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Dolmenwood Calendar
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/13/2019 05:01:24

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This humble pdf clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover/editorial, leaving us with 12 pages, so let’s take a look!

So, know what can suck if you’re as anal-retentive as I am? Tracking lunar cycles in your game. For rituals. For lycanthropy. Etc. It just sucks. It takes time and effort and while it’s not insurmountable in any way, this handy game aid does it: It lists the names for the days (Colly, Chime, Hayme, Moot, Frisk, Eggfast, Sunning), listed like, well…a calendar. Where applicable, holy feasts and saint’s days are noted, and new moons and full moons are indicated by handy icons. Month-names are provided as well, and really cool: Every day after the 28th of the respective month gets its unique moniker. It’s a small thing, but I absolutely love it.

Now, this is obviously for Dolmenwood, but this is useful beyond that: There is enough room in each day to put down a note; on the right-hand side of the landscape layout, we have space to put down notes. Even if you don’t plan on running Dolmenwood, this is useful – replace day/month names etc., and you still have the calendar that helps tracking the moon phases. Oh, and this is FREE! A free game aid that takes something annoying off my hands? What’s not to love! 5 stars + seal of approval!

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Dolmenwood Calendar
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B/X Essentials: Core Rules
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:28

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

The Core Rules weighs in at 34 pages and gets to the very heart of the B/X Essentials line. The essential Essentials as it were. It covers Ability scores in general, sequences of play and all the basic rules needed. Combat is covered separately. Magic also gets a bit of coverage here in general terms and including how spells can be researched and magic items made. The rules have been "cleaned up" from their obvious predecessors. Focus is on readability and playability here. In fact all the entries under the basic rules are alphabetical, so finding something say like Movement, is easy. In the original rules it took a bit of digging to actually figure out how much a character moves. This was vastly improved in later editions of the game, but here it is very succinctly spelled out. Other rules are equally made clear. Since the "Basic" and "Expert" rules are combined here there is an economy of word usage here. As much as I love my Basic and Expert games, sometimes you need to consult both books when a situation comes up.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Core Rules
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B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:24

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

The Classes and Equipment book comes in at 44 pages. It begins naturally enough with character creation. Some details, such as Ability scores, are detailed here, but also give a call back to the Core Rules book. Still, though everything is here to make a character. For practice, I made a 7th level Cleric just using this book. It went extremely fast and very little need to flip pages back and forth. I just needed to use the Spells book to pick out spells. The modular design of the B/XE system extends to this book as well. Each class begins on an even-numbered page and extends to the next odd-numbered page. You can then hold the book flat, put it up two-pages at a time on your screen, and read everything you need in a glance. I really appreciate this level of attention paid. Many books do not do this and in fact, look like they were just run off on Word's PDF converter. There is more attention put into the layout here than in most products and to me, that is what sets this above the others. The classes represented here are the 7 classics; Cleric, Fighter, Magic-User, Thief and the three demi-humans, Dwarf, Elf, and Halfling. True to B/X these are "race as class" classes. Equipment, money and of course weapons are covered in the next half of the book.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Classes and Equipment
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B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:19

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

Cleric and Magic-User Spells would have been my favorite book if B/XE had come out in the 80s. Right now it also has my favorite cover from the entire series. Seriously, I love it. The book itself has 34 pages and covers all the Cleric and Magic-User/Elf spells in the game. All the usual suspects are here. Again when making my recent Cleric I used this book. The modularity again is a huge boon for this book and game. Adding a new class, like the proposed Druid and Illusionists? Add a new book easy!

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
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B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:13

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

At 48 pages this is one of the two larger books in the series. This book deals with adventuring and what sort of things you can find on those adventures. So there are traps, monster tables, and all the treasure types and magical treasure. Again we see where combining the Basic and Expert rules gives you a much better idea of what is going on in these "dungeons". This is also my second favorite cover of the line.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Adventures and Treasures
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B/X Essentials: Monsters
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:45:03

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

Ah, now this is a book I would have loved back in 81. Also coming in at 48 pages this book is about monsters and nothing else. Stat blocks are concise and there is none of the bloat in the descriptions that appear in later editions (ok to be fair that bloat was demanded by players). The book is fantastic with my only reservation in I wish it had been illustrated more. But even that is fine. I can easily see a "Monsters 2" and "Monsters 3" sometime in the future for this line.

