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B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
by Steve P. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/17/2018 09:08:25

I just wanted to say that I bought the premium versions of the 3 B/X ESSENTIALS books (3 at time going to press) and they arrived today. They are excellent. Great job. Thanks!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
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B/X Essentials: Core Rules
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 02/16/2018 11:37:55

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This rule-set clocks in at 37 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 2 pages of SRD, 1 page index, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 29 pages of content, laid out for 6’’ by 9’’ (A5). So, what is this about?

First things first: This was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book. My review is primarily based on the premium print version of this book, though I have taken the pdf into account as well.

So, this is Basic/Expert-gaming (for the uninitiated, that’s where the “B/X”comes from); you may know the rules from how they have become an integral part of the old-school renaissance via e.g. Labyrinth Lord. The rules are out there, so why did we need this series of books? Well, as anyone who used the original rules can attest to, the organization wasn’t perfect. Labyrinth Lord improved that significantly and a wide variety of different tweaks, hacks and DIY-changes in various OSR-systems have provided their own spins on the subject matter…so why should you care about this book?

To answer this question, I am going to split this review in two parts. Part I will focus on the old-school gaming veteran and explain what sets this apart. Part II will give those of you who are not familiar with the rules (or those intrigued to see what’s inside) a detailed run-down of the material.

All right, so let’s begin with Part I.

As we can read in the foreword, this book takes a step back from the common modifications to the B/X-rules, instead focusing on a faithful rendition of them. Wait! This does not means that this is exclusively a reprint, though! As with any roleplaying game, there are bound to be some components of the system where the rules-language could have been tighter, where ambiguities creep in. This supplement addresses these instances in a clear and concise manner; In such cases, it explains the respective rationale behind a ruling of how a component is supposed to work – this can for example be found in the encumbrance rules, which are somewhat opaque in the original iterations.

There is another selling point for this pdf that may very well sell quite a few of the OSR-aficionados out there on the book. If you have ever tried to hack together different systems, classes etc. for a specific world or campaign, regardless of system, you will have noticed that there is a hurdle that may not be immediately apparent. Roleplaying systems tend to sport implicit assumptions. D20-based games assume bonuses granted by magic items to make the math come out right; LotFP assumes magic to be dangerous and more of a story tool than a form of artillery, etc. As in these systems. B/X is a very elegant and relatively rules-lite system, but this notion does provide a hurdle: Let’s say you want to play a Carcosa-game, or a modern campaign, or a CoC-style campaign using these rules, for example. You’ll have to sift through the rules and pick out the components you’ll actually use.

This is the primary and surprisingly amazing aspect of this book: You see, this takes all those implicit setting-bits out of the rules, providing a clear and distinct vision of the core rules of the B/X-system, which takes a LOT of work off the shoulders of the referee, allowing you to focus on tailoring and tweaking what really matters to you, instead of playing content-editor for your planned campaign. This is perfectly in line with the OSR’s DIY-aesthetics and should be considered to be the main selling point for veterans. This is extremely hackable and concise, also courtesy to internal references – want to read up on a given rule referenced in the pdf? It’ll sport the page number in bold, making use at the table rather comfortable.

Okay, that out of the way, let’s move on to part II of the review and talk about the rules contained within, shall we?

We begin without much fanfare with defining the 6 attributes: Charisma governs reaction adjustment of NPCs and denotes the maximum number of retainers and retainer morale. On the opposite page of the attribute summaries, we get the Charisma Adjustments table, we have all relevant information at one glance. Same goes for Intelligence, which denotes language ability and the number of bonus languages gained – the table’s right there. Nice here would be that Intelligence also governs language-skill – characters with Intelligence 6 – 8, for example, can write simple words and that’s it. All other attributes get a standard adjustment (again, table right there!) that can range from -3 (3)to +3 (18) – Constitution applies that to hit points gained per level; a new level means always at least 1 hit point gained. Dexterity applies standard adjustment to attack rolls, but not damage, with ranged weapons as well as AC. Additionally, Dexterity has a table that denotes a bonus or penalty to initiative, which ranges from -2 to +2. Strength applies standard adjustment to attack and damage rolls with melee weapons. Wisdom applies standard adjustment to saving throws versus magical effects; this usually excludes breath weapons and other saves, but not necessarily. If a prime attribute is high or low, this may also influence experience gained.

