doesn’t offer the most satisfying means of using this one. When ran as written, and if the players turn hostile towards the creatures fast, then this can be a rather tough adventure – on the plus-side, it does not feature save or die. While crippling and disfiguring can result from exploration and combat, the module, as a whole, turns out to be a pretty fair endeavor.

While there is a rudimentary map on the final page, no player-friendly version is provided. It should be noted that this location can potentially alter whole campaigns and has one property that some folks might consider to be broken in a way, so an experienced referee is most assuredly recommended.

The file includes a d6 table of suggestions where the general location, the Dell, can be found, and a d10 table of things you may have heard, there is ultimately no replacement to traveling here. This place can be called a classic sandbox – it presents a situation, and it is up to the referee and players how everything develops. No read-aloud text is provided.

There is one more thing to be noted, and that pertains the rules – there are 3 specific spells included, and they lack indicators for the classes they’re supposed to be for, suggested spell-levels and the like, potentially requiring some tweaking – probably due to the supplement not subscribing to a specific rule-set. Another structural peculiarity herein would be that there is some overlap between this adventure and “Gleams of the Livid Plaque” and “Dreams of the Lurid Sac”, not in concept, but in the stats/abilities and features exhibited by the creatures within – the Drevod are pretty much akin to the Drevok from “Gleams of the Livid Plaque”, for example – a few adjectives and minor tweaks have been employed, but as a whole, they’re very similar – not copy-pasted, but pretty darn close to it. This may be intentional to evoke a sense of “familiar, yet different” for those who explore more than one of the author’s locations/modules – this thesis is supported by e.g. the presence of a species called “anhaldr” in the Plaque-adventure, which, while similar to the haldr featured herein, are still very much a different beast.

That being said, while there isn’t much in the means of a plot to be spoiled, encountering the strangeness herein is a significant part of the module’s appeal, so consider this to be the SPOILER-warning for potential players. From here on out, only referees should continue reading.

… .. .

All right, only referees around? Great! So, the Dell has been opened to the world by a cocoon of an enigmatic being since then departed – this has opened a weird, maze-like complex – a volcanic hollow, expanded by the Builders, one of the factions herein, into a vast network if triangular cells. The builders consist of 3 species – the Haldr, the sudrik and the zdrudr; in the absence of artworks, the prose makes them feel almost hazy in their description, more like a gut-feeling of a creature, which worked, oddly, better for me than I expected it to. To give you an example of a creature description herein: “The zdrudr is a broad rippling slitherer involved in construction and maintenance. It secretes a corrosive able to dissolve rock, absorbs the resulting slurry through its skin and, when swollen, transports its load to an extrusion site where it is expelled in the form of a gel.” Yeah, this is very much a matter of taste.

Now, the cells have their own features, including magma held at bay by magics, with acrid streams limiting visibility and causing penalty-inducing coughing fits – air quality isn’t stellar here. The magma may also hold aggregates, which come with 10 special features: For example, one of them mighty contain zdrudr skins, which, when immersed in water, will form the creatures; there is a substance that may lower all ability scores, and similar weird properties may be found.

The triangular cells are actually a form of knowledge repository that instills its held information in those that explore the place for too long, knowledge is encoded in explorers – the subject is random, but have enough of tomes encoded, and your ability scores will rise. This can obviously potentially be cheesed, and probably should have further payoffs/repercussions. This property is also what makes this the hardest to run psychedelic fantasy of the author, but also the one that could easily have a global impact.

The second faction colonizing the crack would be the Seeders, which consist of two species that remotely resemble plants/insects; these are symbionts that become ever smarter due to the crack’s property – which is a risk in itself. Finally, there would be third faction, which also features two races – these would be the Risers, which emerge from the Pit: An amalgam of creatures, undead and living, somewhere in-between life and death, these things emerge from the ever growing Pit that has appeared, climbing out from protean depths.

