Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Review: SURVIVE THIS!! We Die Young RPG Core Rules (2021)

We Die Young
"Son, she said, have I got a little story for you
What you thought was your daddy was nothin' but a...
While you were sittin' home alone at age thirteen
Your real daddy was dyin', sorry you didn't see him,
but I'm glad we talked...

Oh I, oh, I'm still alive
Hey, I, I, oh, I'm still alive
Hey I, oh, I'm still alive."

Pearl Jam, "Alive" (1991)

It's October. There's a chill in the air and there is a feeling in the air. Something that makes me reflective, chilly, and maybe a little melancholy. Sounds like the 90s to me.  There is also a game that captures this feeling perfectly.  Bloat Games' newest offering in the SURVIVE THIS!! series; We Die Young RPG.

I have been waiting to share this with you all and today is that day! 

We Die Young RPG Core Rules

"Tell me do you think it would be alright If I could just crash here tonight?"

We Die Young RPG Core Rules is 372 pages with color covers and black and white interior art.  The book is digest-sized, so the same size as Bloat Games other games.  The game was Eric Bloat & Josh Palmer with art by Phil Stone and additional art by RUNEHAMMER & Diogo Nogueira.

For this review, I am considering the just-released PDF on DriveThruRPG that I got as a Kickstarter backer.  The print book is due out soon.

Comparisons between this game and their first game, Dark Places & Demogorgons are natural and I think needed. I spent a lot of time with DP&D so I am looking forward to seeing how I can use this game with that as well. But first, let's get into the game proper. 

The book begins with two dedications from the authors.  I want to repeat them here since they set the tone not just for the game but also for my review.

We Die Young Dedication

Growing up in the 1980s was fun.  Being in my late teens and 20s in the 1990s however, was AMAZING.  January 1990 I was a university undergrad, living in the dorms with a girlfriend that driving me crazy (not in a good way), but a best friend I hung out with all the time.  December 1999 I was married to that best friend, I had a brand new baby son, living in my new house, and was working on my first Ph.D.  That's no small amount of change.  But I never forgot that kid in 1990 with the flannel, goatee, Doc Martins, and long hair. This is the game for that kid.  
BTW "Layne" is Layne Staley, the former lead singer of Alice in Chains who died of a heroin overdose in 2002.  If you can't remember EXACTLY where you were when you heard Layne, Kurt, Shannon, or Chris was dead, then this game is, to turn a quote "not for you."

Introduction

"With the lights out, it's less dangerous. Here we are now, entertain us."

Here we are introduced to the newest SURVIVE THIS!! game. The authors are upfront about their inspirations here; grunge music from the 90s and the games that were popular at the time.  Having already gone through the book a few times it is a thread that weaved in overt and subtle ways, but it never feels overused, hackneyed, or clichéd.  We are given some in-game background for why the Pacific Northwest is so full of supernatural strangeness and it is a fun explanation.  But to quote the late, great Bard of Seatle I prefer it "always been and always be until the end."  But it works well. 

The basics of RPGs are covered and what you need to play.  Next we get into character creation.

We Die Young Character Sheet
Character Creation

"I'll be whatever you want. The bong in this Reggae song." 

Character creation follows the same process as other SURVIVE THIS!! games and by extension most Old-School games. We are told from the word go that we can add material we want from the other SURVIVE THIS!! games. 

Attributes are covered which include the standard six, plus the "Survive" attribute common to all SURVIVE THIS!! games.  My first thought?  My Dark Places and Demogons characters have grown up and moved to Seatle.

Like the other games in this family, Hit Points start with a 2d6 and increase by 1d6 per level regardless of class or race.  Combat can be quite deadly in these games for people used to the hardiness of even Old-School D&D characters.

Saving Throws are different from D&D but the same as DP&D with the edition of the Magic save.   This does make porting over characters and ideas from the other games pretty easy.

Alignment covers Righteous, Law, Neutral, Anarchist, and Evil. 

Races

"All I can say is that my life is pretty plain, You don't like my point of view and I'm insane."

Here we get into the really new material. We have a bunch of new races for this setting.  These include shapeshifting Doppelgangers, undead Ghouls, garden variety Humans, the immortal Imperishables, the ancient undead Jari-Ka, the various Realm-Twisted Fey (my new favorite, and I am sure I dated a Twitter Fey back then), Vampires (sparkles are optional), and Were-beasts of all stripes.  If you played ANY RPG in the 1990s you know what you are getting here, but still, they manage to make it feel both new and old at the same time.  New, because there is new potential here and old because they feel comfortably familiar; like that old flannel in the back of your closet or those beat-up old Doc Martens.

The races are well covered and you could easily drop them into any other SURVIVE THIS!! game or even any other Old-School game. They are really quite fun and I could not help but think of what characters I wanted to make with each one. This covers about 40 pages.

This is followed by a list of occupations with their bonuses. 

Classes

"This place is always such a mess. Sometimes I think I'd like to watch it burn."

We Die Young Witch
We Die Young is a class/level system.  There 16 classes for this game.  Some look like repeats from DP&D but are not really.  They are updated to this setting and older characters.  We are told that classes from the other SURVIVE THIS!! games are welcome here.

Our classes include the Mystic (tattoos mages), Naturalists (potheads, I mean druids), Papal Pursuant (soldiers of God), Psions (Carrie), Revenant (Eric Draven the Crow), Riot Grrl (what it says on the tin), Rock Star, Serial Killer, Shaman (oh here are the potheads), Sickmen (homeless, as seen by Sound Garden), Street Bard, Street Fighters, Thralls (Vampire servants), Tremor Christs (psionically powered religious prophets), Warlock (steal power for otherworlds), and what I can only assume is an attempt to get a good review from me (just kidding!) the Witch. 

The witch here is slightly different than the ones we find in DP&D.  So there can be no end to the witchy goodness you can have by combining games. 

That covers a healthy 50 pages.  

Skills

"And so I wake in the morning and I step outside, And I take a deep breath and I get real high.
And I scream from the top of my lungs. 'What's going on?'
"

The skill system for We Die Young is the same as DP&D.  Though without checking it feels a bit expanded.  You get points to put into skills and there are DCs to check.  Very 3e.  Or more like 3e IF it had been written in 1995.  So, yeah, another solid point for this game. 

Magic (& Psionics)

"Show me the power child, I'd like to say. That I'm down on my knees today."

Here is one of my favorite things in a game.  There is a mythos added to the system here that is rather fun (see Spellcasters & Salt) as well as rules for Rune-Tattoos.  Yeah, this is the 90s alright! 

Now I have to say this.  If adding a witch class is trying to get me to do a good review, then these spell names are outright flirting with me.  Spells called "All Apologies", "Heaven Beside You", "Black Days", "Wargasm", "Super Unknown", and "Far Behind"?  Yeah. That is hitting me where I live.  And that is only the very tip of the iceberg.

Magic, Spells and Psionics cover a little over 60 pages and I feel they could have kept going.

