Friday, October 16, 2015

A Bookface October Special


Well look what came in yesterday's mail! Why, it's Tales from the Game Tavern #1, a new zine from +Grand DM over at the Ultanya blog! You can buy it direct from the blog or as part of the October 2015 Mythoard box.

So what do you get for your $5?

First up is "Flesh Golem Redux," an article explaining how +Grand DM mixes up the brides of Frankenstein for his game. This is an essay, not monster descriptions with stat blocks, but it makes for an interesting read on how to spice up and extend standard Monster Manual creatures. It would have been nice to include a quick old-school flavored-stat block and description for each of the brides for quick reference, but there is still plenty of ideas to steal from here.

Next up is "Haunted Armor," four quick write-ups of armor that is "tormented by the spirits of their prior owners." Great ideas here and each of the items is briefly described and includes a note on game use. What I like about each of the armor pieces is that while they offer special abilities, they each have a drawback of some kind that saps the users. Magic use should have physical/mental/emotional cost, and these items fill that expectation nicely.

The third article is a quick 1d4 table of ghosts to haunt a tavern ("Tavern Ghosts"), each with a personal story attached to them that read like local legends tavern patrons would tall among themselves. These are great to add flavor to a tavern encounter and they are generic enough (no specific names of towns or taverns) that they could be plopped into any campaign. This is the first table of this kind I've seen among all the tavern generators out there -- name generators, menu generators, hell, even random tavern patron generators -- and while some DMs might not see the need for this kind of flavor & fluff, I like it.

The next article is my favorite one of the issue: a low-level adventure, "Grody the Ghoul," a family-friendly affair that would serve as a good introduction to the game for you non-gamer friends or young kids. Comprised of both an encounter map & key and a larger wilderness hex map, the adventure lends itself to both dungeon exploration and sandbox play. The keyed encounter is a fairly linear adventure (all the rooms are lined up in a row, and must be explored in order), but the sandbox elements allow the DM to adapt the game to more exploratory play. The maps are great, and the local encounter map even includes a few clever random tables to spice up the encounter. I could very easily see myself running this as a one-shot beer & pretzels game.

The adventure is followed by a series of random tables under the title "Alien Abduction" which mixes & mashes-up various horror tropes to create rumors of weird occurrences or adventure seeds for designing your own adventures. There's definitely a Call of Cthulhu feel to the tables,  but most of the generated plot seeds are weird enough for any campaign. I just rolled "Diminutive fleshy insects with powerful psionic aptitude which are nearly impossible to detect use a strange book to open a one way portal to an alien world and pull in the target; the aliens curiously wish to sample what flesh may be like from another world. Targets who survive have a metal carbuncle under the skins which shifts around to avoid being touched or restrained. An odd blue glow emanates from it." Yeah, I could do something with that!

The second-to-last article is "Malignant Scourge," which details a cross-planes, Black Plague-like infectious disease. +Grand DM suggests using the disease in a Zombie Apocalypse-type situation and suggests various ways to incorporate the plague into play. However, his more mundane, non-monster ideas are even better, and are definitely worth a read.

Finally, the last article, "Game Tavern Goulash" is an actual recipe. Yes, a recipe. When was the last time you saw a recipe in a game zine? I'm surprised that +Tim Shorts hasn't had The Happy Whisk whip up a recipe for The Manor (or maybe he did and I just missed that issue?).  Of course, +Grand DM makes a terrible pun in the first line of the article which immediately made me think of this:


which is a solo dungeon game you can find here (and which you should definitely check out, too!). But that's just me. Still, the recipe is NOT a game nor is it a joke -- my mom used to make something similar back in the '70s when we were short on cash. It's comfort food, for sure, and damn if +Grand DM didn't trigger two happy memories for me when I read this last little article.

Final verdict? This is a great first issue, and while there's room for a bit of improvement in some of the articles, overall this is a solid foundation to build on.

Full disclosure: +Grand DM provided me a complimentary issue of the zine for review. Want me to review your zine? Hit me up for my address at mwschmeer (at) gmail dot com.