Originally posted at: http://diehardgamefan.com/2014/06/03/tabletop-review-d-infinity-volume-6-the-mythos/
It’s hard to find a regularly published gaming magazine these days. The best ones, in terms of quality, like The Unspeakable Oath and Gygax Magazine, are published nowhere near the quarterly schedule promised. Other ones, like Savage Insider and Adventure Quarterly, are also unable to meet a regularly scheduled demand. It seems like the only thing that comes out like clockwork these days are White Dwarf and Pathways, which is a far cry from when you could see Dungeons, Dragon, White Wolf, Inquest, Scrye and the like every month at your local game store (or delivered via subscription). I love gaming magazines, though, and I find myself picking up even the ones that are of lower tier in both quality and scheduling, like & Magazine or some zines with low production values. Case in point, this brings us to D-Infinity or D-∞. Its last issue, Volume #5, came out in November of 2013, putting a full six months between issues. It’s still doing better than Gygax Magazine though. Still, while D-Infinity issues are usually very hit or miss in terms of article quality, I felt like reviewing this one because a) I like gaming magazines, b) you might not be aware this publication exists and c) this volume is dedicated to Lovecraftia and so I thought it would be a fun issue to read. Did I get my seven dollars worth out of this issue of D-Infinity? Let’s take a look.
•Editorial. This gives some highlights of what this issue of D-Infinity is all about and talks a little bit about Lovecraft. It serves its purpose well enough. 1 for 1.
•Their Blood is the Sea. This is a long (eight pages) and dull piece of fiction about some people during the Dark Ages and the problems they face, such as a storm and some enemy troops. The big twist is that one of the brothers is a Mythos priest or perhaps something else. It was really boring and hard to get through, and although I’m trying to avoid spoilers, I can say it was one of the worst pieces of gaming fiction I’ve read this year. It took a massive amount of effort to get through this. Don’t do what I did. Skip this entry. 1 for 2.
•Digital Dice: Mobile Game Support Apps. In theory, this is a really good idea for a column. Unfortunately, in practice, it’s not very good. The column specifically states, “In the interest of keeping this article relevant on multiple platforms and for a longer duration, it will not make mention of any specific mobile apps. Instead it covers what is currently possible with mobile devices and how to incorporate them into a game.” This is not a very good idea. For one thing, not a lot of people know this magazine exists. For another, if this is found a year later and read, mobile apps will have changed and provided new stuff anyway, and thus what’s here will be outdated in spite of its attempts not to be. People want to be given suggestions and reviews of apps so that they don’t have to do the search themselves. That’s why reviews are popular. This piece instead just gives some vague overviews of some types of apps and leaves the reader with no idea of which ones are good and which should be best avoided. This is pretty much the opposite of what I’d want to see from an article on Mobile Game Apps. Yuck. 1 for 3.
•The Prop Room: The Allure of Innsmouth Gold. This was another article that had a ton of potential but failed to live up to it. It’s about how to make realistic Deep One gold artifacts for your game sessions, be they tabletop or LARP. AWESOME idea. Unfortunately, it doesn’t actually show you how. There are no steps or tips given. At most, you get a few pictures that don’t show the process from beginning to end and a statement to buy a mix of two types of clay. Had the article been given a half dozen pages or so to really show the step by step process of making these trinkets, it would have been amazing. Instead, the article assumes (perhaps because of page count) that you already know how to make props and are quite adept at it. This is the wrong path to choose. Always assume your audience is brand new to a topic and give them some meaty details. Sigh. 1 for 4.
•The Ageless. This is a WONDERFUL Cthulhu Live! adventure for ten to fifteen people. It’s about an ancient mummy and a dinner party gone horribly awry. This would be a lot of fun to pull off, but you’ll need a large home or location to do it in. My only real complaint is that, out of the fifteen playable characters, only two are women. The gender ratio should have been improved a bit, don’t you think? 2 for 5.