Equipment

"What did you expect to find? Was there something you left behind?"

No old-school flavored game is complete without a list of equipment. This includes common items, weapons, and even magical items.  Don't fret, it's not like there is a Magic Shop there. A "Health Locker" costs $50k and that is if you can find one. 

The list of drugs is really interesting and fun.  Look. It was the 90s. Everybody was taking drugs. 

New to this setting are the Zapatral Stones.  These are the remains of a meteorite that fell to Earth and hit the Pacific Northwest and Mount Rainer in particular.  They have strange power and effects depending on the size of the stone and the color.   

Playing the Game

"Whatsoever I've feared has come to life. Whatsoever I've fought off became my life."

Here we get our rules for playing the We Die Young game.   We get an overview of game terms, which is nice really. New rules for Curses, Exorcisms, and Madness are covered. It looks like to me they could be backported to DP&D rather easily. 

There is a fair number of combat rules.  Likely this has come about from the authors' experiences with their other game Vigilante City

We also get rules for XP & Leveling Up and Critical tables.

The World of We Die Young

"I'm the Man in the Box. Buried in my shit."

This is great stuff. This is the built-in campaign setting for We Die Young set place in a mythical and magical Pacific Northwest.  the TL;DR? Grunge woke supernatural creatures.  Ok, I can do that.  I mean it is not all that different than ShadowRun right?

The setting of the PNW/Seatle on the 90s is covered well.  I had many college friends that made the trek out to Seatle after our graduations (91 to 93 mostly), so I have some idea of what was happening on the ground level.  Twenty-somethings like me seemed drawn to the place by some mystic siren song.  A siren song with a Boss DS-2 distortion pedal. 

Various associations/groups are covered, like Jari-Ka circles, Ghoul Legacies, Vampire Lineages, were-kin groups.  Like I said, if you played RPGs in the 90s you know the drill. But again they are still both "new" and "old" at the same time. Kudos to the authors for giving me something new AND invoking nostalgia at the same time. 

We also get some great locations of note and some adventure seeds which include some creatures. 

Bestiary

"She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak. I've been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks."

Gotta have Bigfoot
This covers all the creatures you can run into.  The stat blocks are similar enough to Basic-era D&D to be roughly compatible.  They are 100% compatible with other SURVIVE THIS!! games, so the excellent DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - The Cryptid Manual will work well with this. In fact, I highly recommend it for this. 

There is a good variety of creatures.  Angels, Demons, BIGFOOT! and more. 

We get about 47 pages or so of monsters with stat blocks and an additional 10 pages of templates to add to monsters such as "Vampire" and "Radioactive."

Radioactive Bigfoot.  I don't need a plot. I have that!

We get Adventure Hooks next.  Roll a d100 and go!

The Appendix includes some Grung songs to get you into the mood.  Some Seattle Grunge bands, some not-Seatle Grunge Bands, and some late 80's and 90's Alternative bands.

There is a list of movies about the era. A list of books.  And finally the index and OGL.

Thoughts

"I don't mind the sun sometimes, the images it shows. I can taste you on my lips and smell you in my clothes."

Wow. What a really damn fun game!

If Dark Places & Demogorgons gave a "Stranger Things" 80s, this gives me a strange supernatural 90s.

It is exactly what I would have expected from the fine folks at Bloat Games.

My ONLY question about this setting is "Where are the UFOs and Aliens?"  I mean NOTHING was bigger in the 90s than "The X-Files."  I get that it is hard to cleave 90s Aliens to 90s supernatural (ask anyone that has tried to play WitchCraft AND Conspiracy X), but maybe a supplement is due out later?  I would suggest grabbing DARK PLACES & DEMOGORGONS - The UFO Investigator's Handbook to add some X-Files flavored goodness to We Die Young. 

Back in the early 2000s I had a game I was running, Vacation in Vancouver. It took place in the 90s and in Vancouver (naturally).  These rules make me want to revive that game and see where I could take it now. 

The bottom line for me is that SURVIVE THIS!! We Die Young RPG is a great game.  The pdf is fantastic and I can't wait for my Kickstarter books.

Thursday, September 30, 2021

Review: Lands of Adventure (1983)

Land's of Adventure by Lee Gold
Lands of Adventure has always been something of a Holy Grail item for me.  I knew very little about the game and much less about the author and designer Lee Gold.  However, the cover art was striking and different from anything else I had seen before that my curiosity only grew and grew.  Later on, I began to learn who Lee Gold was and her contributions to the RPGs and geek/nerd culture in general, namely via Alarums and Excursions, that game went from a passing curiosity to an "it's on the list" item.

I am happy to report that not only is Alarums and Excursions still active, so is Lee Gold, having spoken with her briefly over the summer.  After that my "it's on the list" item moved to the top of my list.

Circumstances seem to hit me just right. I had seen a huge increase in my sales and a shrink-wrapped copy had been offered for sale.   I had the opportunity and I had the cash.  The price might have been higher than I would have normally spent, but any buyer's remorse I might have had was quickly evaporated once I got this boxed in the mail and opened it up.  I am not sure what my expectations were, it had been "on the list" for so long, but now I have it and I am really thrilled with it.

Lands of Adventure (1983)

Lands of Adventure by Lee Gold was published by Fantasy Games Unlimited in 1983.  The boxed set came with the Lands of Adventure Rule Book (32 pages) and a Culture Pack (28 pages) that cover Mythic Greece and Medieval England. The back cover of the rule book has a character sheet. example and the box came with one character sheet on heavy paper/light card stock that can be copied.  Which I did.

The box also included some "micro dice" two d20s (white and green) and two d6s (green, with pips). The d20s are numbered 0-9, 0-9, so good for d20s or d%s.  I say good for them, but in truth, they are too tiny for me to read anymore! So I am going to dig up some others to use.

dice with character sheet

The books show their wargaming roots with sections numbered as 1.0, 1.1 all the way to 28.1.  The Culture Pack follows suit, but the numbers here are tied to core rules.  So section 1.1 of the culture section refers also to section 1.1 of the core rules. The Culture Pack section are prefaced with a code letter, which I discuss below.

Note on the art.  The cover art for the box and the books is all done by Bill Willingham and it is some of the best art I have seen of his. I do believe it is one of the best covers for a game I have seen. Certainly, it was the best cover of the time. The book covers are no less impressive for their old-school black and white.

Bill Willingham art

Seriously, that medusa is 10x better than any medusa art I have seen in D&D.  The interior art is by Michael Kucharski. His art is good, though not at the level of the covers. Note. Both artists have websites and both artists have, since this book, gotten to be fantastic artists.  Both also did their own versions of Doctor Stange[BW, MK], so maybe I need to roll up a Doctor Strange-like character for this.

In all cases, the art fits well with the books and the content.

Core Rules

The rulebook begins with a word from the author.  Of note Gold mentions using The Palladium Book of Weapons & ArmourThrough Dungeons Deep: A Fantasy Gamers' Handbook, and encyclopedias of animals. 