Finally, there would be Relicts – this is the term for unwillingly isolated beings, unique entities. In case you haven’t realized by now – this means that there are 7 base species assigned to factions, and 5 less typical beings. Since all of them are somewhat abstract in their description, it can be a bit of a challenge to keep them apart, particularly in reference to each other. If the following sentence bothers you, then this might be a challenge: “The zdrudrenroamer is a hybrid of builder and relict, a glonten trapped within a zdrudr, anchored to trace particles of its source rock.” I don’t know why, probably due to the names and their brief and pretty abstract descriptions, but when compared to the other psychedelic fantasies penned by the author, I had a much harder time differentiating between the creatures.

There are three different encounter tables provided, and tasks for one of the species of Builders and for one species of Seeder are provided as a kind of quest-hook; there are 3 spells provided for the haldr species of Builder; these allow you to e.g. radiate/absorb knowledge and reference caster levels, but fail to note, as mentioned before even a suggested magic-user or cleric level, making them of somewhat limited player use, in spite of being conceptually interesting. Here, the lack of adherence to a specific system makes balancing them very difficult for the referee.

The location comes with a couple of development suggestions and notes on the individual key-regions in the maze of the cracked context, and the pdf offers 6 different 1d10 treasure tables.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level, though the latter suffers more from not sticking to a rule-set than the other psychedelic fantasies. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf has no bookmarks or artworks. The cartography does its job, but lacks a key-less player-friendly version.

Paul Keigh’s trip into the lurid crack is at once inspiring and somewhat frustrating – on one hand, I very much love the creativity and unique angle here, and I prefer substance over style. That being said, the sheer amount of weird critters and their names may be overkill. “So, the haldr tasked us to make contact with a specific fusid, because the entity ostensibly knows where a hybrid of glonten trapped in zdrudr, a zdrudrenroamer, was seen, uncharacteristically, with a haldrevod; you know, a haldr/drevod hybrid!” This is a very much likely scenario, and with the sheer amount of these all somewhat hazy critters, an artwork would have helped to keep them all apart. That being said, once you wrap your head around the species herein, this becomes a very unique and dynamic place to add to your campaign. Provided you want to instill some serious change, that is, for this environment can have a pretty significant impact on your game-more so than the other psychedelic fantasies the author penned. It’s, as a whole, with its subtext of memory (constant new connections, while others are swallowed) also a tad bit more abstract to run than the other two, requiring a bit more referee-mojo, but it also provides some potentially great payoff.

The rules are not as tight as they could be, but as a whole, I consider this to be an inexpensive and worthwhile locale to check out if you’re craving something strange. If you want art, layout, etc., round down from my final verdict of 3.5 stars; personally, I’ll take this sans artwork over any 08/15-complex with goblins/orcs and an ogre at the end any day of the week. However, you may not want to run this in succession with the “Dreams of the Lurid Sac”- or “Gleams of the Livid Plaque” (reviews forthcoming)-adventures that the author also penned; unless the information-angle is what you want to feature, I’d recommend these two over this module. Additionally, the new spells and the potential to cheese the location’s effects makes me round down for the purpose of this platform.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[3 of 5 Stars!]
Streams of the Lucid Crack (Psychedelic Fantasies #6)
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Proteus Sinking (Psychedelic Fantasies #8)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/21/2019 12:36:12

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psychedelic Fantasies-series clocks in at 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!

Yep, we get basically a fifth of a page editorial and the like – and then, the rest is adventure. This series adheres to a pretty minimalist approach to module presentation – two columns of black text in a white background. Headers are bolded, but the small statblocks have no internal formatting – this is as minimalist as can be. As for the rule-set, the module does not subscribe to a particular OSR-game or edition, claiming general compatibility, which means that you will have to do some tweaking to modify the module for your preferred old-school game. 60’ (20’) are the default movement rates, HD are noted, and AC is provided only in that it notes “as unarmored”; the monsters denote their saves by e.g. using “F2” as a shorthand for saving like a second level fighter. Abilities, if relevant, are properly stated in this one, which is a plus in comparison to some other installments in the series.

As in all psychedelic fantasies, this has only the strength of its prose to lean on – no artworks, no read-aloud text, no handouts. The module is intended for levels 1 – 3. I’d recommend the module for levels 1 – 2, personally; it’s not a cakewalk. But the module isn’t exactly old-school hardcore regarding its difficulty – while there are scenes where careless PCs can die, the module is pretty fair regarding its handling of these situations. Thankfully, save or die situations are largely absent, with only one mutation of a creature potentially presenting such a threat. There is a functional b/w-map on the final page of the module, which comes with grid, but not with a proper scale. The map does not feature a player-friendly version sans location key, which is a bit of a bummer.