And there we go – basic attribute rules on 2 pages, presented in a truly concise manner. The sequence of play in dungeon as well as in wilderness is presented next, with a step-by-step breakdown. The same page contains the notes for encounter-sequence, which similarly makes perfect sense. Need to look up any rules interacting with that? Bolded references point you exactly where you need to look.

The adventuring rules are next and begin with the optional ability check rules: Roll under ability score; depending on difficulty, you may gain a bonus or penalty between -4 to +4. Rolls of 1 are successes, 20s are failures. This also notes air travel – the more HD an aerial mount has, the more it’ll be able to carry. Chase-rules are next and explains group movement rates (slowest member) and proceeds to explain chase rules in dungeons and wilderness…and on waterborne vessels! Fleeing group size and number of pursuers determine the chances to get away – and yes, the tables and mechanics are as painless as can be. Climbing and the mechanics of doors (including notes of alternate ability checks) are noted next.

Movement out of the way, the pdf proceeds to explain encounters: This provides handy starting distances by environment, monster reactions, etc. – once again, easy to grasp…but more interesting would be the encumbrance rules I mentioned earlier: There are two options presented: One for those of you who prefer simplicity and for those of you who, like me, prefer more simulationalist takes on the subject matter. In the simple option, a character’s speed is determined by the armor worn, but he may carry a maximum of 1600 coins.

Coins? Yep! Encumbrance is measured in coins! This makes all kinds of sense to me and a handy table collates the weight of treasure/items by coins. In the more complex version, it is this abstract unit of measurement that determines your movement rate. It should be noted that RAW, metal armor in this version only accounts for 500 coins and thus does not reduce movement greatly – 90’. That being said, adventurers will carry items and weapons, so yeah, it evens out with the simpler system. Some experimenting with both systems did show that the coin values for equipment, weapon.types etc. has been chosen with care and is pretty smart.

XP is gained by gold gained (1 gold coin = 1 XP) and by defeated monster and at the referee’s discretion. Characters can advance a maximum of 2 levels per adventure/session. This table btw. also provides monster XP-values by HD…and the table notes bonus XP/ability. This out of the way, we get falling rules and cover foraging and hunting. A full day of rest nets 1d3 hp. Light and visibility in dungeon, wilderness and at sea are covered next, and then we move on to losing direction…which, in a nice tweak, is much harder at sea while you remain within sight of land. This makes a lot of sense.

Okay, so movement in tactical situations is assumed to be 120’, though armor and encumbrance modify that. While exploring, slowly, a dungeon, characters move movement in feet in one turn; movement through familiar/cleared areas may be quicker at the referee’s discretion. During encounters, a character can move 1/3 of movement rate in feet per round, or yards in the wilderness A character can run instead, up to full movement – but running too long causes exhaustion. Overland movement and how terrain can increase or decrease it is covered, as is the classic forced march. Resting and failing to do so in dungeon, wilderness and after running are similarly presented in a clear manner right on this page.

The next page deals with retainers and their reactions as well as their morale. Saving throws are explained next and the slow and deliberate searching of environments can also be found here. Rules for starvation and swimming, time, traps, wandering monsters and water travel…notice something? Yep, the components here are presented in alphabetic order, with copious internal references. It’s surprising, but this works better as a presentation paradigm than it should.

These rules out of the way, we get a basic breakdown of combat rounds: Characters wishing to declare a spellcasting or a full retreat must declare so first; Initiative is 1d6, rolled by each side. The winner acts first. Referees may then need to check for monster morale; movements are made; missile attacks next, spells are cast; then, melee and other actions occur; after that, same happens for the other side and we rinse and repeat until the combat ends. Before you ask: Yes, we get notes for tied initiative and optional rules for individual initiative.

Generally, a character can move and perform one action, though full movement is possible as an alternative. The system knows two different retreats – panicked full retreat and the slower, but less dangerous fighting retreat- Attack rolls are d20s + Str/Dex-adjustment, respectively. These are then compared to a chart. Class and level determine whether you hit; 1s are botches, 20s are hits. Rules for standardized 1d6 damage and optional rules for variable weapon damage are provided. If a spellcaster is hit or must make a save before finishing casting a spell, it fails. Yes, spellcasters will want to win initiative as often as possible…they may not move or take other actions when casting a spell! (And yes, young ones – try this. Seriously. There was once a time when getting a spellcaster to survive a single level was a real achievement!)