Character creation is the big piece of the first book with 11 (yes Eleven!) character attribute traits, though only about half of those are random. The others are derived.  The pure random characteristics are Craft, Talent, Appearance, and Strength. Derived characteristics are Dexterity, Voice, Intelligence, Prudence, Agility, Constitution, and Charisma.  So more than D&D, but far less than DragonRaid. You can also determine Gender and Height.  

Typically the traits are 1-20 which makes it good for converting on a d20 roll or a d% roll. Alternately there is a point-buy system where you can distribute 110+2d10 points across all 11.  I'd likely stick to the derived ones and use the points to build the completely random ones.  In this way, it is not all that different to say WitchCraft. Instead of 110+2d10, maybe 45+1d10 or something for the purely random ones (range: 4-80) and derive the others as normal.

Other details include the Culture Technology Level and modification due to races other than the default human are given. 

Up next (1.1) is Piety.  Various actions are given that adjust this score either through pious or blasphemous actions. This aids in forms of magic.   

2.0 covers measuring Vitality. For the people that really enjoy complexity in their combat there three types of "hit points" in use in this game. They are Energy Points (EP), Body Points (BP), and Life Points (LP).  EPs are lost due to magic or extra actions, BPs cover injury, and LPs cover grievous injuries.  Body Points are increased by armor as described later in the armor section.

3.0 Introduces the Skill systems. The characteristics above determine skills, which are the meat of the game really. There are 10 skill categories with some specialist skills.   These include Communication, Knowledge, Magic, Manipulation, Miracle, Movement, Observation, Persuasion, Weapons (Melee), and Weapons (Missile).  Each has its own method of calculation. Skill checks are % and roll under.  A roll of 1 to 10 is considered a Maximum success and considered flawless.  A roll of 96 to 100 is a Fumble. 

Specialized skills are well, pretty much that.  But for every 10% increase in a Specialized skill, there is a +1% increase to the category. I have not seen that before.   Categories though are Hard, Normal, Easy, and by Weapon.  So improvement in say use of a sword by 10% your ability to shoot arrows increases by 1%.  There is a rough logic here. Categories determine how long it takes to learn a skill and how they can improve. 

The next sections cover all the skills and their specialties.   For example, in section 6.0 we learn there are four categories of Magic; Compulsions, Illusions, Enhancements, and Energy.  Section 8.0 Miracles is set up in a similar manner. 

Oh, oh it's Magic!

Section 12 covers our weapons and how to use them.  Section 13 covers defense.  Relating combat as skill is of course a feature of many games outside of the D&D world.  Section 14 covers equipment.

What's an old school game without a list of weapons?


Section 15 covers time.  1 Phase = 2 seconds, 1 round = 12 seconds (6 phases), and 1 minute = 5 rounds (30 phases).   Skill time is measured in phases and rounds.

Section 17 covers magic in more detail, where Section 6 just details magic as a skill.  There are no "spells" as in D&D per se (see below), but how much power it takes to perform certain example feats of magic.  It reminds me a bit of what we would much later get in White Wolf's Mage or Eden's WitchCraft.  In 17.9 some examples of "spells" built with the rules above are given.  Section 18 covers spellcasting.  Doing a Doctor Strange character is making more and more sense. Much like we will see later on in games like Mage, the four categories of magic can be combined in different permutations to make different spell effects. 

Section 19 covers all sorts of Daemons, Demons, and Gods. This is followed quickly Section 20 on Miracles which is given similar coverage that Spells received.  Section 21 gives us Thaumaturgists or mages with quasi-priestly powers. Section 22 likewise gives us Diabolists.   Miracles rely on the beings from Section 19 to work.   

Section 23 covers the basic stats for animals. Section 24 does the same for humanoids, 25 for Dragons, and 26 for types of undead.   None of these sections have the detail as one would see in a monster manual, the assumption being that you would create your own monsters or rely on the Culture Packs. 

Undead

We end with a very complete index.

The rules feel incomplete to be sure, but I am certain there is a playable game here.  I might be mentally filling in the blanks of what is missing with knowledge of other games and what they would do.

Culture Pack

The intent of the Culture Packs was to provide a "Game" world for the characters to play in.  While not specifically addressed, the assumption was I felt that these would be separate.  Separated by time as they are in the real world.  This is different than the take of Man, Myth & Magic which has all of the Mytho-Historical worlds existing together.  There is a bit higher level of scholarship in our two worlds than what is typically seen in say Man, Myth & Magic.

It is explicitly stated that there would be more Culture Packs, but sadly no others were made.  I could easily see Viking Age Northmen, Knights of Charlemagne, the Roman Empire, and Edo Period Japan.  In fact, given Ms. Gold's previous game, Land of the Rising Sun, Edo Japan seems like an easy choice. I might have to have a look as Land of the Rising Sun and see if I can divorce it enough from Chivalry & Sorcery roots to make a "Culture Pack" for it.  Gold would go on to write the GURPS Japan supplement.  Likewise, the Viking era also seems like a given the Vikings game she did for I.C.E. later on.

This Culture Pack covers Mythic Greece and Medieval England. With each getting half the book.

Layout-wise the two sections follow the same pattern and the pattern set up in the Core Rules. As mentioned the Section numbers match those of the Core book.  "C" is used for Mythic Greece (see below) and "M" for Medieval England.  So in the Core rules, 1.0 covers humans with 1.0b nonhumans (like Elves, Dwarves, Giants).  Section C1.0b covers centaurs, giants, and various nymphs. Section M1.0b cover faeries and picts.  

Mythic Greece is given the title "Children of the Gods," thus the "C" in the section numbering.  I approve, I used the same title (though without knowledge of this book) for my own coverage of Greek myths and Classical witches in Children of the Gods. This Culture Pack covers Ancient Greece before the Trojan War.  The rules here make subtle changes to the Core rules as well as some additions. The big feature here naturally is the inclusion of more gods, festivals, and other creatures. 

Children of the Gods

Medieval England moves the action North and about 2,000 years or so in the future, about the time of the Fall of the Western Roman Empire in England or 1070 CE.  Coverage is given for England of the time.  So one of my favorite topics, the confrontations of Christianity and the "Old Religion" of Celtic Paganism.  So tips are given for role-playing as well as various rule changes. The formula used here to build the Culture Packs is very effective.  Had this game been more successful I would have loved to have seen more. 

Medieval England

Interestingly enough, much like my own Children of the Gods did with her Mythic Greece, there are connections here between her Medieval England and my other Basic Witch book, The Craft of the Wise.  The connections are pretty obvious.  We were reading the same research at the time/from the time.  We both went into the coverage of Greek Myths by Robert Graves. For Medieval England, there are certainly a lot of material she could have used, but she also picked a few that were also on my list like the works of Margaret Murry ("The Witch-Cult in Western Europe") and poets like Kipling.  It makes me wonder how my own books might have been different if I had seen Lee Gold's interpretations first.  As suspected the Magic sections cover witches, familiars, and coven casting.  All of it is very much right out of Murray's books.  I have to admit I was a touch surprised not to see Frazer's "The Golden Bough" in her list of research.

