Sunday, October 09, 2022

Game Tsundoku

 So during my recent "break" I've picked up a lot of books, fully intending to read them. As a result I about fifty pages in on a half-dozen works of fiction and nonfiction that will either be finished or confined to my shelf of abandoned books. In Japan, this is called tsundoku (apparently - "letting books pile up.")

Ditto games. Between lurking around brick and mortar game stores and Kickstarters fulfilling, I have a new collection of RPG books that have shown up. And many are for games I do not play or will not have any opportunity to play. Most, though, are good reads. 

Oh, and as always, I am commenting on them of first appearance. I read part of them, but in no way do I delve deeply enough to give a full and proper review (I really think you need to play games to really review them). As always, be aware and be warned.

AND, since someone asked, the photo is taken with them displayed on my living room coffee table, which resting atop my living room's hardwood floor. The table (and a lot of the living room furniture) is from a mall store called "This End Up" from 40-some years ago, which specialized in furniture that looked like repurposed shipping crates. I call the style "Early Indestructible".

Let's see what we have. 

Beyond the Ring (Kate Baker, Christine Beard, Jim Cornwell, Crystal Frasier, Steve Kenson, Ian Lemke, Jason Mical, James Semple, and Pete Woodworth, Edited by Josh Vogt and Evan Sass, Green Ronin Publishing, 128 page hardbound) I picked this up at Olympic Cards and Comics down in Lacey. Stan! Brown and I make a road trip down there every three months or so, and this was one of the pieces I picked up. Now, it is highly unlikely that I am going to play a session of The Expanse RPG, but I really, really, like their sourcebooks. They are well-written and well-presented and do a great job pulling me into the universe. This volume moves the story (they're based on the novels as opposed to the TV adaptation) past the point where the galaxy is suddenly opened to human settlement, and the effects thereof. Includes rules for creating your own brave new worlds. Nice job.

Terror of Octobernomicon (Daniel Purcell, Francesca McMahon, Marek Golonka, Helen Yau, Walter Attridge, and William Adcock, edited by Mike Wilson with Lisa Padol, Golden Goblin Press in associating with, 112 page softbound) This Kickstarter one was supposed to showcase new talent in conjunction with, and I was surprised that it disappoints in comparison with other books from Golden Goblin. Going through the first couple adventures, there are some logic flaws, the art is not up to the quality of previous releases, and it suffers from the "The Curse of Cthulhu" with the maps - the maps don't really match up with the text descriptions. The mythos creatures are new and nice additions to the system, but I'm not sure how they fit in with their adventures.

Wildsea (Felix Isaacs, Mythopoeia Publishing in association with Quillhound Studios, 368 page hardbound) This was a Kickstarter and the final product was pretty impressive-looking. The setup is that the world where plants have gone wild, covering everything with toxic mile-high trees. You are a sailor on a ship that cuts through the top layer of this canopy. The character races that have grown up in this world include humans, cactus-people, and humanoid spider colonies. It has a lot of really wild ideas, and its engine ("Wild Worlds") seems to descend from the Blades in the Dark side of the gaming universe. The book itself is impressive, a hardback in landscape (long-wise) presentation. Yeah, this is one I'm going to cruise through.

Spelljammer Adventures in Space (Christopher Perkins, Wizards of the Coast, three 64-page hardbound books with DM's screen, slipcase) I will fess up - I actually ended up buying a copy at the Mox Boarding House after most of my local stores had sold out. I understand some of the grognard grumbling - the page count is just about the same as the version we did mumble-de-mumble years ago, but the production values are extremely high - three hardbacks and a GM screen in a slip-case. And there is a lot of room for independent designer expansion in the form of the DM's Guild. I was surprised that they did not continue the ship design ideas that they first played with in Ghosts of Saltmarsh hardback, but that's their call. I'm happy with what we did all those years ago, and pleased to see that it has made a bit of a comeback.

Shotguns and Sorcery (Matt and Marty Forbeck, Full Moon Enterprises, 280 page hardbound) This was a Kickstarter, with a nice autograph from the authors, father and son Forbeck. There have been a previous number of incarnations of this project (Cypher System from Monte Cook Games), short stories) and this is the most recent, for 5E. The setting shares the background with games like Lost Citadel - the world is fallen, and all that remains of civilization is one city. Unlike Lost Citadel, it is moved a bit forward in tech (more gunpowder weapons) and sets up a tiered social system - goblins at the lowest levels, a dragon acting as the protector at the top. The game has a lot of noir sensibilities, but the art, title, and sepia-toned cover takes me more in the direction of fantasy western. Looking forward to digging in deeper.

Book of Ebon Tides (Wolfgang Baur, Celeste Conowitch, Kobold Press, 256 page hardbound) This was a gift from one of the authors, and I am delighted by it. I have been tangentially brushing up against the Plane of Shadow for years, as it was the source of many monsters in 1E but never fit in neatly to the established planar arrangements (I ultimately made it a demiplane, which undersells it). The Book of Ebon Tides gives me a LOT to play with - new spells, classes, peoples, godlings, fey courts, shadow roads and lots of opportunities. It links up nicely with Kobold Press's Midgard setting but works for your campaign as well. Adds a lot of depth. This is one I am reading (and probably looting).

Sand and Dust: The Arrakis Sourcebook (Andrew Peregrine, Morphius Entertainment, 152 Page hardbound) The core RPG (Dune, Adventures in the Imperium) swallowed the entire Dune mythos (including the books by Frank's Herbert's son) in one fell swoop. This one drills down on Dune, the planet Arrakis, the desert planet, the home of spice, the most important substance in the universe. The setting talks about other eras, but concentrates mostly on the Harkonian years before the Atreides take over and kick off the first novel. This is a system I will read but never play, but the source material is cool. 

Historica Arcanum: The City of Crescent (Sarp Duyar, Metis Creative, 410 Page hardbound) This was a Kickstarter, and is the sort of thing I really support - cultural RPG products created by people of those particular cultures. In this case, the book is set in a fantasy 1850's Istanbul by a publisher out of Turkey. A good part of it is a major adventure involving a variety of factions and politics, with additional material to fill out the background. The format is A4 (which is taller than American hardbacks), the paper is thick and glossy, and the graphic design is excellent. One thing I wish I did get was a smaller bound-in map of the city itself, which would help with the navigation. A lot of stuff going on in the text, but my favorite part is where they note what they were lying about regarding 1850's Istanbul, in particular the fact that in 1850 Istanbul WAS Constantinople.

And that's it for now, More later when I accumulate another table's worth.