Anyway, we proceed to the rules for the details of combat – cover, boarding vessels, helpless foes, optional morale rues, nonlethal combat, unstable surfaces and painless rules for underwater combat can be found here as well. Spell casting is next and requires both the ability to move hands and to verbalize the incantations. Some spells are reversible and boosts to a single attribute, or attack rolls e.g. do not stack. The basics of spell books are also noted. Finally, we get an explanation of magic items: Identification, uses, charges, cursed items and magic weaponry and armor and their annotation are covered. Potions are noted and it should be noted that you can only be under the effect of one. Mixing potions makes you sick for 3 rounds and nullifies all effects. Scrolls, rings, and the rod/Staff/Wand-category are also explained. The latter items are btw. distinguished by charges they hold – 1d10, 2d10 or 3d10. The same pages btw. also contain the rules for spell research and magic item creation – for the latter, you btw. need 9th level or higher. If you have ever played an old-school game, you know how much of an achievement that is…

And that’s it! All core rules for B/X-gaming!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I didn’t notice a single glitch. Layout adheres to a really nice two-column b/w-standard that uses both bolding of page- and rules-references and pastel-green highlights in tables etc. to create an aesthetic presentation. Speaking of aesthetics: This book is chock-full with amazing b/w-artworks I haven’t seen before. Beholder-shepherds, cool items, one-eyed, strange ogre-ish things in caverns, sea serpents…this is a beautiful book. The standard print edition is perfect bound and sports the standard PoD-paper; personally, I’d advise in favor of the stitch-bound premium version, which has better paper and crisper text/colors, etc. The pdf comes with extremely detailed, nested bookmarks, making navigation of that version comfortable. If you#re really strapped for cash, there is even a plain-text version that is FREE!

Gavin Norman’s depiction of the B/X-core rules is an AMAZING foundation. While I personally prefer attack bonuses instead of charts in tables, that is a personal preference, not something in the B/X-rules and as such, expected. Now, other than that, I very much consider this to be pretty much the ideal, perfect start. The rules herein can be read and understood in less than half an hour if you concentrate…but the true value, at least for me, lies in the organization. The content is presented in such a tight and organic manner that actual use of the book is ridiculously simple. Looking for xyz? The index sets you up. If e.g. you want to know where the wandering monster-rules are while reading the encounter section, rest assured you’ll immediately find it, courtesy of the copious internal references. This makes using the book at the table ridiculously simple and comfortable.

Beyond that, the book is a faithful rendition of the much-beloved system, stripped of the accoutrements that may get in the way of your exact vision…and if you want certain things like classic classes in your game, there are always the other books of the series! This is pretty much a perfect start to make your own hack/setting/etc. and the professional, impressive presentation makes using the book a joy. In short: This is an excellent and inexpensive booklet. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval…and if you’re looking for a start to create your own hack/variant setting with these rules, consider this to be an EZG Essential as well. This is a superb foundation to build on.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Core Rules
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Wormskin Issue 1
by Michael M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/15/2018 14:20:48

Wormskin is amazing! Get this! Dolmenwood is an amazing setting! Play it! The writing and artwork are evoctative, stoking the fires of the imagination into a blazing conflagration of epic proportions. Setup for B/X rules (or Labyrinth Lord, Blueholme, etc.) these books are truly treasure troves of setting information and game mechanics. If you like weird, fairytale fantasy, with a dark and otherworldly twist, you'll love the the fey haunted hoary glades of Dolmenwood! Get This! Get This! Get this!

-Mike



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 1
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B/X Essentials: Core Rules — Plain Text Edition
by Jonathan M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/05/2018 13:41:08

An the B/X Essentials series is an amazing resource for any world builder, and that the plain-text editions are available free only sweetens the deal. The PDF or print can make an excellent table reference for any BX/LL game. And this plain text version can be the basis of an elaborate total conversion, a new world with setting specific classes, or a binder full of of your house rules. Mr Norman has done an excellent service to the OSR community by creating this series and distilling down in 31 pages the essentials what may be considered the core definition of OSR.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Core Rules — Plain Text Edition
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B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
by Glenn R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/04/2018 05:08:46

A joy to behold, a delight to use. Articulate, consistent, and eloquently expressed. Part three of the set, collect them all!



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
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Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition
by Brian S. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 02/01/2018 00:33:05

It is the 21st century. There is NO excuse for having no bookmarks in the pdf. The ball has been dropped. Very sad. Just found out that the Fey Elf isn't in the book. Why not ? My favorite thing in the first book. I wish I hadn't bought it.