In truth, I can't say enough good about this. Is it 100% brand new material? No, but that was also never the design goal. The books do exactly what they say they are going to do. If I were starting with a new group using B/X-flavor D&D I would be hard-pressed to come up with a reason NOT to use these books.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Monsters
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B/X Essentials: Demihumans of Dolmenwood
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:44:52

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

B/X Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

This free product is only 8 pages long and is only in PDF. It is the only genre and world-specific book in the line covering the Dolmenwood, the shared setting used by Necrotic Gnome. This book includes two new races, the Fairy Elf and the Woodgrue, both fairy races of the Dolmenwood. There is also a listing of some Fae lords and ladies.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Demihumans of Dolmenwood
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Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
by Timothy B. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 05/07/2019 13:44:46

Original review appears here: http://theotherside.timsbrannan.com/2019/05/review-bx-essentials.html

Old-School Essentials is a redesign of the classic "Basic/Expert" rules using OGC sources. The books are all digest-sized, 6" x 9" format. All of the books feature fantastic full-color covers from artist Andrew Walter and color accented interiors; limited to mostly pale green. A moment about these covers. They remind me of a surreal 70s version of Lord of the Rings meets Elric; easily some of my most favorite covers of in all of the Old-School movement. All the books are extremely modular. This was a design goal by Norman and it pays off. Everything is easy to find. Sections usually take up a page or multiple full pages. If you were so inclined you could cut up your books (!) or print out the PDFs and reorganize them as you see fit. Really at this point, the only thing that could make these books easier to use is having all the content in a spiral-bound volume so it can lay flat at your table.

Old School Essentials expands on these rules and reorganizes them some more. There is a Basic Rules that takes place of the Core book and then a Genre book that covers classes and other "D&D" like topics. I imagine that different genre books will have other rules and classes.

Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules This free 56-page book covers all the basics of the OSE line. Picking it up you can see the stylistic changes from B/XE to OSE. Also this book covers just about everything you need to play right now. It includes the four human classes, some rules, some spells, some monsters, and treasure. Enough to give you a taste of what OSE will be like. It has the same modular design as B/XE so finding things is simple, leaving more time for play. There is no interior art in this free version, but that hardly detracts from it.

I am really looking forward to seeing OSE out. But until then I am going to enjoy playing with B/XE!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
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Wormskin Issue 5
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/23/2019 04:12:42

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Wormskin-zine clocks in at 54 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page inside of back cover, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 48 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

All right, so there is a general article that fans of Dolmenwood will not want to miss in this issue, namely one that details hexcrawling through Dolmenwood. While the basic OSR-rules do cover these aspects, the book smoothly codifies a rules skeleton that allows for methodical and fun means to structure the treks through the wilderness. These are btw. not just useful for OSR-games – modern games tend to be relatively silent regarding hexcrawling procedures, and this supplement’s rules make that simple: You choose an action, check random events, and then resolve what happens. Actions are tightly codified, Visibility is noted, and the pdf also sports a whole array of tables – random events, locations, encounters, spoors, weather (by season), etc.; mishaps get a full-page mishap array. This article is very smooth in its elegance.

The book also has a new monsters section, one that oozes the attention to detail we’ve come to expect from Wormskin’s monsters – i.e. we get stats, lore, traits to customize individual monsters so they don’t all look and behave alike, and the entries sport notes on sample encounters and lairs of the respective critters. This time around, we are introduced to the Boggins, things with gangly limbs and matted, sea-weed like hair, whose bodies dissolve upon death, hinting at the eldritch origin of these deadly lakeside/marsh predators…who do seem to like to abduct folks. On the witch-y side of things, the bramblings are thickets of thorns and spines, animated by fell magics. Most interesting, at least to me, would be Flammbryggard (written by Andrew Walker), spirits of weary fighting men, clad in bodies of courageous soldiers of metal, with hearth-like chests, these boisterous beings can make for rowdy, but also helpful beings…provided they are not beset by the incorporeal obscurant mope, depressing spirits that like bringing them down. These guys are btw. lavishly-illustrated in a full-color artwork. The final creature-entry actually depicts one of the movers and shakers of Dolmenwood – a rank-and-file Drune.

The Drune, obviously, are the secretive and mysterious arcane spellcasters, the masters of the woods – what, in installments so far, sounded like a patriarchal druid order. Well, this installment of Dolmenwood has a massive article that unveils the secretive origins, hierarchy and goals of the Drune. These notes are explicitly noted to be deep lore, not easily unveiled by the PCs, and as such, I will refrain from commenting or explaining this article. However, it should be noted that my preconceptions about the Drune? You know, my theories about how they operate and their goals, about their nature? They turned out to be dead wrong – the Drune actually managed to surprise jaded old me. That should tell you something.

Anyhow, this ‘zine also depicts 7 new hexes in Dolmenwood, which tie in with another major mover and shaker in the region, but in order to discuss this section, I need to go into serious SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . Okay, only referees around? Great! So, the region depicted in the hexes is known as “Hag’s Addle” – the banks of the river Hameth, trickling towards Lake Longmere, is now a marshy and rather desolate place, but it wasn’t always – at one point, it was the crown jewel and the wondrous playing ground of fairy royalty, but so did the ruin of the region spring from this source. Jealousy bred contempt, and when interest in the region waned, a bored part of fairy royalty destroyed this region, made it fall into ruin and decay…but when the rightful mistress, known as the Queen of Blackbirds, returned, the despoiler was duly punished in the capricious and cruel manner of fairykind: Transformed into a hag that would forever be adjacent to an open portal to the Otherwold of Fairy, but never to pass, her body a mirror image of the decay she so seemed to enjoy. This is the legendary hag – and dealing with her is covered in its own article (co-written by Matthew Schmeer), which includes write-ups for her array of magical tools, as well as detailed guidelines for her erratic behavior, and for making non-combative contact with the exceedingly mighty crone.