English Dragons


Afterword

Lee Gold is still very active in producing Alarums and Excursions and she still plays Lands of Adventure with her group. I spoke to her over the summer and she is fantastic.

The game does have a "collected notes" feel to it as other reviewers have mentioned. That doesn't detract from a very fascinating, if involved game.  I am certain that with Gold as a Game Master it is all quite fluid and dynamic, first time GMs will be spending a lot of time looking up formulas and a lot of pre-game prep building monsters, NPCs and the like.

I paid quite a lot for this game in it's original shrink wrap and I have to say I am not disappointed.  It is such a fascinating snapshot of one designer's passion.  While this could be construed as a "vanity project" it is not overly so.  Lee Gold is obviously a great game designer.  The diamonds of this game though are still hidden under a lot of coal. 

I hope to spend some more time with it soon.

Unboxing Pictures

It's rare I get something from the 1980s still in shrink.  Let's take it in.

Lands of Adventure, still undiscovered.

Lands of Adventure, still undiscovered.

Tiny, tiny dice

Lands of Adventure books


Links

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Review: HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

HR1 Vikings
With the end of One Man's God on my mind, I wanted to make this week a little more special.  To that end I wanted to spend some more time with Norse Myths and Vikings.  So with on thing ending (almost) I have mental energy (or "Spell slots" as the kids say today) to do something a little newer.

I have long been a fan of the AD&D 2nd Ed. Historical References books.  I have used the Celts one over and over again with many different versions of D&D and I have been pleased with it.  The scholarship on these is a bit better than the Deities & Demigods, but I attribute this to a better budget and more space to explain what they were doing. 

Also, the focus was a little different.  The D&DG took myths and tried to fit them into the AD&D framework.  The Historical References took the myths and described how to play an AD&D game in that world.

It's Norse Week so let's start at the beginning with HR1 the Vikings Campaign Sourcebook.

HR1 Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (AD&D 2nd Edition)

For today's review, I am only going to consider the PDF version of this book from DriveThruRPG. I lost or sold back my original in one of my moves or collection downsize.  I will mention details from the physical book as I remember it, but my focus is on the PDF for the details.  In most cases the material is 100% the same, the difference coming from the fold-out map, which is separate pages in the pdf.

HR1: Vikings Campaign Sourcebook (1992), by David "Zeb" Cook.  Illustrations by Ned Dameron and cartography by David C. Sutherland III.  96 pages, black & white with full-color maps.

The first book of the Historical Reference series covers the Viking raiders of Scandinavia. It is not a separate game world per se, since it deals with Pagan Europe after the fall of Rome, but it is a fantastical Europe where dragons fill the seas, troll-blooded humans walk among us, and somewhere out there in the wilderness, a one-eyed man wanders the land.

Chapter 1: Introduction

This chapter covers the very basics, starting off with what people usually get wrong about the Vikings.  These guys are not Hägar the Horrible or even the interpretations of Wagner.  They do point out that "Vikings" are also not really a people, but a lifestyle that some people engaged in. 

This section also covers how to use this book, specifically how to use this book about Vikings and the history of their raids with the AD&D 2nd Rules.  We get into more specific details in the next chapters.

Chapter 2: A Mini-Course of Viking History

Starting with the raid at Lindisfarne in 793 CE the book covers a very basic history of the Northmen's lands, the lands they raided, and their culture and history.  The focus here though is through the lens of an AD&D game, not a historical introduction.  The book is clear on this. 

Details are given, with maybe extra focus on England and France (though they are not called that yet) but that is fine.  There is a very nice timeline running across the top of the pages of this chapter that is rather handy. The time period, roughly 800 to 1100 CE agrees with most of the scholarship on "Viking History" so that works fine for here as well. 

There is a nice list of settlements and cities the Vikings targeted. Not a full list, but it gives you an idea of how much of Europe, Northern Africa, and even parts of Asia the Vikings would roam.  

There is a page or so of suggested readings. Likely the best at the time.  The chapter does set you nicely to explore these ideas further.

Chapter 3: Of Characters and Combat

Here we get into game writing proper.  We start with what races you will find in a Viking-themed campaign.  Obviously, we are talking mostly humans here. Humans can gain a "Gift" something that makes them special such as "Rune Lore" or "Bad Luck" or even a Seer.  There is a new "race" the Troll-born. These are stronger than average humans due to troll-blood in their veins. They get a +1 to Strength, Constitution and Intelligence but a -1 to Wisdom and a -2 to Charisma. They have Infravision and are limited to 15th level in their classes. They are not born with Gifts.

Next, we cover the changes to the Character Classes from the PHB. Fighters on the whole tend to be unchanged as are Rangers and Thieves.  Classes not allowed are Clerics, Paladins, Druids, and Wizards, though specialty mages are allowed if they are Conjurers, Diviners, Enchanters, Illusionists, Necromancers.  While this could be a negative for some I like the idea of limiting classes for specific campaigns.  Two new sub-classes of the Warrior are added, the Berserker and the Runecaster.  Both do pretty much what you might suspect they do.  The berserker is actually rather cool and while the obvious roots here are the barbarian and berserker monster from AD&D 1, there is enough here to make it work and be interesting too. Runecasters know runes as detailed in the next chapter.

The "forbidden" classes can be played, if they are outsiders. 

Lip service is given to the detail that the Vikings were predominantly men.  Though new archaeological finds are casting some doubt that they were exclusively so.  This book does give some examples of how warrior women were known.  They emphasize that player characters are always exceptional. 

There is a section on names (including a list of names), homelands, and social class.

In the purist AD&D 2nd ed section, we get some new Proficiencies.

runes
Chapter 4: Rune Magic

This covers Rune Magic. An important feature of Viking Lore. What the runes are and how to use them in AD&D 2nd Ed terms are given.  A lot of these are minor magics, say of the 0-level or 1st-level spell use.  I personally don't recall them being over abused in games, but they are a really nice feature to be honest.

Chapter 5: ...And Monsters

Monsters are discussed here, starting with which existing monsters can be used from the AD&D 2nd Monstrous Compendium.   Following this some altered monsters are given.   For example, there is the Gengånger which is a zombie with some more details.  

Dwarves and Elves are given special consideration, as are trolls and giants. 

There is not however any "new" monsters in the AD&D 2nd Ed Monstrous Compendium format. We will get those in the Celts book, but that is next time.

The section is split with a "centerfold" map of Europe.

Vikings map of Europe

Chapter 6: Equipment and Treasure

Vikings were Vikings because of the treasure they sought.  They also had the best ships in Europe at this time. So let's spend some time with these.  

We start with a section on money. For the game's simplicity, these are reduced to a couple of systems.  Coins are usually categorized by make-up and weight.  There is some good material here really and something that most games should look into. 