Rating:
[2 of 5 Stars!]
Theorems & Thaumaturgy Revised Edition
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Creator Reply:
Hi Brian, sorry to hear you're disappointed with the book! Regarding PDF bookmarks, honestly, this was the first book I produced using InDesign and, at the time, I had no idea how to export a PDF with bookmarks. I do know how to do this now, however, and have just uploaded an updated version of the PDF (also including linked table of contents). You should be able to download the updated version in the "My Library" section of your account. Regarding the content from the original edition that didn't make it into the revised edition, to be fair this is mentioned in the product's description: "Note for people who have the original edition of this title: The revised edition is not a completely new book. It is a re-edited, re-formatted, re-illustrated edition consisting of the three spell-casting classes. Many of the magic items are new and the elementalist and vivimancer spell lists have been expanded and updated." The reason for cutting some of the content from the original edition was that I wanted to give the book a much tighter focus, rather than the grab-bag feeling of the original. About the fey elf specifically: I have plans for a greatly expanded version of the class that should emerge in the near-ish future.
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 01/31/2018 09:29:39

This is part three of Gavin Norman's B/X Essentials project. This is a 're-telling' as he calls it rather than a clone or re-working. He has taken B/X to pieces and has done a fantastic job of editing it for clarity nto a series of booklets. Each book posseses the really important things you need to play, designed on single or double page spreads so the flipping back and forth to find stuff is kept to a minimum. He's got some great artists onboard too. So far there are three books: the core rules and procedures, classes and equipment and this, the latest one: cleric and magic user spells. The monsters book is next. The idea is that these books will work alongside other B/X based systems as well as forming a coherent rules set on their own. In my opinion, Gavin has set a new standard for clarity. But more inspiring than that, is the community he has built up, to support the project and the way he really listens to, and takes on board, suggestions and positive criticism. One day, all rpgs will be written this way! Check it out.



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
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B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
by Eric F. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 12/06/2017 01:30:18

So Gavin Norman is at it again with the second in the B/X Essentials series, this time he's tackling PC classes & equipment in 'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment'. The pdf only clocks in at forty four pages but distills down the essence & spirit of B/X Dungeons & Dragons down to its components with style, grace, & some excellent artwork throughout. The layout is up to the standard that we saw in the first installment of the series, 'B/X Essentials: Core Rules. '

If you want to check out the rules for both titles there are no artwork versions of both 'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment' & 'B/X Essentials: Core Rules ' available. Everything here is boiled down into its full soul of the B/X rules whist retaining all of the good solid system that will please even the hardcore B/X Dungeons & Dragons addict such as myself. All of your favorite PC classes are here along with some nifty editing to round out & rarefy the system kinks. The whole is more then the sum of its parts allowing players to deal with the only the essentials of the Basic D&D system. The layout is well done and everything seems very top draw with efforts on the author's part to keep the whole of its parts running in a smooth & sustained style for easy of play at the table. The author/designer has smoothed away some of the play ambiguities of earlier editions & clarified the whole for a quick & easy style of old school system. Mr.Norman let's the audience know where & when he's chosen his rulings with this book. The layout is well rounded enabling the reader to grasp the system easily and with a full flourish for old school play. There is some solid artwork throughout the product but I really wish that one or two items featured in the artwork were available in the equipment but I have a feeling those will be in the monsters & treasures book. So what can be done with 'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment'? Well a few things since there are clarifications, edits, etc. throughout the book old school system play is going to be quicker & easier at the table top. Also the B/X Essential line is open game content enabling DM's to publish their own add ons for the system making this a true retroclone in every sense of the word. It also means that if someone doesn't have access to B/X Dungeons & Dragons these titles are going to be the next best thing. This also means that all of the old favorites of old school play such as fighter, magic user, cleric, & thief are available for quick set up & play but with a campaign setting of the dungeon master's creation. The Essentials line is perfect for plug & play with other B/X style retroclone adventures that are already on the market. I can already hear the nay sayers on the fact that the OSR doesn't need another retroclone system & product line on the market. But this is a bit different with it being several cuts above the run of the mill material already on the OSR market. But is 'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment' necessary? In a word I think its a vital product to bring to the OSR market because its a true retroclone in both spirit & content. The content here is top drawer quality in my opinion and this is one not to pass up. The production quality, editing, and solid presentation is very well done. I'd give this a five stars and there are already others who agree with my assessment.

There's a lulu publishing version of the B/X Essentials core rules out now.

If your a fan of Gavin Norman's Necrotic Gnome productions and creations then you owe it to yourself to grab a copy of 'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment'.

