Monday, November 10, 2014

Returning to the Manor

One of the cool things about the early days of this hobby was finding great little zines of new content.  Sometimes it was an alternate rule, or new monster or class.  Some of these were good, many were mediocre but all of them were a lot of fun.  Back then I didn't care how good or bad it was, I was just glad to have something new and exciting to try out.

The Manor reminds me of the best parts of that time.   The Manor is the digital zine from +Tim Shorts over at Gothridge Manor.  I have always enjoyed Tim's blog. He began his blogging around the same time I really started blogging in earnest. Plus he is a fellow Tim so I am inclined to like it!

I while back I reviewed the first three issues and some other publications from him.  Today I want to look into the next four issues; The Manor #4 to #7.

The Manor #4
At 39 pages this issue takes the Manor beyond the Zine world and puts it more firmly in "magazine" territory.   Even the Owl & Weasel or the Strategic Review got to this size.
We start out with an adventure for Swords & Wizardy for 4 to 6 characters of 5th to 7th level.  The adventure is 15 pages and includes 2 new monsters including a very cool, Lovecraftian-feeling "big bad".   The last part of this adventure with the monster (the Or'Drog) and it's lair are worth the price of this Zine alone.  Slap this bad guy into your generic Caves of Chaos and suddenly the stakes have gone up a lot.  I am kicking myself for not reading this sooner.  This was out in July of 2013. I could have used this very monster in exactly what I mentioned above when playing Keep on the Borderlands with my kids. Yes, this 11 HD monster would have been too much for them, but it would have up the stakes considerably.
SO if you have copies of these laying around, READ THEM!  There is good stuff in here.

"From Beneath the Manor" is so great. It is a feature that I hope to see more of;  Contributors send in their monsters to be stated up for any OSR compatible game and illustrated by Jason Sholtis.  It reminds me of the old Fiend Factory from White Dwarf.

We end with a couple of ads (for that full Zine feel).
Seriously though, The Manor #4 is awesome and I can't wait to read the next ones.

The Manor #5
The Manor #5 is a bit shorter than #4, but at 28 pages it is still a great deal.
First up is the "Vineyard of Villain. Four Evil NPCs to use in your game and illustrated by Jay Penn.
"Cursed Concoctions" by Chris Coski is a collection of 7 new poisons/potions for evil GMs.  There is a random table of tavern names if you need a dive in a hurry.  The "Sullen Hagfish" has good food I am sure.
There is a lengthy article on doors.  With a nice font for the header.  Made this feel like a cool 70s Zine,  The article itself is a good one and a good read for GMs.
There is another longish article on random city encounters.
Like before, we end it with an ad (of sorts).

I am not as overtly enthusiastic about #5 as I was for #4; but there is a lot great stuff here all the same.  Taken as a body of work it is still fun and still gives me that same thrill that I got when discovering Zines in the 80s.

The Manor #6
AKA the Issue with the Halfling with the Epic Pimp Hat.
The Manor #6 is back to 28 pages and jam packed by the looks of the Table of Contents.
The first adventure/setting is "The Brothel at Wargumn". It might be a little to risque for the youngest gamers, but it is sure a lot less risque than things I was reading at the time when zines were popular (70s and 80s).   Easy to drop this into any game, any world or even any town.
The Guard class is next. It would not be right unless a new class showed up every now and then.  I am not sure that this class adds anything above and beyond say a dedicated fighter, but it still looks solid and looks like it plays well.
"Getting from Point A to Point B" is an interesting addition from Ken Harrison.  It details three portal traps/puzzles of getting from A to B in a dungeon setting.  A great little addition to any dungeon where a magic-user may want to keep something hidden (Point B) but still need to get to it time to time.
"Witches of the Dark Moon" is a great little one-shot written by Tim Shorts himself using a lot of elements he had at his disposal.  This includes using my own Witch Class for the witches.  You don't need my book to play this, but it does add a little extra to the mix.  Consequently this one shot also does the one thing my witch DIDN'T do well and that is provide a ready to play adventure for witches.  The adventure it self is a lot of fun.

The only "ad" at the end is one for a the Manor Compilation of issues #1 thru #5.  Now I do want to point out. I LIKE the ads at the end. I do. It gives the Manor a nice zine feel and reminds me of reading the Owl & Weasel or older White Dwarf magazines.

The Manor #7
This is the newest one on the batch (for now) and it shows.  The evolving layout and feel of the zine gives it a nice organic feel.  I love the PDFs, but this issue makes me want them all in print form too.
The other big difference here is that creator Tim Shorts is only the editor of this, he has no content of his own in it.  I am taking that as a sign of good growth.
"Boltswitch's Mobile Potion Emporium" by Boric Glanduum is a great throwback to the traveling snake-oil salemen of the previous turn of the century.   Whether his potions work is up to the GM I guess, but I like the idea enough to steal it!  I hope he has some Guards from Issue #6 to protect him.
"The Skinwalker (Coyote)" by Joshua De Santo is a Native American feeling lycanthropic class for S&W.  It looks fun, but leaves me wanting more to be honest.
Chris Coski is back an he has a number of magical mirrors in "Mirror, Mirror".  His penchant for alliteration is amusing, but it could have gotten tiresome quick.
A couple of smaller adventures are next. "Trouble Down the Well" by Simon Forester and "Horrid Caves" by Garrison James.  Horrid Caves is the larger of the two. It has some new spells and a couple of new monsters.
Rusty Battle Axe brings us some Mind Flayer art and an Illithid haiku.  Two words that I have never used that close to each other.
We end with an ad for Tenkar & the Badger's OSR Radio podcast. Though no URL is provided. Here it is just in case,

All in all these are great additions to your gaming library.  Take them, cut them up and paste the bits you like into your own notebook and run with it like it was 1981.


The Happy Whisk said...

Thanks for doing this write-up. Hope you have a groovy week and boogie boogie.

Boric Glanduum said...

Thanks for the kind words about my friend Boltswitch, Tim. And yeah, don't worry...he's got protection. ROFL.