As an aside – her hut is mobile, and indeed, the mythological resonance does hearken back to Baba Yaga and Grimm’s various wicked witches, but none of these thematic similarities are simple pastes: the hut levitates, for example; her willow switch may not deal much damage, but allows for a ridiculous number of attacks. If you are familiar with the classic, rather dark fairy tales, you’ll recognize the nods, but at the same time, marvel at the twists, be grateful for the respective components not being simply quoted, as is so often seen.

But I digress – in the hexes of the Hag’s Addle, we have a callback to the Atacorn Farthigny; the aforementioned Boggins creatures loom and wait to abduct strangler, smearing strange muck over the faces of mortals – this makes it possible to breathe underwater and toil in the sub-aquatic mines hidden away in the depths of the murky waters at the hands of these strange beings, mirroring their erstwhile enslavement to a horrible sorcerer (vivimancer?). Speaking of vivimancer – there is one of these fellows in the region, and his write-up does come with a spell that is interesting – it allows for the splitting of hybrid beings, like half-elfs, into two beings – a human and an elf, in this example. Something of a ritual, and dangerous, it’s not a spell you’ll cast often, but it’s interesting. The vivimancer has an issue, btw. – his spell kinda botched, and now, his skeleton, his viscera and his skin all are individual entities – his nerves and organs are pretty much in horrible pain, while his skin has taken on a psychotic streak. This is an adventure hook that wrote itself. Not a fan of his unique magic item, though – he has a bell called chime of incontinence, which does exactly what you’d think it does. I am generally not a fan of denigrating/humiliating PCs for things they did not deserve/provoke by their greed, so yeah, AoO soiling yourself is not high on my “good idea” list.

Speaking of which: As a whole, I was not as blown away by the hexes herein, as there are two that have things of the quality “better not enter here” – there is a monument that generates a sympathetic resonance that wrecks the ability to sleep and desire to walk away, becoming worse towards the center. The background story is awesome, but the mechanics are not, easily having a chance of TPKing travelers, if the undead don’t do the job on their own. Cordoning this off seems like it’d be in the interest of plenty of Dolmenwood’s factions, and thus, the presence of this darkened monolith struck me as odd, particularly since the Drune, narrative-wise, know about it. Anyhow, there is another hex, which contains one pet-peeve of mine – a way to extract targets from history. sigh I am very particular when it comes to time travel, and if you don’t mind, then great – no issue for you. Personally, I really hated the handwave-y implementation of the time hole here. To me, it makes no sense and genuinely represents the lowest point of all Dolmenwood hexes so far– I’m a Primer-guy. On the plus side, a mysterious ritualistic marble podium, and the tower of Lady Frost-Dusk-Shadow? Heck yeah, these ooze the style I’m accustomed to see from Dolmenwood!

Conclusion: Editing and formatting re very good on a formal and rules-language level, I only noticed very few glitches, and these very missed italicizations in non-combat contexts. Layout adheres to a one-column standard with nuance color-highlights and a blend of b/w and full-color artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and yep, I have the PoD softcover, and it’s sure as heck worth getting.

Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk, with contributions by Andrew Walker and Matthew Schmeer, continue to deliver – this installment of Wormskin is easily the most occult and foreboding of the installments so far; it hearkens closest to LotFP-ish aesthetics in the good ways…and, in the instance of two hexes, unfortunately also in a bad way. Don’t get me wrong – this is still a very good, evocative ‘zine, one brimming with creativity and inspiring tidbits that put many publications of twice that size to shame. But compared with the series of absolutely mind-bogglingly cool installments so far, it feels a bit more one-note on the bleaker side of things, with less of the STRANGENESS of Dolmenwood, and more touches of LotFP-ish weird tropes seeping into the supplement. This is per se not bad, but it makes a few of the environments feel less special, less distinct from LotFP’s offerings. These are subdued (and don’t extend to future installments), but I couldn’t help but consider this to be one of the weaker installments in the excellent magazine’s run so far – it’s still very good, but not as genius as the ones so far. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 4.5 stars, rounded down.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 5
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From the Vats
by Adamo D. c. M. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/15/2019 07:47:43

Another great release, with added bonanza from Ben Laurence. Must have if you're running a campaign with Vivimancers.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
From the Vats
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B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 04/15/2019 05:30:17

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the B/X-Essentials-series 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 back cover, leaving us with 30 pages of content, formatted in old-school A5 (6’’ by 9’’), so let’s take a look!

This review was moved up in my reviewing-queue due to me receiving a print copy of the book.

So, after the extremely impressive reorganization of the B/X-rules Gavin Norman provided in the first two installments of the series, where we got perhaps the best, most sensible organization of the rules in its extremely hackable presentation, we now dive into the book that covers probably one of the most divisive components of any OSR-game. Spells.