Solidly done, easy to use, and a pleasure to have at the table, 'B/X Essentials Classes & Equipment' is a five out of five product to dive into & solve that B/X Dungeons & Dragons itch in a low cost, clearly defined, edited, and solidly presented way!

Eric Fabiaschi Swords & Stitchery blog Want More OSR original content & reviews? Subscribe To https://swordsandstitchery.blogspot.com/



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[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
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B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
by Customer Name Withheld [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/29/2017 09:25:28

Necrotic Gnome do it right... again. This second book in the B/X Essentials series is every bit as good as the first and a must have resource for Classic D&Ders. Gavin Norman has done a superb job with the layout and organisation, enough to make you wish all rulebooks were done so well. The book is also very well illustrated and not with recycled free material but using talented game illustrators and well known figures from the Old School Renaissance scene. His decisions on the clarification of minor ambiguities are sound and where he has had to make a choice of path, he lets us know. This book will grace your table, help gameplay run smoothly and even if you don't play this particular system, you should take a look to see how a rule book really ought to be done. Buy now folks. Jon Salway



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 3
by Kyle L. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 11/03/2017 13:29:15

Completely wonderful book! Well designed. Easy to read and run. Flavorful fun. Evocative writing. It's really everything you want!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 3
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B/X Essentials: Core Rules
by Jon M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 10/19/2017 15:36:29

This book boils down the B/X rules into a setting agnostic form and is perfect for those world builders that want familiar B/X rule set but are looking to put their own flavor of custom classes, equipment and creatures on top. Looking forward to further books in this series: Classes & Equipment, Spells, and Monsters.

Organization of this book is excellent and the small printed booklet should make a useful table reference for combat, turn sequence, and more. And I intend to use this with my players as a reference, and for my own world building as this fairly lightweight reference has enough of B/X for things important to my own campaign such as ship travel and travel through air.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Core Rules
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B/X Essentials: Core Rules
by Dylan R. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 09/20/2017 08:41:55

This book is like when one of thoes sunken treasure documentries take a ugly brown chunk of corroded, barnicle covered "treasures" that was hauld up from the seafloor after decaying in a shipwreck for 500 years and carefully removes all the crap and pollishes it up, revealing a actual beautiful treasure from days gone by. Except, the layout of this ruleset is even beter than the origional.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizardzine #1
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 09/18/2017 03:52:40

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This e-zine clocks in at 52 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 4 pages of SRD, 1 page space for notes, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 43 pages of content. It should be noted that, as in most OSR-supplements, the pages are formatted for booklet-size (6’’ by 9’’, A5), which means that you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this out. Personally, I’d at least contemplate getting the softcover PoD – I based most of review on that. All righty, let’s take a look!

Ah, one more thing, in case that’s relevant to you: The OSR-engine employed would by Labyrinth Lord.

The first, and so far, only, installment of Wizardzine focuses on the theme of water, but does so in a rather interesting manner: We begin with ideas for themes that involve magic and water: How e.g. diviners could specialize in finding sunken treasure, how demonologists or necromancers may be prone to summoning forth things from below…and how vivimancers fit in here. Vivimancers, easily my favorite spellcasting addition to any roleplaying game in ages, are obviously a part of this e-zine’s aesthetic, but rest assured that you do not need to have “The Complete Vivimancer” to make use of this little booklet…though it certainly will whet your taste for it.

In fact, I got this on a whim, and after reading it, I moved on to the vivimancer. Why? Because this pdf does introduce an arch-wizardess, namely Ephenedrine the sirene, mistress of the Isle of Lost Hope and strangely changed by her inscrutable plots. While we do not get full stats or spellbooks for her (she does act as an inspiring backdrop – the spells she researched and created and her domain are depicted in surprisingly concise and creepy prose that ties in with the new content presented within: In her brining cove, vats spew forth her strange brine-spawn servitors and both the bay of mollusks and her coral gardens beckon with alien splendor and danger alike. 8 potential rumors considering her can provide additional sources for inspiration or just act as dressing guidelines for the referee.

The aforementioned brine spawn represents btw. one of the 3 new monsters found herein, with a demon of the depths and the drowned dead representing the others. While none of these, from the names, sound like anything earth-shattering, it is their execution and the well-written information on these critters that makes them work. Well done! It is pretty hard to properly convey how this little booklet manages to conjure forth a concise and consistent atmosphere with its content, but there lies both a palpable sense of a world that has moved on, a taste of the weird and a glorious strangeness in these, something that extends to the 5 magic items: Sure, we have seen vats that create creatures before, but I have rarely seen the process described in such a concise manner, a manner that seems plausible in a delightfully twisted way. Similarly, I have seen gill symbionts before, but never in a manner that made them feel so…detailed, so alive. There are also novel or less classic tropes, though: Like clams that can produce rather nasty magical pearls. An aquarium that shrinks victims…and a paste that can transform you into an aquatic life-form, changing your body when applied to parts of it – these items are not necessarily vivimantic, but they carry with them this general notion of being a believable pseudo-science in a world where magic exists. The feel real, wondrous and dangerous.