Treasure covers the typical treasures found.  Also, treasure was a central piece of Viking lore; it was how chieftains paid their men, it was what they stole from others, and it was also how they were paid off NOT to steal.   Some space is given to Magic Items as well. This is an AD&D game after all.  Some "typical" magical treasure is discussed and some that are not found at all.  A few new items are also detailed. 

Chapter 7: The Viking Culture

This chapter gives us are biggest differences from a typical AD&D game.  For illustrative purposes, we follow a young Viking, Ivar Olafsson, in a year of his life.  Now I rather liked this because it gave me a character situated in his life and culture.   While it is not the most "gamble" material it is good background material. 

There is a section on Social Ranking and a little more on the role of Viking women.  I think after 6 seasons of watching Katheryn Winnick kick-ass as Lagertha in Vikings, this section will be read and cheerfully ignored. That is great, but this bit does talk about, and support, the image that Viking women had it better than their counterparts in the rest of Europe.

We also get into the sundries, quite literally; Food, drink, homes, farms, and trade. There is a section on religion with lots of nods towards the AD&D 2nd Ed Legends and Lore. 

Chapter 8: A Brief Gazetteer

AD&D 2nd Ed is celebrated not really for its advances in game design or rules, but rather the campaign worlds.  This book, and this section, in particular, is a thumbnail of why these celebrations are merited.  Or, as I call it, just give me a map! This section is more than a map and maybe not as much as the famed Mystara Gazetteers, but the relationship is not difficult to pick out.

This covers, rather briefly (as it says in the title), the lands the Vikings would roam to. And there are a lot of those! In addition to the lands of Europe, Africa, Asia, and yes even North America, we get the fantastic worlds of the Vikings.  If I had done this book this would have been Chapter 2 or 3 at the very least.  This chapter is all too brief in my mind. 

We get a longship design at the end and in the PDF what was the fold-out map.

--

So in truth a really fun resource.  The AD&D game material is there, but this book could be used with pretty much any version of D&D or even many other games.  3rd Edition/Pathfinder players might lament the lack of Prestige Classes, but the Rune MAgic section can be easily converted to a Feat system.  5th Edition Players would need to work the Berserkers into a Barbarian sub-class/sub-type, but that would be easy enough. 

It is not a perfect resource, but it is really close. I am really regretting selling off my physical copy now.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Review: DragonRaid

The DragonRaid RPG
I have been planning this review for a bit now, but upon hearing of the death of the creator, Dick Wulf, I am opting to move it up a bit. 

Full Disclosure: There is no way I can give this a complete review because I don't know enough about the source material.  I mean I know it, but not enough to for the level of play this learning game would require of me.

I have mentioned before that I have known about DragonRaid since at least the mid-80s. I was both amused and fascinated by it then.  When I learned more about it I was a little more impressed.

The Game

DragonRaid got a lot of grief in the gaming communities I was a part of.  I had some Christian gamer friends that thought it was a cheap attempt to capitalize on their faith and some even did not want to mix their D&D and belief.  As an Atheist, then and now, I thought it was interesting. As someone who was interested in psychology then and someone with degrees in it now I also thought it was an interesting way to learn something, in this case, Bible verses.  I always wanted to see the game for myself.   

One thing I have to keep in mind that this "game" is not really an RPG, but a teaching tool in the form of a role-playing game. 

The game's author and designer was Dick Wulf, MSW, LCSW, who is, as his degrees indicate, a licensed Social Worker and holds a Master's Degree in Social Work.  He had done a lot of work in psychotherapy and ministry. He also played D&D and Traveller. So it seems he actually likes and knows RPGs better than the guys who gave us Fantasy Wargaming!

Plus I have to admit the ads in Dragon Magazine always looked really interesting.  I mean seriously, that is an evil-looking dragon and should be stopped and those look like the brave warriors to do it. Even if they need some more armor*.  (*that is actually a point in the game! more later)

Ad for The DragonRaid RPG

A while back my oldest son and I saw this game at my FLGS and I told him all about it. He is also an Atheist (as everyone in my family is) and he wanted to get it so we could play the other, evil, side.  He wanted to do something with the dragons in the game (he loves dragons) and I of course wanted to bring witches into it (cause that is my raison d'être).   Plus this copy still had the cassette tape in it.  I mean that is just beyond cool really.  So yeah I grabbed it with every intention of having a bit of a laugh with it.

I might be a witch-obsessed Athiest, but I am also an educator and not really an asshole.

The truth of the matter is spending this past week with the game I just can't take a piss on it.  The author is just too earnest in his presentation of this game.  There is love here, and scholarship, and frankly good pedagogy behind the design.   I don't normally mix my professional education background with my game design work.  Yes, they can and they do mix.  But when I am writing a book on the Pagan witches for Old-School Essentials I am not trying to write a historical treatise on the pagan religions of Western Europe during the time of the Roman Empire.  I'll try to keep my facts in line, but I can't serve two masters. I have to write what is best for a game.

DragonRaid also doesn't serve two masters. It serves one and makes that work for both pedagogical reasons (to help young people understand Christianity and their Bible better) and game design reasons (to have a fun roleplaying experience). 

For this DragonRaid succeeds in a lot of ways.  For this, I simply can't do anything else but admire this game and its design.  So no playing dragons here, or me coming up with a witch class to fight the characters.  I might do that at home, but I am not going to be a jerk about it.

Besides look at everything, you get in this box! I mean seriously, this is some value.

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 1

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 2, Lightraider sheets

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 3, so many books!

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 4, counters

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 5 documentation

I even got the cassette tape! I don't have anything to play it on though.

The DragonRaid RPG Box contents 6, and honest to goodness cassette tape!

What do you get?

New Player Briefing
Red cover, letter-sized. 16 pages.
This is the first book all players need to read over.  This includes the LightRaiders (player characters) and the AdventureMaster (GM).  The background is really kind of fun.  The world of EdenAgain is like an idealized Earth meets Narnia.  There are humans, regular (OnceBorn), and the TwiceBorn. The TwiceBorn are the ones that follow the Maker and Overlord (thinly veiled versions of "God" and "Jesus").  There is a lot cool details on how Abaddon and Kakia, both described as dragons here, have tempted the world to evil.  

I rather like the idea of this book.  A brief 16 page (large font) booklet to get new players into the game.  It is something that is usually handled by the "What is an RPG?" and "Introduction" sections of other games.  There is cool parallelism between this book and some of the intro to playing material found in Red Box/Mentzer Basic D&D.  Makes a lot of sense since both red books cover similar ground and have the same goals.

The World depicted here is a bit simplistic, but that is also by design.  The players are supposed to explore it all together.

DragonRaid World


Rulebook
Blue cover, letter-sized, 24 pages

The Rule book covers the Basic rules for all players. 
It covers character creations (thankfully we also have the worksheet for that), how to use the StarLot and ShadowStones, Ability checks, and the various forms of combat and armor.  I can't help but feel there was also a bit of a wargamer in Dick Wulf.  