Some prefer long-form spells; some prefer none at all; some systems have very specific aesthetics…and this book, following the traditions of the previous tomes, focuses on a faithful rendition of the original Basic and Expert rules for spells. The pdf is clear and upfront in which ways it carefully modifies some of the spells herein, and it does so, universally, I might add, for the betterment of the content within.

The first aspect is one that the BIG systems should also consider; it’s simple and smart. It separates different mechanical aspects of a spell by bullet points. No more glossing over or missing that last line that notes yet another aspect. Furthermore, DIFFERENT possible uses are separated out and numbered for your convenience. If you’re like me, for example, and frankly forgot that cure light wounds, in B/X, also has the optional use of curing paralysis, then this will be appreciated indeed. Did you recall that light can blind targets in B/X? Well, you probably will, but depending on how much you hack your game, how many different OSR-games (or other games) you play, you may have forgotten that. Well, even if you did, here, the presentation makes that a non-issue.

The pdf goes one step further, presentation-wise: Spell-uses that allow for a saving throw are highlighted with bold text. The inconsistency of spell ranges of 0 or 0’ have been replaced with Range: The Caster – with one exception, at least in my print copy. Oddly, protection from evil retains the 0-Range, which I assume to be an oversight; it makes sense for cloudkill, which acts as an emanation from the caster, but not for the former. Now, before you ask and point me towards that: This has been cleared up in the meanwhile. The current version and print versions do not have this VERY minor inconsistency anymore. I...honestly just left those paragraphs in the review, because I was so glad to have found something to complain about...only to see it's been taken care of. (Seriously, that is amazing!)

As far as range is concerned, spells with a range of touch now explicitly allow the caster to use them upon him/herself. Now, before you balk – no, the pdf has not cleaned up all original “charming” ambiguities of the B/X-rules. Web does not state whether it needs to be anchored, for example. That being said, the book e.g. clearly states how haste does not allow for double item use or spellcasting.

I might get a couple of boos and hisses from the hardcore B/X-crowd, but frankly, there is one shortcoming that I feel the pdf could have addressed with, at least a house-rule, would be concentration. It is an aspect that is not clearly defined in the original rules, and it makes me somewhat uneasy to see the showcasing of the problem, but no concise definition of the like. Here, we have a missed chance to at least provide an optional means of doing so...but yeah. I get it. It’s the B/X Essentials series. The very intent is to NOT do that and remain faithful to the original.

…damn, my OCD’s making it hard for me to let that one go. Particularly since e.g. control weather prohibits movement, while clairvoyance doesn’t. Perhaps “B/X Almost-Essentials: Rules-clarifications for obsessive sticklers” is in the cards? ;)

Anyways, if a reversed version of a spell exists, it is noted in the respective description as well. The presentation-sequence begins with the cleric spells, organized by spell level, and alphabetically within the spell level. And there is elegance to these spells. If you have no B/X-experience, it is interesting to note that we have 5 spell levels, and that e.g. create food is 5th level, which is something I am hereby declaring to be the default for all my games forevermore; I loathe how level 1 food-creation makes the threat of starvation and thirst nigh obsolete. I also had to smile at cure disease having a separate use that notes that it instantly kills green slime. Oh, my pretty…

Anyways, as the grognards know, magic-user spells (also used by elves) scale up to 6th level in B/X…and as we all know invisibility is the most OP spell in the rules, since. Wait.

It.

Has.

Happened.

For the first time, ladies and gentlemen…we actually have, in spite of the mission of faithful rendition, the famously missing B/X-spell. This book gives to us: Detect invisible. 10’ per level range, 6 turns, 2nd level. Well-situated regarding level-range, the spell is concise, well-presented and just as minimalist as it should be. No complaints. (No surprise there, considering how much I adored the author’s Vivimancer…) Can’t remember where than one spell that module referenced was? Well, the pdf actually has a handy index in the back, listing the spells for your convenience!!

Conclusion:

Editing and formatting are absolutely top-notch, precise and impressive, to say the least. Layout adheres to a truly elegant two-column b/w-standard with unobtrusive, mint-green highlights as colored elements. The artwork deserves special mention: The book sports A LOT of it. No, seriously – we get a ton of original, really well-made b/w-artwork, with perhaps my favorite piece illustrating a magic-user showcasing how a lightning bolt can bounce off walls to hit different targets. It’s a bit goofy and comic-like, but I absolutely adored it. Of course, the majority of artworks are more serious, but I like this blending of styles. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, with a bookmark per spell level and spell-list, but not for individual spells. I have the premium print edition, and there is a low-cost standard edition that is perfect bound. The premium version has higher quality paper, better color and ink saturation and comes stitch-bound, which is per se preferable. The cover and artwork definitely deserve going premium here.

Okay, honestly, this is the first time in my reviews of this series where I wished Gavin Norman had deviated slightly from the goal of the faithful rendition. The inconsistency of the original rules regarding concentration is something I never considered to be charming or endearing, just annoying. It requires that you learn by hard the stipulations or lack thereof of the spells, and that, anno 2018, is just bad game design in my book, nostalgia be damned.