The adventure comes with a nice random encounter selection (all critters fully statted!), a d10 random mutation table and two event tables” – a d6 table to determine what happens when a pipe breaks, and a d10 table to determine what happens when you push a button. We also get a whole d20 table of treasures to be found in chests, which are suitably strange. The module features 3 new spells that are properly codified, though they do not state the casting class that gets them: Truth-seeing is a level 1 lie-detector (and isn’t that well-situated at that level); gelatinous transmogrification is a permanent level 2 spell that transforms air/gas into gel. This is the most interesting one. Sturmvorbereitung is German and could be read to mean “preparations for a storm”, or “preparations to charge” in an intrinsic ambiguity of the language; the latter seems to be intended here, as the level 2 spell nets a bonus to AC and attack. All in all, these spells are solid.

The module also contains 3 new creatures, but in order to discuss them, I will need to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

All right, only GMs around? Great? So, the Proteus is a space ship that has crashed right on top of a massive tentacle beast – not it, slightly sloped, lies in a tarry, oily pit – the tentacle thing at once wants to get inside and keeps the ship from sinking. This may be the least well-considered component and my only structural niggle here – the presence of the tentacle beast (whose tentacles are one of the new monsters) and how it hampers access to the ship isn’t really considered.

Anyhow, inside the Proteus, the angle becomes pretty awesome: The pilots are the globonauts, humanoid slimes that seek to foster and understand happiness, but who are utterly incapable of feeling it. Huh…I guess my totem is the globonaut…Kidding aside, the reason why the ship crashed is pretty cool: You see, it is piloted by essentially brains-in-a-jar that usually are Lawful. However, the ship has become infected by a psychotropic virus, transmitted by vector of spiderlings – a monster-species that was created by the virus mutating the globonaut pet spiders. Yeah, this is awesome. Particularly since the spiders are pretty much omnipresent and can really create a sense of paranoia – they can move through the ship’s guts, and pushing the false button may upset them in their nest. Otherwise, they can be used to keep up the pressure and the paranoia-levels – which is great, particularly when contrasting them with some of the surreal scenes, like the room that is a globonaut-disco where everyone is awkwardly standing around, not really sure what to do.

The infection with the virus is btw. represented in an easy to discern, visual manner, and the PCs can actually save or condemn the Proteus and its crew – while infected globonauts tend to be nasty, there is actually pretty much room for proper roleplaying, which was something I very much enjoyed seeing. The module also gets something right few adventures do – the balance of “pressing random buttons” and the effects – the adventurers obviously can’t understand the Proteus, and some button-pressing can be fun. If it results in random death, as in many modules, that fun turns sour. Here, pressing the right buttons can change certain rooms, and if the Gm does their job right and tracks the effects properly, the PCs can actually learn which button does what. Considering the few pages this module has, that’s a pretty impressive achievement. And in case you were wondering – this may be a bit less psychedelic than some other modules in the series, but it does have a sufficiently weird style to make it fulfill the psychedelic fantasy-angle.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills two-column b/w-standard and the module has no artworks and a rudimentary b/w-map. No player-friendly map is included, and the module has no bookmarks.

Björn Wärmedal’s “Proteus Sinking” provided a positive surprise for me. The module manages to create an alien and genuinely fun atmosphere that reminded me in many ways of Venger As’Nas Satanis’ writing with less pop-cultural references and slightly more surreal angles and internal logic. In short, this has a style I very much enjoy seeing. Oh, and guess what? The module is available for PWYW! This is definitely a plus, and a good reason for me to round up from my final verdict of 3.5 stars. Now I have to track down the author’s other work…

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Proteus Sinking (Psychedelic Fantasies #8)
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Within the Radiant Dome (Psychedelic Fantasies #2)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/29/2019 11:10:29

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psychedelic Fantasies-series clocks in at 10 pages, one of which doubles as the front cover/editorial, leaving us with 9 pages of content.