The division of the books into Red and Blue does give me solid B/X and BE Basic vibes.  I am sure that Dick Wulf was familiar with those and chose to emulate their feel even if "Basic" and "Expert" are not really a good way to describe his books.  More like "Novice" and "Basic."  But the idea still holds.

The Light Raider Test 
Orange cover, letter-sized, 44 pages
This is the first of our adventures for the LightRaiders and it is in fact set up as a first mission. It is introduced in the New Player Briefing/Red Book.  Here it is a full-blown adventure complete with player handouts and cue cards for verses. 
Players have to rescue a LightRaider, fight a giant (or drink him under the table), and fight some goblins.  It is noted that any LightRaider that dies goes to Paradise. 
This adventure is fairly straightforward to the point of almost being a railroad.  Well...not quite. I mean the player's options are limited and a lot relies on random rolls.  I suppose as a new LightRaider and AdventureMaster this makes things a little easier.  There is another reason for this. The adventures have certain academic goals or learning outcomes.  These are usually met via the design of the game and altering these would mean the designer could not really tell if the learning goals were being met. Great for a curriculum, not ideal for an adventure. 

Rescue of the Sacred Scrolls
Light Green, letter-sized, 78 pages with 28-page insert.
This is the second adventure and it is much more expansive. Here the LightRaiders must brave the castle of the dragon Thuella and rescue the captive LightRaider Zekion and recover the two parts of the Sacred Scrolls.  Along the way, they can meet a unicorn (a type of angel here) and battle orcs and cave spiders. 

These adventures, minus the quoting of scripture, would make ok D&D-style adventures. There is not much in the way of treasure and the goals really are very different.  DragonRaid players learn through these the power their LightRaiders have via faith (and therefore themselves).  

At this point though it is very, very obvious who this game is marketed to.  All of the art is whiter than the Sound of Music. You would think that there would at least be a little color.  Note: There is one darker-skinned character figure in the cardboard character cutouts.  Still though. Pretty much mayo sandwiches on white bread with milk here.

DragonRaid Book covers


Adventure Master Manual
Green cover, letter-sized, three-hole-punched for binder, 124 pages

Pretty much what it says on the cover. This is Adventure Master's book. Unlike all the other books, this one is looseleaf and three-hole-punched.  This is likely because a.) the designer wanted the Adventure Master to have a place to insert their own notes (a good idea) and b.) a lot of educational materials in the late 70s and early 80s were produced this way.  Also, there is the notion that a lot of Bible study material came published like this.  How do I know?  Back when I was working my way through college I was a night janitor at a Southern Baptist church.  If I had not already been an Atheist then those people would have convinced me.   Sadly the box, while large and sturdy, is not big enough to put a three-ring binder inside.  

Some material is by necessity repeated here.  We get more background on the OnceBorn and the other creatures populating this world that are not LightRaiders.  The OnceBorn are slaves to the DragonLords.  They might live like kings but they are slaves according to the rules.  They may seem happy but they are not we are told.  Of course no matter how evil an OnceBorn might be we have to remember that they deserve redemption; so killing them is out of the question.  

This book also includes another adventure, "Adventure as the Castle of the Falls." This is to give the Adventure Master some practice having players using the WordRunes.  Like all good Game Master books this has a section on becoming a better Adventure Master.  Nothing gamers have not seen before, but good advice all the same for the starting Adventure Master.It is good the box comes with so many adventures since there is not really much in the way of guidance on how to create adventures.  The caveat I will toss out is there are a lot of adventures that can be bought from their publisher.  Another caveat is that this is still more adventures than I am ever likely to run or play with this game. 

There are some Difficulty level charts that are keyed to the various abilities the LightRaiders have. Nice, but not portable to other games really. There are some good ideas on various dragon attacks, but again they central to the mythos and mechanics of this game.  Doing anything else with them would require a lot of work. 

Lightraider Handbook
Yellow cover, spiral-bound, digest-sized, 140 pages.

Now this one is a very neat product.  It has all the rules and even some basics on the creatures encountered, but it is designed for the players to use at the table. It is spiral-bound so it lays flat at the table.  I know the costs are prohibitive, but I do wish more companies would do this.  OSRIC would be a fine choice for this to be honest.  In fact I made my own spiral-bound copy of OSE a while back for this exact same reason.

Spiral bound player's books


This book also contains all of the Word Runes the players will need.   The creature backgrounds (but no stats) are also a nice touch.  I guess that any D&D player, even if new, is going to come to the table with ideas of what a dragon, goblin, troll or orc are.  DragonRaid has slightly different versions of these.  Shorthand if it is not human or a normal (or talking) animal, it is evil.  Tieflings? No way! Elves are even evil here. Well. Maybe not evil, but certainly surrounded by evil beings, and to reclusive to do anything about the evil around them. 

DragonRaid Player's Guide


Audio Cassette Tape
Thankfully you can go to the official Lightraider Academy website to get the audio files from the tape. 

Two Dice
D10 (StarLot)  and a d8 (Shadow Stone).
I kinda like that they give each die a bit of character.  The clear d10 is your StarLot and it is the one you will use for most rolls.  The darker d8, the Shadow Stone< is the one the forces you are fighting will use.  There is an obvious bias here towards the forces of good. 

History of the StarLots


Additionally, the box contains:
  • Character Sheets
  • Character worksheets (I used a spreadsheet for mine)  
  • A Correction sheet
  • Letter from Dick Wulf, MSW
  • Registration Letter
  • Counters (Heroes, Dark Creatures, NPCs)
  • Battle Grid (x2)
  • Ad for “Spiritual Warfare Posters”

This company is all in on this game and I have to admit I totally admire them for it. 

Final Thoughts

As I discussed back in the Character Creation challenge, a lot of the very random rolls you make can really help define who your character is. That is great, but it also confines your character in certain ways.  There are ways to increase abilities you want over ones you don't want, but this game like many others, has you play to your strengths.  Sure in the early 80s people were fine to have a character only defined by the numbers on the sheet; today?  Not so much.  

I will admit that I never felt "talked down to" as a gamer while reading this.  Yes, it is designed for someone with far less experience than myself or my readers, but all the same, the advice in the game always came across as helpful and never condescending. 

Also, I never felt "called out" as an Atheist here.  Sure by the game's standards I am one of the DragonSlaves and even though I consider my life to be good, great even, it is not truly so.   Ok. Whatever.  I am also not as attractive as an elf, strong as an orc, or interesting like a tiefling.   Though my lack of experience with Bible verses and my complete lack of desire to ever memorize any will limit my involvement with this game.  Likely to just this review.