There is a palpable sense of the mystical as well. While aquatic adaptation and its reverse fall in the realm of utility spells I expected, and while boiling sphere is pretty much a vanilla damage-spell, calling monsters from the deep makes sense…all of these spells are herein, yes. But what inspired me was castaway, which send a target away if a burst of foam, to be washed ashore at some faraway, remote coast 1d4 days later. If that is not a great angle for the start of a module or even campaign…well, what is? Conjure land creates a small island ex nihilo – but the place created has an unusual feature, of which there are 20: Abandoned settlements, dangerous monsters, strange monoliths…sandboxing gold, right there….oh, and guess what: The land sinks at the duration’s end. Timer included. The proper utility-spells for deep-sea exploration (or simply not drowning, courtesy of buoyancy) – there are some seriously nice tricks here…but, as most of the time in this pdf, the real draw lie in the details.

If you’re a veteran like me, you probably have seen a spell to call forth a ghost ship from the deeps more than once, right? Well, in this book’s version, the spell can be prolonged…at a price most ghastly, which the undead will demand…What about summoning a giant leviathan whale to carry you in its belly? Or about the option to create bio-luminescent plankton? If you’re like me and always disliked how one single spell covered walking on all types of water, then good news – the pdf split this one in two, allowing for finely nuanced tools for the tasks at hand. Ever wanted to feel like you just sunk Atlantis? Well, the level 9 spell herein (which takes a massive ritual to complete) lets you do just that – sink island does, however, require the fulfillment of a variety of really impressive tasks. What about cursing foes, either to hear the dread call of the deep ones or instill convictions to make targets venture across the seas? There are resonance from our own mythology herein and the spells, as a whole, remain just as precise and well-presented as we have come to expect from Necrotic Gnome Productions.

An incredibly helpful sea wizard spell list, random selection options for the referee and aquatic monster summoning tables can also be found herein…but these aren’t my favorite part of the book either. Instead, that honor would fall to the 12 magic tomes depicted herein; grimoires, really. These tomes contain some of the new spells herein, note their authors and language they’re written in and feature extensive descriptions that really made them come to life for me: I could almost smell the lush vellum of Ephenedrine’s Transmutations-grimoire. The tomes act, basically as an in-game treasure, adventuring motivation and they make sense: They have CHARACTER. It’s not just any spell, transcribed from any book your PCs cast…it’s the one the PCs managed to unearth from The “Rituals of the Vasandian Shipwrights.” To keep a long ramble short: I adore how these books add character and contextualization to the spells and how they double as great adventure hooks.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly, clean one-column b/w-standard. The artworks are thematically-fitting b/w stock pieces and do a better job than most at establishing a concise theme. Now, here’s a big downside for the electronic version: The pdf has no bookmarks, which is a nasty comfort detriment. Personally, I’d strongly advise getting PoD instead – the softcover is solid and only costs 3 bucks more.

Gavin Norman’s aquatic wizardzine is amazing. I am a jaded bastard of a reviewer and I have seen a metric ton of aquatic spells and supplemental material for a wide variety of systems. This booklet stands apart for three reasons: First of all, its rules-language is precise and poignant. Secondly, its writing is actually good – inspiring even. I found myself intrigued enough to get more of the author’s books, courtesy of its strength. That’s saying something. Thirdly, even when his designs cover classic tropes, they do so in an intriguing manner that resonates with me – it’s hard to properly convey in a review, but it’s the small things that elevate this, the little twists, the pronounced consciousness of the narrative demands and requirements of a roleplaying game. Content-wise, this is excellent indeed.