This series adheres to a pretty minimalist approach to module presentation – two columns of black text in a white background. Headers are bolded, but the small statblocks have no internal formatting – this is as minimalist as can be. As for the rule-set, the module does not subscribe to a particular OSR-game or edition. HOWEVER, there is something different here – this has been penned by Gavin Norman, nowadays better known for his superb work on the Wormskin-zine and the Old-School Essentials (formerly B/X Essentials) books – as such, the rules employed mirror the B/X/Labyrinth Lord-standards: MV 12 standard, THAC0-ratings, HD and HP, saves denoted as class analogues – F2 for Fighter 2, for example, and saves that differentiate between types: Saves vs. spell, poisons, etc. This is insofar also relevant, because this contains two spells, which, while not stating for what classes they should be available, they do note their spell-levels, provide proper formatting, etc. – in short,. This is mechanically precise and tight. A huge plus as far as I’m concerned. It should also be noted that the module may be used to transition from one setting to another.

In short, as far as content and atmosphere is concerned, this has only the strength of its prose and concepts to lean on. The module is designated as suitable for six characters of 4th-level. Some basic rumors are provided, and the pdf comes with hand-drawn-looking maps of the complex that also note wandering monsters on that page. No player-friendly versions of the map are provided.

All right, this is as far as I can go without diving into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion.

… .. .

So, somewhere within an inhospitable wasteland or other remote location, there is the radiant dome, actually a part of a transdimensional laboratory of the mighty wizard Ilmaltharex, now inhabited by a moderately friendly tribe of arch-conservative pygmies that celebrate the adventurer-intruders as heroes ordained by the “Ancient ones” – a feat is held, and the pygmies will attempt to sacrifice indentured miners to the PC’s glory. They won’t take lightly to being told no, but in a nice change of pace, there will not be hostilities here unless the PCs attack first. A strong science-fantasy angle in a 70s-ish angle suffuses the radiant dome as a dungeon, but the module does not fall fully into the genre – there are plenty of elements that fall on the gonzo side of what one could experience in a bad trip – from mutant guard pigs to a room that contains the grondian priest caste, there is plenty of weirdness here. What’s weird about those priests? Simple: They basically are clairaudient, living telephones! Unwise PCs can drink weird brew that may drive them insane or allow them to see/hear through the sensory apparatus of others.

I also very much liked that there are machines to tinker with, and these are not save or die; they provide weird effects and potentially are dangerous, but they are no screwjobs. Characters can be reversed by trips to the mirror world, and the amoebatronic monster makes for a unique and strange caretaker caster, and a 4-armed green mutant ape makes for a unique hazard. Why hazard? Well, it’s too large to escape its room, so smart groups can kill it without risking being torn asunder. Did I mentioned disrupted, sentient dweomers? Also cool: The PCs will have a chance to find a guy called Eugene pretty early on, and he’s bad news – he’s not a combatant, but he also has a very clear agenda. He can serve as the referee’s angle to provide context or fill in blanks – until a certain point is reached…Oh, and the PCs may end up on another planet as well. Just figured I’d mention that.

Conclusion: Editing is very good on a formal and rules-language level. Formatting is good – not perfect, but does its job. As mentioned before, layout is essentially two columns of b/w-text, and the cartography is functional, if not much more. Neither player-friendly maps, nor bookmarks have been included.

Thankfully, Gavin Norman’s Psychedelic Fantasy fares better than the first – self-contained and sporting a playful gonzo angle, the module does a good job at depicting a unique environment that is not solely about killing everything. It’s not as far out as I’d like it to be, but it does have quite a few cool angles to pursue. As such, I think this is a solid module worth checking out if the above sounds interesting to you. It’s not Gavin Norman’s best work, but it’s a fun and inexpensive offering, my final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Within the Radiant Dome (Psychedelic Fantasies #2)
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Beneath the Ruins (Psychedelic Fantasies #1)
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 07/25/2019 08:01:38

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Psychedelic Fantasies-series clocks in at 10 pages, one of which doubles as the front cover/editorial, leaving us with 9 pages of content.