Fighting a Dragon in DragonRaid
The quality of the materials is top-notch.  I am not sure which "printing" I have, but no dates are past 1984 on my books and it still has the cassette tape.   I did notice when doing some research that my box did not have a copy of the purple cover "The Moon Bridge Raid" nor did it have the stickers.  Maybe because I didn't buy it directly from the publisher? Looks like that the Moon Bridge Raid is in later editions/printings and these also included a CD.  So I am really rocking it old-school!

Note: A little digging online tells me there was a newer printing with 1998 and 1999 dates on the books.  Likely this is the printing that had the CD.

Digging deeper EdenAgain seems to be a planet that humans crash-landed on.  Looking at the art one assumes it was only white people on the ship. They had a copy of the Bible on their spaceship.   So is this one a post-apocalypse game?  Could characters from my Star Trek: BlackStar or Star Trek: Mercy games find their way to EdenAgain?  I mean that is not to different than the Star Trek Discovery Season 2 episode "New Eden."  Except the people of New Eden, aka Terralysium, combined all of Earth's faiths including Christianity, Hindu, Judaism, Bahá'í, and Wicca into one.   Not very much in line with what DragonRaid would have wanted.  Discovery Season 2 was fairly heavy with religious symbolism. 

One thing implicit in the game is that all other creatures except for humans do not have souls and can't be saved.  I did not get a clear read on animals and talking ones in particular though I know the rules are in there somewhere.  So ALL creatures would be considered evil; in fact the manifestation of sins.  That giant destroying a village? Evil. Kill it! That dragon eating all the maidens in the country? Evil. Kill it!  That orc sitting on a rock picking his nose? Evil. Kill it! Sleeping baby troll? Evil. Kill it! Get the idea?  There are no shades of grey here.  A human OnceBorn in charge of a child slavery ring is not to be killed.  The goblin that did nothing else but let you know about it so it can be stopped has to be killed.   That goblin isn't a real living creature but sin-made flesh.  Which is kind of cool if you think about it, but also a little too conservative for my tastes.   Combat is physical and is lethal. Combat can also be spiritual.  

One facet of this game that can't be ignored is the production value.  While the art has not aged as well it is still objectively good.  The layout is clean and easy to read.  The material is grouped together well.  The redundant text isn't really redundant at all since this is designed to teach.  The box is sturdy as hell, and mine is still in fantastic shape.  No idea about the cassette tape, but everything else in the box is top-notch.  A spiral rules guide for the game table is something that makes so much sense other companies should have been doing it (I know...cost).   

While character creation can be a chore, the core rules are pretty simple.  Percentile rolls vs some cross-referenced charts based on abilities.  Roll high.  With players using the d10s, sorry, StarLots and the bad guys using the ShadowStones (d8) advantage always goes to the LightRaiders. 

In the end, I am glad I purchased this game even if it took me forever to do anything with it.  I am never likely to play it or run it, and while there are some great ideas here I am also not likely to mine it for any.  I have to give the late Dick Wulf major credit.  He had a vision and a love for this game and it shows on every page.

Links

Here are some collected links if you want to learn more about this game.

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

B/X Boxing Match: OSE-Advance Fantasy vs. Swords & Wizardry

Time for another round of Boxing Match. Unlike the last Boxing Match of OSE vs. BX RPG where I was comparing more similar systems.  This time I am going with the current big heavyweights in the OSR.  These games also feature somewhat different systems and different rules assumptions.


To start off both games, Old School Essentials and Swords & Wizardry allow you to play the same sorts of games.  You can even assume that an adventure, or supplement, or whatever written for D&D (any Pre-1997 version) can be used with either of these two games with about equal amounts of conversion needed.  In my mind, the conversion is so negligible that I am not going to factor that at all in my comparisons.

Also in terms of the game that these two are drawn from, both games live in a strange liminal space between D&D and AD&D.  That is at least if we are considering OSE Advanced Fantasy.  OSE builds on a base of B/X era D&D and adds some elements of AD&D.   Swords & Wizardry starts with a base of OD&D and what that would become in AD&D but keeps the rule abstraction at the B/X level.

Looking at the total number of pages is not likely to be very helpful here.  Both games have different levels of modularity baked in so adding or subtracting things is very easy for both.

Format

Both sets split their rules up into various books. Overtly there are Player books and Gamemaster books.  Among the player books are also books dedicated to spells and magic.  OSE books are in hardcover format, S&W are soft covers.   There are fewer pages to the S&W books overall, but considering their smaller, sans-serif font I feel that content-wise they are mostly the same. 

Swords & Wizardry nudges ahead in one way. Their set includes a set of seven polyhedral dice. The addition of a GM's/Referee Screen that fits into the box makes it stand out.   

The round goes to Swords & Wizardry.

Swords & Wizardry

Classes

Just going with "out of the boxes" classes these two games compare well in terms of "base" classes. 

In the Swords & Wizardry Player's Book, we have the following: Assassin, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Magic-user, Monk, Paladin, Ranger, and Thief.  Classes have a maximum of 20th level.

In the OSE-Advanced book, we get: Acrobat, Assassin, Barbarian, Bard, Cleric, Druid, Fighter, Illusionist, Knight, Magic-user, Paladin, Ranger, and Thief.
There are also the "race as class" variants of: Drow, Duergar, Swarf, Elf, Gnome, Half-elf, Halfling, Half-orc, and Svirfneblin.  The level maximum is 14 for humans and variable for others.

S&W has Dwarves, Elves, Halflings, and Humans for races.  OSE has all the above-mentioned race-as-classes as races for other classes as well. 

The clear winner of this round is OSE-Advanced, but in truth, S&W is doing exactly what they set out to do leaving these extra classes and races for others to define. 

Old School Essentials

Monsters

Oh, I do love my monsters.  All the usual suspects are here with both cleaving very close to their spiritual god-parents. So lots of overlap with the Monster Manual for example.  Part by design, part by nature of the d20 SRD.

By the numbers, Swords & Wizardry Monsters and Moar Monsters have 56 and 62 monsters (118 total) covering 44 and 24 pages respectively. 

Old School Essentials features 205 monsters over 65 pages for their "Basic" book and 327 monsters over 107 pages for their "Advanced" book.

So for these sets, the round goes to OSE, but keep in mind that Swords & Wizardry Monstrosities and Tome of Horrors bring their monster totals to over 1,400. 

The round goes to OSE. 

Game Play

Honestly, the differences here are so trivial. Combat might be faster in S&W, but that can be open to debate.  The modularity of OSE makes it a great game to have at the table where everything is easy to find and the facing page layout makes everything easy to read at a glance. 

You can use just about every classical resource or adventure with either with no issues.

Both games come with two separate adventures. I reviewed the OSE ones here

Final Round

So. Who is the winner here?  

We are. That is who.  We live in a time of unparalleled choice and access.  Determining which of these games is going to be splitting hairs at best and even then there are still a dozen or so others that fill their same niche.  Not to mention all the original material still out there. 

Boxed sets


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Review: Witch+Craft, a 5e Crafting Supplemental

Are you a fan of Studio Ghibli movies?  Well, I am and the authors of Witch+Craft, a 5e crafting supplemental are as well. And this book proudly and openly displays that love.  But I am getting a little ahead of myself. 

