Monday, December 29, 2014

Not Waiting Anymore

Came in Saturday after I got home from shopping. Now I have more stuff to review.
Quick shipping note: left Finland 12/18 and made it to Tennessee 12/27 during holiday shipping. And that's economy shipping.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Merry Christmas

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them: and they were sore afraid. And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

REVIEW: Ruins of the Undercity

Ruins of the Undercity
Ruins of the Undercity - random DM-less dungeon generator for one player and more - by +Kabuki Kaiser .  72 pages, of which 2 are OGL and 4 are full pages of art, so say 66 pages of actual game content.  Book size is weird to me; according to Lulu, 5.83 x 8.26 inches.  I believe this is the A5 size common anywhere but the US.  The front cover states it is Labyrinth Lord compatible and the first page indicates it is compatible with LL and the Advanced Edition Companion or any Basic or Advanced type game.  Based on my reading of the text, I would state it is specifically LL/AEC designed; I would think OSRIC would require a good deal of conversion work for me.

On to the interior:  probably my single biggest complaint is one of the fonts used on the inside is called Gothic Hijinx.  All you who hate Comic Sans?  That's how I feel about this font.  Based on how I am reading this text and the "sequel" Mad Monks of Kwantoom, it is a "commentary" font, but it is atrocious; I find it very difficult to read.  I wish Herr Kaiser would go back and fix this one thing; it may very well result in the best interpretation/implementation of Appendix A of the Dungeon Masters Guide I've ever seen.

That is fundamentally what this book is:  first, a relatively clean implementation of Appendix A and a good solo play generator.  For someone like myself, who grew up in a small town and then lived further away from said town, a good solo play generator like this would have been a godsend.  I did test it out as part of the review and I really like it.  As a general rule, I'm not one of these people who is very good at dungeon drawing and stocking; most of my dungeons come out fairly linear.  With the generator here, you get good sized dungeons and also most of the descriptions you would need.  Here's a rundown of what's in the tables:  doors (5 types, 3 locations, 4 behinds); corridors (7 illuminations, 8 constructions, 27 features including 2 subtables for 16 random items and 6 special features, and 12 layouts); chambers/rooms (8 sizes including subtable of 4 specials, location of exits, 26 features, and 5 contents); treasure (8 types including 2 subtables for 14 gems and 10 jewelry, 6 containers, 6 protections); and stairs, traps (21 types), and magic effects from pools/wells (24 results).  Wow; that's a lot.  One of my favorite things is the treasure tables which are full of evocative descriptions like "precious conch shells" and "earrings made of red coral".  This is the kind of thing I usually suck at and has now been removed from my clumsy hands.  One minor complaint about the tables:  there is a small typo on p. 23, the features table is referenced as F but is a duplicate E.

So, there's the dungeon side; there is also a city component.  Basically, where the traditional game would have town/dungeon/wilderness with town being relatively safe, dungeon being predictably dangerous, and wilderness being unpredictably dangerous, this game has no wilderness so town becomes unpredictably dangerous and safe at the same time.  There are random encounters that are not keyed to player level based on how long you stay in town, so for first level players town could be very dangerous.  The solo version uses your favorite character and what is known as an Adventure Log; I wish there was a PDF of this easily available.  The AL allows you to dictate marching order for 10' and 20' corridors and indicate forward scouts, who detects for what, what watches characters take during rests, and XP and treasure collection.  I think this is a really good invention; my default would be my own character and henchman adventuring.  You could have more than one character and then some henchman, but it may be more unwieldy.  I did not test this out specifically so now you have homework.

That leads to the how does it work; basically, there is an Average Level of a party that is the sum of all levels of all characters (including henchmen) divided by 3 and rounded up.  This indicates what level of monster table to use and how to adjust the number of monsters encountered.  This is where I feel the book necessitates the use of LL/AEC, because it often refers to them for stats or In Lair treasure tables.  However, the author does include about 40 new monsters in the tables and stats them out following; some of them may be "conversions" of Fiend Folio monsters, and thus not exactly new, but still NEW MONSTERS!  :)

Other minor quibbles include for the doors, I think the location table should be first not second (it's more important for me to know if the door is to my left, right, or front when I'm mapping than to know what it's made of).  Also, the monster tables have an In Lair column that sometimes has an N/A entry with an asterisk.  However, I can't seem to find where there is an explanation of what that asterisk signifies.

The art is sparse but good; there are about 4 illustrations that are not full page, one of which does double duty as the cover.  I do wish there was a better cover image, but I don't think I can pick one out from what is inside, so maybe it is the best.

Finally, there is no overt message of what the world this generator creates is like, but I feel a covert one.  It reminds me of Lankhmar.  The city is dangerous and you don't want to stay there to long; there are a ton of tables for the different shops and what they stock (how much/how many).  You have to look for these places and if they have what you're looking for.  Same thing with the henchmen.  I like this; it's hard to describe why.  It is almost on the cusp of being a city generator like Vornheim.

I'm glad I bought and own this.  With it and Vornheim, you could pretty well generate everything but wilderness adventures.  I look forward to reviewing the author's other works.