This series adheres to a pretty minimalist approach to module presentation – two columns of black text in a white background. Headers are bolded, but the small statblocks have no internal formatting – this is as minimalist as can be. As for the rule-set, the module does not subscribe to a particular OSR-game or edition, claiming general compatibility, which means that you will have to do some tweaking to modify the module for your preferred old-school game. 60’ (20’) are the default movement rates, HD are noted, and AC is provided in the descending convention; the monsters state a single save as a static rating, and note e.g. “diffuse – receive only half damage” or “climbs as spider”– you get the idea.

In short, this has only the strength of its prose and concepts to lean on. While lacking a clearly-indicated target level, I’d recommend it for the low-to-mid level range tier; probably not for 1st level, but 2nd to 3rd to, at most, 5th level should be a good call, depending on the skill of your players and the power-level of you given system’s PCs. There is a rudimentary, hand-drawn-looking map on the final page – it does its job, but the lack of a key-less player-friendly version makes it useless for VTT or handout purposes, as secret rooms etc. are clearly indicated.

Structurally, this is a dungeon-level with two optional sub-levels; the dungeon-level offers sufficient branching paths and the like to not feel like a railroad, and differentiates between caves and worked rooms, with different wandering monster tables provided. The pdf offers stats for laser pistols and rifles and body armor, having a distinct science-fantasy touch, which is also what I’d consider this to be, genre-wise. There are no read-aloud texts provided. This very much feels like a mega-dungeon teaser, as far as I’m concerned.

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! So, on the lost continent, in a ruin-choked jungle, there lies Kihago, a kind of pocket dimension accessible via a solid edifice and an impregnable gate, which sometimes opens. When it does, folks venture inside, and those that return are horribly traumatized, carrying wounds that never truly heal, but also are rich. Once the PCs enter, they will find a ferryman, black sands – this pulls out all the stops to get you hyped about the awesomeness to follow! That’s the lead-in, the intro – not the adventure-location. The cut-scene that gets the PCs there. Okay, sounds fantastic, right, so how hellish is this place? How weird?

And see, that’s where all this grandiose buildup comes crashing down, like a CGi-highlight reel before a C64 trainwreck of E.T. The Game-like proportions. Kihago is probably the cookie-cutter definition of a vanilla science-fantasy dungeon-crawl. This begins, but does not end, with the factions, each of which gets its aforementioned sub-level. Faction #1 are the Luminites. Think of them as Brotherhood of Steel, save as an esoteric order and minus all things like power-armor and advanced tech that made them cool. They don’t believe in the world outside. They’re also a sausage fest and have an agenda they don’t really comprehend themselves. They make no sense, considering how many individuals obviously enter to die/escape. The second faction, the Tribe of Yrtuk, is a bit better – they are essentially a tribe of dungeon barbarians, thinking about it as a living entity. They are quite friendly, have women – a practice where initiation requires exposure to a mutating altar.

The dungeon itself is not much more interesting than the factions and feels like a jumble of concepts – here’s a TV-screen flashing an ancient logo, misidentified as the will of a deity; there’s an illusion of a feast, basically a looping recording of a tragedy from ages long past. Think a “fish man”, a “slithering worm” or a “rock polyp” is evocative? Yeah, me neither. The dungeon lacks theme, consistence, unique flavor. There is one thing here I enjoyed – the notion that yeast plays a crucial role in, you know, not starving, and that there are carnivorous yeast puddles and yeast zombies roaming around. This is cool and something I’ll gladly use. It does not excuse how utterly underwhelming the remainder of the dungeon is, though.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting on a formal level are okay, on a rules-language level, they suffer from not adhering to a specific rule-set. As mentioned before, layout is essentially two columns of b/w-text, and the cartography is functional, if not much more. Neither player-friendly maps, nor bookmarks have been included.

