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This installment of the evocative Gossamer Worlds-series clocks in at 13 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, leaving us with 11 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
What happens if Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s thesis in Vril, The Power of the Master Race, of a subterranean master-race and their quasi-mystical super-technology was set against a backdrop of genocidal struggle between two competing races and then combined with a classic “you dug too deep” twist, unleashing dread Erebi on the genocidal victors of the struggle? We get one messed up setting. Add to that a sprinkling of hollow earth and H.G Wellsian Time Machine and we have even more of a mess – in the ruined, desolate planet (swallowed by a titanic shadow-like…thing, slowly breaking the world asunder) and its tunnels, survivors, ranging from degenerate morlock to the last surviving racist Übermenschen (the pdf gets the plural wrong - you add –en in the end), fight their desolate and doomed battles against reality-annuling aliens led by a Slenderman-esque figure, while an undead umbragunt may be the last champion of a planet doomed to die.
Hollow Thune is not a nice place, and if the above wasn’t enough, the writing and narrative voice further drives that home – essentially, the pdf not only borrows Bulwer-Lytton’s terminology from another age, but in the emphasis on Germanic Nomenclature and the quoting of concepts like the Black Sun, draws less than subtle parallels with the popularized notion of the Thule society’s mysticism, thus adding a nasty sense of gravitas to the whole setting.
That being said, as a German, I sometimes tire of the whole imagery, mainly since we’re bombarded with the atrocities of the Third Reich in both school curriculum and media and I have a hard time separating games and fun and the popularized stereotype of the Nazivillains from the gruesome realities of history. This pdf made this particular component relatively easy on me – with the clear condemnation of the socal-darwinism exhibited by the destroyed races of Thune, with the clear pointer not at the Third Reich, but at the intellectual streams that existed in literature, culture and intelligentsia of all fields, the pdf manages to evoke the themes, but do so in a thoroughly unique manner that is at once creative and still, very clear in the themes it quotes.
Editing and formatting are top-notch, I noticed no significant glitches. Layout adheres to Rite Publishing’s beautiful 2-column full-color standard for LoGaS and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Artwork consists of glorious full-color pieces that are absolutely gorgeous to behold.
Matt Banach’s Hollow Thune could have devolved into an utter mess in the hands of a lesser writer – I have literally seen all components that make up the defining elements of this book in multiple cases, have read Bulwer-Lytton and thanks to my keen interest in history, I am pretty well-versed in the atrocities committed by different nations. Hollow Thune still manages to keep these together, to toe the line between the horrific and fantastic, never falling into the realm of tastelessness. And for that, I applaud it. The whole setting even would make for a great Dark Soul-ish background of a desolate world you slowly explore, a world of lethal adversaries…and once again, I find myself wishing, that this Gossamer World had more room to shine. Oh well, as provided, we get a great installment in the series and yet again, a verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval.
@Geraint: Zeitgeist is harder to run. RC is an easy sandbox once you start ignoring the AP-planning section of the book, no harder to run than e.g. Slumbering Tsar. Zeitgeist is less wide-open, but it requires the juggling of a bunch of NPCs and story-threads. I did write reviews for this one and all parts up to #7; #8 will hit site this week; Act One made #2 of my Top Ten of last year, so yeah, while difficult, the AP is damn good; perhaps the most intelligent story I've read, campaign-wise.
Part II of my review:
The final codex, the codex of the realized vision, is the one closest to regular spells, with just about every recitation featuring its own formal properties like individual ranges (e.g. 60 ft., personal, touch...) etc. Animating up to gargantuan animated objects, afflict targets with crushing ennui (save or do nothing -for 5 rounds! Ouch!), creating non-weaponized spheres that can dig tunnels for you. Also interesting: Cover the floor with material that deals +3d6 damage upon falling, including being tripped! Cool for its tactical options! Asking questions to the multiverse, fabricating objects ex nihilo - quite a few options here. Oh, and there is also a recitation that erases creatures from the multiverse - but instead of save-or-suck, it requires consecutive saves over the duration. Once the target has failed 3, s/he/it's gone - cool take on the mechanic - Think about players scrambling to take down the truenamer to prevent their comrade being erased! When mechanics in themselves make for more fun/excitement, then that's a good indicator for good design! (Preventing falls with huge spongy discs can also be achieved, should you be so inclined!)
Have I mentioned e.g. the truespeech "Lament of the Platypus" or the "Ode to the Porcupine," hinting at a slight embarrassment of certain cosmic forces? Yes, much like the best of Interjection Games-releases, a subtle, unobtrusive humor permeates some of the pieces of content herein. What about making the dying explode, Diablo II-style or generating a sphere that can burrow through the earth?
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no significant glitches. layout adheres to a nice, custom 2-column b/w-standard with cool b/w-artworks blended with runes and the like. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience.
Even before this revision, the base system was a glorious, beautiful, even, piece of math - the original system took the most infamously broken magic subsystem of 3rd edition and actually made it work - superbly so. Now the additions made by both Bradley Crouch and Jason Linker alone imho would have made this a legendary supplement.
Now, I ask you to indulge me for a second - I am VERY proud of the Scion of Discordia - I know of no other class out there that has a customizable, mobile and flexible debuff zone that does not focus on hampering melee et al., but on locking down hostile casters - whatever the nasty caster combo your players use, the scion can probably throw a wrench into it, all without devaluing other casters. Oh, and its zone has some VERY unique effects that no other debuffing class can execute.
I consider this class, alongside the etherslinger, the best pieces of crunch I've written so far. That completely aside, though, the base system, even without its refinements, even without the additional work by Jason Linker and myself, was a thing of beauty and awesomeness - you can still check my review of it on my site.
Said review praised the base system as "Truenaming that ACTUALLY works!" - and I stand by that.
Now with the vastly increased content, all those additional bits and pieces, I definitely consider this to be one of the coolest subsystems out there - well worth a final verdict of 5 stars + seal of approval and I also nominate this as a candidate for my Top Ten of 2015.
(Also, thanks @OSW regarding the catch!)
This Map-pack not only is pay-what you want, it comes in a zip-file that sports two folders: One containing high-res jpegs, one that sports pdfs.
Let's start with the jpegs - these come with full-color and b/w-versions - both come in two versions: One sports labels that denote which buildings are which, whereas the others come without them for maximum immersion. (Nice if you're like me and HATE handing out maps with numbers detailing the hotspots...
The pdfs clock in at 23 pages each - 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page advertisement, leaving a total of 20 pages for the maps. The pdf first provides aforementioned maps that also are included as high-res jpegs - so if you require an overview of the village, these would be what you want. Thereafter, we get 4 blown-up versions of the map - each iteration is provided in a version, wherein the map spreads across a total of 4 pages, thus allowing you to print out a big map. If you're like me a European, you will be very much in luck, for one pdf provides the maps in letterpack format, whereas the second delivers the maps optimized for the A4-format.
What about the town - well, we get essentially a village of the most idyllic type, with a single (mage's) tower a bit off to the south and a small bridge crossing the meandering river. North of said small bridge, a mill and a few buildings loom, while the sparse trees show that this place probably lies in pretty civilized fields.
Tad Davis delivers a professionally-made, beautiful map-pack of a nice, picturesque village that could well be the starting point of a new campaign - as far as maps are concerned, this is a neat job and the drawing style is fine. While I caught myself wishing there was a version with a grid further blown up for your perusal with miniatures, at any price you're willing to pay, this is indeed a great offering of a professional, nice map.
My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
Posted first on endzeitgeist.com, then submitted to Nerdtrek and GMS magazine and posted here and on OBS.