•Heroes and Heroines of KOS. This is an interesting article for The Sword of Kos role-playing system. Unfortunately, it is rife with bad editing. The first half of the first paragraph is repeated twice, making the piece look decidedly amateurish. You do get some nice bios of twelve different characters and they are stat-block free, meaning that you can put them into other games if you find them intriguing but you don’t play Sword of Kos. All but one character has appeared previous SoK releases, so I’m not sure what the point of this article was. Fans of the system will already be familiar with them and not need this piece, while everyone else might find the writing interesting, but not very useful. Alas. 2 for 6.
•Six Mythos Spells. Six new spells for Labyrinth Lord. This is pretty cut and dry, and well done. I especially like “Create Unholy Food and Water” and “Reverse Staircase.” 3 for 7.
•Artifacts of the Wasteland. Although this article has nothing at all to do with the titular subject of this D-Infinity issue, it’s an extremely well done piece for the Mutant Future system. I myself have never played Mutant Future, but this eight page article was so well done it’s made me consider giving it a try. I mean, I already have Labyrinth Lord and this uses essentially the same system. In essence, this piece is a collection of items broken down into four categories: Cloaks, Virtual Matter Projectors, Anti-Technology Weapons and Formulae. You are given several different types from each category and some in-depth descriptions of each example. There are no stats given for anything save Formulae, meaning you can bring a lot of these to different games if you own a different mutant/post-apocalyptic rules set. 4 for 8.
•Enter… the Living Building. This is another Mutant Future article, but there is no reason why it can’t be used in other settings, especially Dungeon Crawl Classics or Lamentations of the Flame Princess. It would be a perfect fit for either. The living building is exactly what you might think – a organism in which people live. The buildings are not self-aware and are ammonite shaped. You get a lot of information about one of these, from why there are no windows to a look at how these buildings live and die. You are given a ton of in-depth information, ranging from the history of these buildings to a room generator to use with the provided map. There are even examples of built in defenses and monsters to turn this article into a full fledged adventure. Very cool! 5 for 9.
•Pathfinder System: Putting H.P. Lovecraft Into Game Terms. This is another really well done article. The premise is simple: the authors have taken lesser known Lovecraft creatures and given them stats to use with the Pathfinder and/or D&D 3.5 systems. There are six creatures in all, some of which aren’t even in Chaosium’s Call of Cthulhu game, which I found interesting. It’s also worth noting the author’s version of Gnop-Kehs are very different from those in Call of Cthulhu. You also get a new skill, a new feat and some new spells. Great job. 6 for 10.
•The Saga of the Wyrm’s Son. Okay, I didn’t get the point of this article AT ALL. Yes, it’s a set of battles for Chevauchee: Rules for Battles with Medieval Miniatures, but it’s a system for low/null fantasy and this article introduces magic, trolls and other things to it. The end result has me wondering why they didn’t just use a system geared for fantasy miniature use instead of one for a more ground GMT Games style historical combat. This just didn’t work for me at all. Interesting ideas, but it just fell short of the intent. 6 for 11.
•Dagon Rising. This is a rules-light print and play board game. It’s very well done, but as with all print and play games, make sure you have the right materials on hand to properly make this thing, or the game will suffer for it. Dagon Rising is a random tile based game where up to four players work together to destroy the Pillar of Dagon… and try not to get murdered by Deep Ones. It’s very cute and well done. I hope people take the time to print it off and play it. The tokens and character standees are also very well done. There are two bonus Quactica gaming pieces as well, which are thrown in because they had some extra space I guess. 7 for 12.
There we are. Although this issue of D-Infinity started out rough, the good did eventually overshadow the bad with this volume (although it was looking dire at first). I honestly can’t say this is worth the $6.99 price tag, especially since previous issues are a dollar cheaper. Since the quality of this issue runs the gamut from awesome to terrible, I think you might be better off waiting for a sale or a permanent price drop to five bucks or less. There is nothing here of a timely nature, so you can hold off until then. There are definitely some fun pieces to be had in this issue of D-Infinity though, and if you are a big Cthulhu Lives! or Mutant Future fan, this might be worth paying the MSRP for. Otherwise, it’s a curiosity piece at best.