That being said, as a reviewer, I can’t fault the book for its intended design goal of faithful rendition, particularly when it does such a SUPERB job at it. The presentation of the spells is absolutely gorgeous and showcases how a small OSR-publisher like Necrotic Gnome Productions can provide impulses for the industry at large. This type of concise spell presentation is a joy to behold. It’s clever, concise and clean. It’s simple and elegant. I adore it. So yeah, with but one minor oversight in the very subdued and faithful streamlining, this may well be the best iteration of B/X-spellcasting you’ll ever get to see. It bespeaks the author’s passion for the rules-set and showcases a humility and reverence to the subject matter that is refreshing to see…all while clearly showcasing the design and presentation-skill the author obviously has. In short, this is a one-map passion-project, apart from the art, and an example of the best ones in that category.

While, as a person, I would have required the clarification of concentration (why stop at the missing spell?) to consider this a true work of art, as a reviewer, I am perfectly capable of abstracting my own bias and rating this for what it is – a resounding success for what it attempts. Hence, my final verdict will clock in at 5 stars.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
B/X Essentials: Cleric and Magic-User Spells
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Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
by Benjamin B. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 04/12/2019 18:26:07

Great layout; a beautiful piece of work! Clear and to the point rules. I can't wait to get the hardcover!



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Old-School Essentials: Basic Rules
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Wormskin Issue 4
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/20/2019 06:37:57

An Endzeitgeist.com review

This installment of the Wormskin-‘zine that depicts the strange and wondrous forests of Dolenwood clocks in at a massive 72 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with a massive 67 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

As always, the material herein has been penned with Labyrinth Lord or B/X in mind, but conversion to other OSR-systems is pretty easy. I own the print version of the ‘zine, which is a nice little booklet. Its spine doesn’t feature a name, which is a bit of a minor nitpick, considering that it is massive enough to have the space for it. …yeah, you can see, I’m having a tough time finding things to criticize here.

All right, so, as far as universally applicable material goes, this includes a brief one-page table of conditions, under which fickle fairy magic items cease to work…like being exposed to a bird’s song! The entries provided are nice, the concept simple, and yet, what may be drawn from this is pretty neat. Unpretentious, usable, solid.

The ‘zine also features a massive d30 double-spread table covering 6 pages that allows you to depict the “lesser” standing stones of Dolmenwood, or to customize weird monuments in your other games. The table sports 6 columns: One column to let you determine stone material, one that denotes the source of the material, one for the state of the stone, and one that establishes the setting. The table notes, for example, that, when a surface has been properly cleaned, it is worth considering by whom. The table also sports uncommon properties, like pleasant or unpleasant smells, attracting wildlife, drawing, elephant graveyard style, dying animals to the place, etc. Finally, detailed features of note may include fine, Drunic inscriptions to summon forth ghost crows, or being able to speak in a grinding voice, proclaiming itself to be the voice of the forest. Think that sounds lame? A table for stones? Okay, so here’s one of the results I got from this table:

A standing stone of salt crystal in the form of a toroid, veined with metal, crawling slowly atop a thousand insectoid legs, accompanied by strains of ballroom music that seem to drift from somewhere, sporting a warning in a coded form of Woldish, which warns the PCs of the dangers of spellcasting in the vicinity. …Come on, this is awesome! These two sections have been penned by Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk.

Beyond these tables, the pdf contains a detailed and mapped wayside encounter/mini-module of sorts, which is suitable for low level characters – about level 2 – 4 should be viable. This would be Matthew Schmeer’s “The Atacorn’s Retreat”, which comes with a plethora of rather interesting adventure hooks that go above and beyond, but in order to discuss this in more detail, I will have to go into SPOILERS. Potential players should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only referees around? Great! So, atacorns are the offspring of the Nag-Lord’s trysts with witches: Cloven-footed, cow-tailed, with mule-like features, the atacorn herein, Farthigny, is a bit special in that he seems to have managed to annoy none other than Lord Malbleat…and bards. Known as the “Fiddler in the Dark”, his ostensibly potent magical fiddle is sought after by bards to be destroyed, and indeed, the atacorn does come with 8 different sample tunes – like “Never Ever Swim Through the Fever Marsh”(got the reference?), a pun-filled country jag poking fun at lost travelers. His little two-room bungalow is fully detailed and mapped – he does have a retinue of moss dwarves that seem to enjoy the abuse he subjects them to. His fiddle, btw., is a unicorn-like protrusion that grows from his lower jaw, and it can indeed generate truly astounding tunes. Getting to it, though? Impossible sans killing the atacorn, who, while rowdy, seems totally nice! He invites the PCs to his abode, and proceeds to offer a true feast while regaling them with songs. Said abode, btw.? Lavishly-mapped by Kelvin Green, the bungalow’s b/w-map is truly gorgeous in its impressive details, and is actually player-friendly, bereft of keys and labels! You can copy and cut up the map and hand it to players! Big kudos!