That being said, the lack of bookmarks for the electronic version does drag this down a bit and if you’re similarly jaded as I am, you may not end up being as blown away as when perusing e.g. his vivimancer. As a reviewer, I have to take all of these into account. Personally, I consider the pdf to be closer to 5, the softcover closer to 5 stars – which is why my official verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded up due to in dubio pro reo. Well worth getting for the low and fair asking price.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wizardzine #1
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From the Vats
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 08/25/2017 05:04:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This FREE pdf (the print copy costs a measly $3.00 for at-cost printing!) clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC/foreword, 2 pages of SRD, leaving us with 49 pages of content – though, as most of the time for OSR-supplements, the file is formatted for a 6’’ by 9’’-standard, which means you can try to fit up to 4 pages of content on a sheet of paper when printing this. Personally, I consider the super low price for print to be well worth it – my review is mostly based on the softcover print edition of this supplement.

Okay, first things first – this is basically a compilation of community-created content inspired the phenomenal “The Complete Vivimancer”-file, penned by Gavin Norman. The basic idea of this specialist, in case you don’t want to search for my review, is that of a mad, magical scientist who uses the forces of life and bends them to their will, adding a thoroughly unique and amazing feeling to any setting that employs it – so much so that I honestly consider the amount of work that conversion requires to new-school systems be well worth it. This is very unique and cool.

Gusing aside, what can be found within this book? Well, while we begin with adventures, I will first take a look at the parts of the book that do not require a warning. These pieces of content would be, obviously, new spells – 6 are included, and all but one are penned by the author of the vivimancer, guaranteeing the crisp and precise rules-language that made me love the original…and they are damn cool. As in “Inspired me to make a whole dungeon”-level-cool. Cellular automaton lets you grow muscles and bones and brains to handle those pesky tasks and calculations: Fleshy drawbridges and elevators, brains used as icky computers – this spell alone has vast potential for exceedingly cool uses. Transmuting targets into plant matter or creating mini-me style miniature clones also rocks…and on the offensive side, two spells allow vivimancers to literally shed their skin and “pilot” it in various capacities. Yeah. Icky. Yeah, you won’t want to be caught with your pants…eh, I mean skin, down. Ben Laurence’s high-level spell is just as twisted and delightfully icky, btw.: Create Organ Golem comes in two variants – one makes a golem out of the cardiovascular system of beings (EW!), while the other kills subjects in a slow (but hey, totally humane and painless!) procedure, fusing their nervous systems into a golem that’s growing out of their skulls as the bodies wither. Yes, SUPER-EW, but also damn amazing and really vivimancer-style amoral!

Ben Laurence has btw. also penned a significant part of the new magic items featured herein, from the deadly blackseed poison (think: thorny thing grows inside you and kills you) to flesh softener (guess what that does) and lung eels (!!), these are pretty neat indeed. Derek Holland presents a whole item-class for us, one based on the vivimancer’s spark of life spell – these items are called clothlife and come as capes, ropes, scrolls, tents, nooses…and more… Vance Atkins provides two items as well – the pretty scuttle-pot that can be commanded to create biting insects, acid, fresh water, slippery ooze or worse. In a minor complaint, rules-language is not perfect here. The vat of amphibious horrors, his second creation, can be used to spawn 4d4 creatures of one of 4 weird and delightfully strange amphibious critters, from pustule toads to bleeding caecilians.

Beyond these, the authors, as you could glean from the aforementioned golems mentioned among the spells, have also provided an array of new monsters for your perusal – 25 of them, to be precise. Here, we have transparent apparition shrimps, squirrel/cow-hybrids, ape/dog-creatures, humanoid/spider-blends, fishing elephants that can walk on water (!!), 8-legged, gigantic flying squirrels designed to carry their masters, animated muscle slime, jellyfish drawn to magic, smart hounds, blends of ash and smoke…and some really twisted things. Noah Stevens, for example, introduces the succubus crab, which can poison targets…because the species needs others to reproduce.

You fill out the grisly and practically always fatal ramifications there…Christian Sturke’s grotesque Necrohandler, a head sewn onto a hand, makes for an apt way to return a recurring villain in a…let’s say “different” capacity. Anders Hedenbjörk Lager’s body stealers even come with a complete life cycle, a quasi-undead servitor zombie-like variant spawning from being killed by them and detailed notes on the symbiosis as well as stats for different life-cycles. Special mention also to Ben Laurence’s Ctenophoric Maiden, a gorgeous beauty from the nose down…and a strange thing reminiscent of comb jellies above that…possessed of an unnatural intellect, they are uncanny in a really disturbing manner. In a good way.

Now, this is where I’ll take a look at the adventure content, in all due brevity, but still – from here on reign the SPOILERS. Potential players should jump to the conclusion.

..

.

All right, only referees around? Great!