I hate to be that guy, but Alex Fotinakes’ “Beneath the Ruins” is just not interesting, much less psychedelic. After blowing its ammo on an epic setting of the stage, this turns out to be a bad mega-dungeon teaser, and frankly, from Stonehell to Rappan Athuk to all the other ones, I’d pretty much play any of these over this one. The science fantasy components are pretty trite for the most part as well. This wanted to be the first part of a mega-dungeon, with an epic wilderness surrounding it; there is potential here. Building up to Kihago, finally getting there, be trapped – yeah, I can see that rock hard! Here, it doesn’t because it doesn’t deliver on any of its promises. So, dungeon is quasi alive? Know what did that infinitely better? Eyes of the Stone Thief. Yeah, I know. The OSR-crowd is hissing like a vampirekitten presented with a dog-shaped, wet crucifix, but hear me out – even though that mega-adventure is for 13th Age, the strength of its concepts, what it entails to live in a dungeon? It does everything much better and is worth getting for those alone. Oh, and before you ask: Yes, pretty much all other modules in this series are more far out and deserving of the moniker “psychedelic.” This is a true dud if I ever saw one, and in the absence of formal criteria to recommend, it is the yeast that elevates this module from my final verdict of 1.5 stars to the point where I can round up. I can’t even recommend this for the low price-point.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Beneath the Ruins (Psychedelic Fantasies #1)
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Gleams of the Livid Plaque (Psychedelic Fantasies #7)
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/26/2014 18:51:49

Weird and strange are two of the words I'd describe this twelve page old school adventure with its own ecological and biological niche within the confines of its alien environment. Everything within it and around it is highly detailed for adventurers to stumble upon the adventure location and some of the adventure's setting elements can be created randomly but the idea here is someplace between a Seventies sci fi paper back cover and a very well done Errol Otis environment dripping some very unusual elements that a DM can exploit for their own benefit. This is going to create a very memorable game. Is the environment and ecology Gaxian? No its Paul Keighian because the author and design has created a highly unique adventure location that is going to exist with or without them. This is an adventure that can be dropped right into an existing campaign but its inclusion is right along the lines of a late night science fantasy book. The module is deadly and make no bones about that played for tongue and cheek or not. This is a vicious goo infested little dungeon romp with a highly unusual dungeon location and items. Here's another part of the charm of Gleams of the Livid Plaque. The fact is that you can place this module into a science fiction campaign, a lone planet in a science fantasy campaign or right over the next rise in your OD&D style world existing right next to those orcs, trolls, and gnomes. Nothing will be disturbed. Everything in this module is self contained all for the price of an sandwich in fast food joint. Unlike some useless carbs, this module has plenty of repeat value and bang for the buck! My advice on this one is grab it! And play the hell out of this one with your D&D or science fantasy group of adventurers! I owe Paul Keigh and Geoff a beer for this one! Enjoyed the hell out of it and can't wait to unleash this one!



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Gleams of the Livid Plaque (Psychedelic Fantasies #7)
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The Harvester from Outer Space (Psychedelic Fantasies #5)
by Jim C. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/25/2014 17:16:24

Not a bad dungeon crawl (in orbit, though the map doesn't even try to look like a spaceship) through a prison/research vessel that has been mostly taken over, largely trashed and rendered considerably more dangerous by the former inmates. I may have had a misspent youth and dubious choices in reading matter, but this seemed more restrained, serious and playable than the inferences dropped by the cover and product description might have suggested.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Harvester from Outer Space (Psychedelic Fantasies #5)
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Proteus Sinking (Psychedelic Fantasies #8)
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/06/2014 17:00:29

Its always a good night when I come home to a new copy of a Psychedelic Fantasies adventure but its even better when its one from Bjorn Waredal whose work is very familiar to me. Once again this wonderful little line of high weirdness system neutral OSR goodness delivers the goods. Here we have an eleven page adventure location based goodness in an old school mini campaign but one that does its job in style and with a sense of fun that really compliments the adventure in spades. Here's far warning ahead, pick this adventure up! Seriously this is a perfect vehicle as a middle of the campaign flash or bridge gap. There's literally a ton of links to tie this little adventure in with your favorite retroclone OD&D style, science fantasy or post apocalyptic old school campaign. With little modification this adventure could be used with Lamentations of the Flame Princess's Carcosa. Best of all its on 'Pay what you'd Want' so grab this one now and toss some coins the author's way so we can get more of these great adventures.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Proteus Sinking (Psychedelic Fantasies #8)
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