These impressive details do extend to more than the map, btw.: This is one of the densest adventure locations I’ve seen in quite a while – heck, even the fillings of pillows (!! Human hair and fairy wings, in most, but not all, cases…) may be interesting, let alone all the carefully hidden, odd and magical stuff to be found. Of course, there is a catch – Farthigny is not a nice guy. In fact, he drugs the PCs – with drugs to which he’s immune. He totally wants to check their livers – the Jale God once prophesized that he’d be slain a child of a parent whose liver bleeds blue. Did I mention the half-dead dryad in the furniture? There is true dark fantasy, hidden behind a veneer of gonzo whimsy that feels plausible. He also has a cozy torture cellar for ritual sacrifices hidden below the bungalow! Yay! This horrid place is btw. lavishly illustrated in full-color, with a one-page hand-out-like artwork that you can hand to PCs. This place is just as detailed, and Farthigny’s living space contains quite a few odd magical items – like a dagger inhabited by a lesser murder demon, the Ring of Calibraxis (In case you didn’t notice – yep, this does contain quite a few cool eastereggs!), and similar oddities. One note: There is a save or die here, but it’s a justified one – if the PCs drag a magical, potentially cursed tapestry and put it atop a bloody ritual circle, the result may be fatal. It’s very obscure, and I’d be surprised if it comes up a lot during play, but it certainly has the feeling of “you’ve meddled with forces beyond your ken” – random actions beget random (and dangerous results). I can live with that.

The lion’s share of this installment, though, is devoted to the subterranean level of the eponymous ruins of St. Clewd’s abbey, penned once more by Gavin Norman And Yves Geens. This part of the module can be rather challenging, depending on how much your PCs explore, and whether they think they can slay everything in sight. I can see this be a tough challenge for mid-level PCs, or potentially “solvable” for even low level PCs. Suffice to say, this is old-school – and “taking your tail between your legs and run” is certainly the better part of valor – for example, when a massive hydra shows up: Said entity has different attacks for each of its heads, which range from bloated boars to inverted cow’s heads, with different personalities to boot. Trying to best this one? TPK machine for low level groups. That being said, the hydra also is not immediately hostile, which makes this behave as a “reap what you sow” moment. Anyhow, the level of detail is once more impressive: The random encounter table is only half devoted to different creatures, with the other half consisting of chaotic phenomena, courtesy of the dimensional cataract that pulses within this complex, rendering reality somewhat unstable.

It should also be noted that this complex comes with a lavish isometric b/w-map drawn by Claytonian (of “The Wizardarium of Calabraxis”-fame); said map comes with a scale, but no grid, and is pretty damn impressive. It should be noted, though, that, in spite of numbers for keyed locations having been added in blue bubbles, no unlabeled version has been included. We do get a proper jpg.-version, though.

But I digress – you see, this module is STRANGE. There, for example, would be the dangerous, oracular and slightly telepathic catfish that actually manages to make sense, and that makes for a great way for the referee to seed further adventures…if it doesn’t eat all PCs, that is. I used “strange” in opposition to “weird” consciously, as this does not adhere to e.g. LotFP or DCC’s type of weird fiction, instead opting for an oddly plausible scenario of high magic strangeness grounded in a fairy-tale-esque backdrop. In short, it perfectly encapsulates how you can portray Dolmenwood’s unique flavor in a dungeon setting.

The dungeon itself, while certainly deadly, has plenty of loot (including a massive one-page treasure table), for sure – but what sets it apart from many modules would be that it actually, at least half of it, is a social dungeon.

But to explain that aspect of the module, I will have to go into pretty significant, deep lore SPOILERS. If you’re a player, please, at least stop reading now. … .. . All right, only referees around? Well, when St. Clewd vanished while fighting the black unicorn men dubbed Sallowbryg, it wasn’t the end. Indeed, a cataclysm has befallen the monastery even before the goat-men razed it to the ground: You see, a particularly greedy and incompetent abbot sought to call forth St. Clewd once more – not cognizant of the fact that the saint had fused body and mind with the foul beast. Suffice to say, the results were not pretty, and now, the deranged and horribly mutated saint (lavishly illustrated by Andrew Walter in their signature style) has been helf here, watched over by the order of wardens, so that his shame may never be known. This order of fanatic monks whittled away the centuries below the monastery, held alive, ironically, by the effects of the botched ritual, which created the chance to revive the fallen. Okay, it may go horribly wrong. Sure, many come back as zombie-like vegetables…but there’s the sacred duty!

Said monks (random monk generator included), have, in recent years, experienced a schism of sorts – the traditionalists (or Fidelii) and the semi-heretical splinter-sect of the Cardinites. The Fidelii want to keep the deranged saint-thing contained, and keep their vigil, while the Cardinites believe that freeing St. Clewd will help him recover and usher in…something good? Their leaders and holy ceremonies are btw. covered in detail, allowing you to create a subterranean and utterly strange “Name of the Rose”-ish intrigue, should you choose to. Of course, kill ‘em all might be an option, but one with consequences…And yes, the PCs can try to test their mettle against the saint-thing, but it’s not something I’d recommend, unless you’re fond of rolling 3d6, 6 times in a row.