So, the pdf provides a pretty detailed adventure seed (as in: takes up a whole page) for the use of body stealers penned by Anders Hedenbjörk Lager, which was a nice read. Alex Schröder introduces a solid one-page adventure focusing on the redoubt of a clone…

…but the big module herein, “The Submerged Spire of Sarpedon the Shaper”, penned by Ben Laurence, is by far the longest section of the pdf, with excellent cartography, no less! (Though, alas, no key-less player-friendly version of the map is included to cut up and use as hand-outs…) This adventure takes place mostly underwater and thus features simple rules for underwater adventuring with old-school systems…but frankly, I consider these to be the weakest part of this book, by far –if you have more detailed or different rules, I’d strongly suggest using them instead.

Anyway, the adventure takes place in a desolate region; contextualization for one campaign setting is included, but frankly, it should be easy to plug and play into any body of water of sufficient size, provided it sports tides)…for at low tide, at the end of crumbling steps ending in the sea, you’ll be able to see the top of a marble down atop the waves – the eponymous spire, once jewel of the shattered isles. The module proceeds to be a rather intriguing underwater exploration of a 32-location long dungeon; sans read-aloud text, but with tons of dynamics: restocking and changes of the dungeon in short- and long run are covered and the place makes for a great blending of a melancholy for ages long past that can quickly turn into horror, with a smorgasbord of vivimantic monstrosities waiting in the wings…and if they don’t manage to manipulate and/or kill the adventurers, then the roaming sahuagin war parties may do the trick…and and operating some of those twisted devices can yield potent benefits, yes…but…you know, it may first need to drill some holes in your skull to directly interface with your brain. Good news: If you survive the detaching process, you’ll grow nifty fleshy membranes over the holes after that! …Have I mentioned that I really like the vivimancer and all the delightfully twisted things that come with it? So yes, this makes for a cool way to introduce some concepts of the class…and even if you don’t use the class (WHY???), this makes for a delightful challenge.

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level, though not as awe-inspiring as in the main-book. Layout adheres to a nice 1-column booklet-b/w-standard and the pdf actually sports really nice b/w-cartography AND some neat artworks – kudos! The map does not come with a player-friendly version, but hey, cool map for zilch! The pdf version is, annoyingly not bookmarked. But come on – the PoD is really cheap. Less than a cup of coffee in many places!

Gavin Norman, Vance Atkins, Seana Davidson, Kelvin Green, Matt Hildenbrand, Derek Holland, Anders Hedenbjörk Lager, Ben Laurence, Gavin Norman, Alex Schröder, Noah Stevens, Christian Sturke and Michael Wenman have created one of my favorite FREE books out there. I mean it. This is a labor of love and it shows – it was penned by people that get what makes the vivimancer cool and delightfully creepy.

We have a great expansion on our hands here, and while not absolutely perfect, I can spend hours upon hours recounting adventures, spells, magic items and monsters that are significantly less imaginative and cost a heck lot more than NOTHING…or even the very, very fair PoD-price. This is a great offering, a must-have for fans of the vivimancer (though it is a bit more explicit in tone here and there than the original book) and generally a great expansion that makes me realize how much more vivimancer material I actually want. I mean, how often does a single spell inspire you to design a whole dungeon? Yeah, thought so. This is, in short, a really cool offering for an unbeatable price – and well worth 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
From the Vats
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Wormskin Issue 5
by Sophia B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 07/26/2017 02:03:46

http://dieheart.net/wormskin-two-to-five/

This is about the Drune, a cabal of evil sorcerers. They are seekers and hoarders of arcane knowledge.
The article gives you everything you need. History, powers, lifestyle, relationship with other factions, etc.

I appreciate the info about hex-crawling in Dolmenwood. It offers some procedures and tables for weather, encounters, random events, etc.

The hex locations in this issue are colorful: creepy spells gone wrong, strange monsters, psychic stones that radiate madness, a time-warping monolith.

There is another mini-location/monster: the Hag of the Marsh. Comes with a spooky dwelling, hag haggling, adventure hooks, rumors and magic items. It perfectly fits the zine's theme.

The writers finish this issue with more monsters. There are the amphibious Boggin, animated thorny wood creatures called Brambin, etc.

I love Dolmenwood's monsters. They are unique and macabre. I can see myself using them in another setting if I want to add some disturbing creatures.

This zine is a favorite read of mine. The product is styled in a minimalist new OSR-style way with color and font highlights. Most of the artwork is excellent.

Running this setting is a bit cumbersome, though. The source material is spread over six booklets.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 5
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