I backed this project as a Kickstarter a while back and it came with the book, PDFs, and all sorts of great add-ons like wallpapers and spell and magic-item cards (PDFs).

So I am going to be reviewing the hardcover book and the PDFs from the Kickstarter.  I am uncertain if the PDFs from DriveThruRPG are 100% the same or not. 

You can purchase the hardcover from the publisher's website and the PDFs from DriveThruRPG or also from the publisher.

Witch+Craft, a 5e Crafting Supplemental

Witch+Craft is a full-color hardcover 214-page book.  The theme of the book is decidedly high magic, and a style of high magic infuses all aspects of the lives of the people of this particular vision of the 5e fantasy universe.  This book is exactly the opposite of "grimdark," wherein magic is everywhere and it is a tool to be used to make things better.   I state this upfront because that is the pervasive philosophy of the book.  It works, and it is a great one to have.  But it will have to fit your style of gaming and campaigns.  I knew this on the onset, and lets be honest, the cover gives this away, but if this is not your kind of game there is not a lot (there is some!) that this book can give you.  

That all being said this book is a fantastic resource for anyone that has ever said "can I use magic to make BLANK?" Where BLANK is anything and everything from clothes that clean themselves, to self-sorting spell components, to fire that heats but won't burn, to well...half a thousand things I have heard from my kids in their 5e games.

While I may have started this review with who this book is not for, who it absolutely IS for is anyone that has ever played an Artificer in 5e or an Alchemist in Pathfinder 2e.

What this book doesn't have, despite the name, is a Witch class.  Ah well. 

Witch+Craft table of contents

Introduction

We get the basics of this book. In bold letters right in the first line of the first paragraph we get : 

This book is about making things.

You have to appreciate this. Some RPG books are never quite as clear as to what they are about. This book is also about rounding out your character with Trade Classes.  Though Trade Professions would likely be a better term. You can take these along with your Fighter, Wizard, or whatever levels. I will get into more details in a bit.

Chapter 1: Domestic Magic

Part 1 of this chapter covers the basics of crafting. The six-step process is listed and then detailed. 

  1. Blueprint. You propose a project.
  2. Challenges. The GM imposes a Difficulty Level based on the specifications of the project. They will also list the base materials required to make the crafting attempt at all. (7 levels total)
  3. Preparation. You may prepare for the project in order to improve your chances of success.
  4. Craft Action. You begin the project, rolling to qualify your success.
  5. Fine-tuning. After the rolls are in, you may choose to expend bonuses to alleviate any potential flaws.
  6. Appraising. When all is said and done, the item is created, and its features and flaws known.

The rules here a pretty simple and even elegant in their own ways.  It does add to the 5e system as a new sub-system.  So while old schoolers will not even blink an eye it does feel "added on."  Now this is not a bad thing.  It feels like the best system for detailed craftwork, as opposed to say "just roll a d20 and beat this DC."

Part 2 deals with Trade Class basics.  This is just a tracking system on how you get better with crafting.  Class is kind of a misnomer here since it is not a D&D Class.  Trade Profession might have been a better choice.  These professions/classes can progress through Tiers (not levels) and have different kinds of media they work in; crystals, drafting, living arts, metals, textiles, and wood.

Part 3 covers Techniques. Or how you can do things.  This also covers tools.  They are presented like feats but are attached to the Tiers. For example "Green Thumb" does more or less what you think it does.  The prereq is "Living Arts or Wood."  While presented like a feat, it does not have any "combat" advantages.  Certainly lots of role-playing advantages.

Part 4 is Picking Your Trade Class.  Here are the actual classes/professions. They are based around the media above.  So someone that works with crystals could be Glass Blower or a Mason or a Jeweler. The builds cover what other materials you can work with, what tools you have, and starting techniques.  Each media get three example builds.

Chapter 2: Cape Verdigris

Cape Verdigris is a setting where all of this crafting and domestic magic can be seen in use. It lists places of interest, guilds, shops, and many major NPCs. It is designed to be added to pretty much any campaign world. 

Chapter 3: A House of Plenty

This is a 40-page complete adventure of a different sort.  The goal here is to restore an old manor house to it's former glory using the crafting skills they have learned in this book.  So in TV shows, you are trading Sci-Fi or Shudder for HGTV. There is something interesting here and I really admire the authors' choices here.  

Chapter 4: Spells

This chapter covers 12 new spells to use in conjunction with the rules.  

Witch+Craft tspells


Chapter 5: Familiars

Also what it says on the cover, this introduces 10 new familiars. Many are fey, others are animals. Greater familiars are also presented here. If you wanted a soot familiar like the ones in "My Neighbor Totoro" or "Spirited Away" then this chapter has you covered.

Witch+Craft

Chapter 6: Items

Not just magic items but a whole bunch of mundane and domestic magic items as well.  The blanket of napping is an easy favorite. 

Witch+Craft items

Appendices

Here we get a collection of various stats. 

Appendix I. The NPCs from Chapters 2 and 3 get their writeups here. Why not with the chapters? Easy, in the chapters, you are supposed to be focused on who these people are how you interact with them, NOT what their combat stats are. 

Appendix II covers unusual trades like healers and wandmakers.

Appendix III has various boons and flaws of the items crafted. These can be minor, major or magical/dangerous for boons and flaws respectively. 

Appendix IV is a list of crafting obstacles.

Appendix V cover crafted treasures

Appendix VI is Awakened Objects. So lots of monster stats here.

Appendix VII covers the stats of various objects; HP and AC.

There is a very attractive character sheet in back. The next few pages cover all the designers and artists that helped make this book possible.  There is also a list of Kickstarter contributors. Sadly there are a few typos here with some names cut off, some listed more than once.  Mine isn't even listed at all. 

There is also an index and the OGL statement.

The book really fantastic and joy to look at.  The art is great, the layout is wonderful and very easy on the eyes.

The audience for this book is a little slim.  There is nothing in this book really that would help in combat, defeating the next big bad (unless he challenges you to a bake-off) or any of the things that people typically associate with D&D.  This is much more of a narrative presentation with a lot of role-playing potential.  

One of it's strengths though design-wise is that since the crafting system is not inherently tied to D&D5 is can be lifted out and added to other games with only minor tweaking.  For example, Chapters 1 to 3 could be lifted out and added to something like Blue Rose AGE edition with a little work.  

I would like to recommend this to Old-School gamers. I could something like this working well with a game like Old-school Essentials or The Hero's Journey. But even those games tend to be combat-heavy at times and really don't have much in the way of the need for various crafting. Not to say that some groups or players wouldn't, it's just not universal.

This book is best for the younger D&D 5 player that got into D&D after a steady diet of Minecraft and the ones that loved crafting items in MMORPGs. It is also great for any DM that wants a better handle on making items of any sort.

Witch+Craft