The best way to use these folks, though, would be to have them be what they’re supposed to be: An isolated society of weirdo fanatics, whose whole world-view and fragile power-dynamics may well collapse/ignite when the PCs are added as the proverbial fuse. It should also be noted that the struggle of factions, obviously, does allow for the use of this as a repeat-visit scenario…and, one more note: Even if you don’t like Dolmenwood (WHY??? O_O), this module could be easily used as a kind of religious fanatic bunker in a post-apocalyptic, weird world. Just a thought…

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to the ‘zine’s one-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports a surprising amount of awesome full-color artwork by Anxious P. and Sean Poppe. The b/w-cartography by Kelvin Green and Claytonian deserves special praise – both styles are amazing, detailed and evocative, though I do wish we’d get an unlabeled version for the dungeon as well. The pdf version is fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the softcover is a neat version – personally, I’d advise in favor of getting this and #3 in print, as it’s definitely a high-quality little booklet worth the price-point.

The fourth installment of Wormskin, while more module-centric than the ones before, is AMAZING. From the sidetrek that kicks this off to the dressing table to the massive and lavishly-crafted dungeon-level, this installment continues the streak of unadulterated awesomeness of the series, and, some might argue, one ups it with easily one of the most unique and rewarding dungeon-levels I’ve seen in quite a while. This oozes passion, has a distinct style, and when rereading this for the purpose of this review, I found myself just as stoked as when the booklet first fell into my claws. This is excellent and a great example of what a ‘zine can achieve. 5 stars + seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 4
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Wormskin Issue 3
by Thilo G. [Featured Reviewer] Date Added: 03/14/2019 11:06:58

An Endzeitgeist.com review

The third installment of the Wormskin-‘zine clocks in at 56 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page inside of front cover, 2 pages editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 50 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), so let’s take a look!

As always, the OSR-rules employed within are intended for Labyrinth Lord or B/X and may be easily converted to other old-school rules-systems.

Okay, so, this installment of Wormskin represents a shift in focus – this time around, we embrace distinctly Dolmenwoodian tones, beginning the supplement with a brief recap of the history of Dolmenwood, penned by Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk. And don’t fret. It’s not hundreds of pages of bland dates – it sports a couple of entries, tells us about the erection of the warding versus the entities of Fairy, the mysterious Drune sect of self-styled elite protectors/masters, the arrival of the church of the One True God and how it pretty much failed to civilize Dolmenwood, but slowly managed to have the Drune ostracized…it’s just 4 pages, and in this brief section, it’s more inspired than many such timelines I’ve seen before.

Better yet, the following article, which details the languages of Dolmenwood, is awesome: Only the most potent members of fairy aristocracy will know the Immortal Tongue of Fairy; mortals attempting to speak Sylvan will sound like fools; Liturgic, as a Latin stand-in, is the language of sermons of the One True God, and from the goatman’s caprice and high caprice, to woldish and high woldish or the drunic language, these briefly touched upon languages add some intriguing details to the setting.

A cursory glance at the FREE Referee’s Map of Dolmenwood will make you realize that there is this weird circle held by rune stones – this is the Witching Ring, and it is unique and several ways…but honestly, this is getting into territory I feel I need to mark, so here goes:

From here on out, there will be PLENTY OF SPOILERS. Potential players of Dolmenwood should jump ahead to the conclusion. … .. . All right, only GMs around? Great! So this massive witching ring of runic stones? It’s boundary can’t be crossed by fey; teleportation doesn’t work, and charms and illusions have a 33% chance of failure. Interaction with runic stones, detailed notes on the inscription (which speak of the King of Brakenwold, Elder Phanatarch and St. Clewd slamming the doors on Frigia shut) and more can be found. You see, Wild Hunt-ish fey of what one would associate with the Winter Court have been driven from Dolmenwood…and should the wards ever collapse, Winter eternal shall reign. Oh, and yes, the book discusses, in detail, how this may be done, how the stones etc. can be sabotaged. Because, you know, if the villains don’t do it, PCs are liable to start tinkering with forces beyond their ken…

The book also continues depicting the hexes of Dolmenwood, covering a total of 7 different hexes (these are once more penned by the Gavin Norman and Greg Gorgonmilk): All of these are winners, to say that up front: The first ties in with one of the 4 new monster, the scrabey (plural: scrabies) – these demi-fey (fairies that have left the immortal lands, becoming natives of Dolmenwood) are grubby, scrawny elf-like beings 4 ft. high that can assume worm form in a pitch. As shrewd merchants, they come with a d12 table of stuff for sale, and 6 traits allow for customization, making them feel unique rather than just a generic creature. As in installment #2, we get 4 ready to go encounter ideas and also 4 detailed lair-ideas for them. Beyond this hex, we also learn of the phantom isle that houses a black elk goddess, the summerstone and the strange tower that is inhabited by 3 badger mages. Yes, badger mages. If I didn’t know better, I’d assume that Mike Welham wrote this… XD A local column allows for strange gifts, but unwittingly may subscribe the PC’s souls to a forgotten godlet…

Another hex deals with yet another unique critter, the mogglewomp. Mogglewomps are awesome. They truly feel like a medieval fey that have been purged from the pages of legend at one point: Mogglewomps are a bit like predatory fairy hermit-crabs in theme, not in looks: Without a home, a mogglewomp is a droopy humanoid, neckbearded and pretty harmless, wandering with but one goal: To be invited into a home. Once invited, the mogglewomp will start growing to grotesque dimensions (lavishly illustrated in full color) until it fills pretty much the whole homestead, eating the host. This perversion of hospitality makes the critter resound, and traits to customize both forms, sample encounters and lairs are provided as well. This is a fantastic critter.

While we’re on the subject of critters, let’s comment on the two final ones, which are tied to, you guessed it, the eponymous ruined abbey of the nigh-mythical St. Clewd. As an adventure-locale, it is intended for low-to mid-level characters; if your players are smart, they may well live at low levels; when run as a combat-centric module, it will almost assuredly wipe out groups below 3rd level, and it can be made challenging for much higher level PCs, so GMs should beware. The abbey’s ruins are depicted in a gorgeous b/w-top-down isometric map. Minor complaint: The map lacks a scale, which makes judging dimensions somewhat hard, and there is no unlabeled, key-less version of the map provided. The abbey has been penned by Gavin Norman and Yves Geens. In this installment of Wormskin, we learn about the ruins of the abbey that are left above ground. Beyond the random monster encounter section (8 entries), which is more detailed than you’d expect, taking up about ¾ of a page, the ruins feature a so-called scryke (also penned by Yves Geens) as a new critter: Stunted, jet-black humanoids, manifestations of chaotic energy…that, surprisingly, tend to keep their word, if only the letter of it. These beings can assume a destructive fog form, and they are not per se hostile: Drawn to relics and religious icons, they are repelled by the divine, requiring often the assistance of mortals. As before, traits, sample encounters and lair notes complement this creature beyond the confines of the module-section.

Now, not necessarily a part of the monster section, but an important factor of the highly customizable difficulty of the ruins of the abbey, would be the massive ghost monk generator: 8 names, ranks, appearances, characters and positions are provided. We also get 8 attack forms, 8 wishes and 8 secrets, making this an efficient encounter/side-quest generator that can easily be used to expand the module, to make it more deadly, or to weave small stories into the exploration of the dilapidated ruins. Ghost crows that partially exist in the ethereal nest here as well, and the ruined chapel shows a great example of direct indirect storytelling, if you well, with beautiful mosaics telling the legends of St. Clewd, foreshadowing the things to come in part II of the adventure.

Okay, you got me. I saved the best for last. You noticed that I have to yet cover the final new monster, right? That would be the Gloam. The gloam is one of the coolest undead I have read in quite a while: What may look like a flock of ragged birds in one form can become a gaunt man made of feathers, bone and beaks, a strange avaricious, but not inherently evil living dead that comes with a sense of palpable unease. It carries deadly diseases, and the detailed customization options we expect by now are included, as is an amazing one-page b/w-artwork of the entity in undead swarm form. What sets this apart? They can charm kids, the innocent. In the ruins, three kids have fallen under the spell of the mighty “Mister Rag-n-Bone”, one of them equipped with a motherlocket, an amulet that would allow for communication with her mom, were it not for the creature’s charm…but then again, it is looking after the kids…right? Right??? The gloam is awesome, and my favorite part of the upper ruins.

Conclusion: Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standards with golden highlights and a combination of gorgeous full-color and b/w-artworks. The cartography is great, though the lack of a scale and player-friendly version represent downsides. The pdf version comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.

Gavin Norman, with help by Greg Gorgonmilk and Yves Geens in a couple of articles, maintains a streak of pure imaginative vision, of excellence. Wormskin #3 is an incredibly dense, evocative glimpse into the tantalizing world of Dolmenwood, which seems to be utterly bereft of filler, of the boring. The magazine tiptoes the line between the surreal, the horrific, the absurd, and manages to be darkly funny and tragic at the same time in a most profound and awesome way, further crystallizing an aesthetic that sets Dolmenwood apart. I love it. The absence of a player-friendly map for the ruins above represents a drawback, though, which is why this loses half a star, for a final verdict of 4.5 stars, though I’ll still round up and gladly award this my seal of approval.

Endzeitgeist out.



Rating:
[5 of 5 Stars!]
Wormskin Issue 3
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The Weird That Befell Drigbolton
by Josh D. [Verified Purchaser] Date Added: 03/07/2019 00:25:25

Good product, fun little adventure. I would have liked to see a rumour table about drigbolton to help me foreshadow some of the gonzo stuff that's going to happen. For example, there's a part of the town in each house that the author says something similar to "townsfolk consider it rude to talk about X, so they will awkwardly refuse to answer questions" (i have inserted X to avoid spoilers). But then, when a cool twist happens with X, i cant imagine the players have any idea how that would happen.

Great little module, place it in your setting if you have a backwater town somewhere and want to take your game down a different path.



Rating:
[4 of 5 Stars!]
The Weird That Befell Drigbolton
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