ZINEQUEST 4 - WEEK 2
It's week 2 of ZineQuest and we're back, knee deep in the zine stream sieving through the current campaigns, panning for gaming gold...
And we're into week 2 of this year's ZineQuest campaign, and honestly it still feels a little quiet, which to be honest my wallet is a little bit thankful for.
Still if the quantity may be a little down on previous years there's still plenty of quality around and with the massed hordes of GenCon attendees now back home clutching their covid tests expect to see things pick up as we hit the back half of the month.
For now though whether you want to delve deep into dungeons, defeat a demonic demagogue, smash capitalism under your boney fist or just spend an evening pretending to be a cocker spaniel (we're not ones to judge) then read on as we've got you covered.
If there's one thing I've learnt over the years it's that charismatic religious types promising salvation and prosperity, whilst backed up by an army of skeleton soldiers, are probably up to no good.
Unfortunately that's apparently not a lesson that the inhabitants of Fenbry ever learnt and well as you can imagine things haven't exactly worked out well for them.
Luckily in a world where necromantic demagogues exist you also tend to get heroes and so in the 5E compatible Tomb it's up to you to tool up and descend into the catacombs and crack some skulls.
Or as the designers more poetically ask, "what do we do when faced with an uncaring evil, cruel to its very core? How do we stand in the face of hopelessness?"
Again, hammer meet skulls, is normally the answer to those questions.
Anyway as multi-level tomb crawls go this looks great, and even comes with its own "dungeon doom" soundtrack, so check it out...
LO! THY DREAD EMPIRE
Whilst ZineQuest is predominantly the dread domain of RPGs it has over the past few years also provided a launch pad for some of our favourite new war-games, such as the MÖRK BORG adjacent Forbidden Psalm.
Filling that slot this year looks to be Tanya Floaker's Lo! Thy Dread Empire, a narrative focused wargame that takes its aesthetic cues from the likes of John Blanche and the whole Turnip28/28 Mag scene and is wonderfully subtitled 'The Skeleton War Against The Death Cult of Capitalism'. That alone should give you a rough idea of where we're at here. Politics in my game of toy soldiers? Yes please...
Anyway whilst we've got used to miniature agnostic games in recent years, Lo! takes it to the next level with models entirely optional and appears to have adapted many of the more recent RPG trends to deliver a much more narrative experience, though one that also promises tactical play whether you're fighting for the capitalist ghoul clans or striking back as a member of the Skeletal-Syndicalist Unions.
I think it was ZineQuest 2 when we picked up Aled Lawlor's rules-lite RPG of superpowers felines, Mew-Tants and we've been waiting impatiently ever since for its canine sequel.
Well the wait is over and Lawlor is back with Were-Woofs! Another gorgeous looking, family friendly riso-printed RPG zine where you and your pals have woken one Kafkaesque day to discover you are now dogs, which to be honest given the events of the past few years sounds delightful.
With no thumbs but a simple D6 dice pool system and 4 stats (Bark, Nose, Bite & Tail Wags per second, obviously) it's up to you and your pack to patrol the neighbourhood and figure out exactly what's going on, or just bark at postmen all day, you are after all dogs.
INN TO THE DEEP
It may be a fairly well-worn trope that so many of our adventures begin in taverns and inns, but then seeing as the pub is where so many of us go to both escape reality and quite often end up getting into trouble in our own world, we'll allow it.
Anyway Inn To The Deep is a sprawling 5 booklet collection for Old School Essentials by mapmaker Bill Edmunds that uses a ramshackle, down at heel drinking den (the best kind, obviously), The Bog Inn, as its central hub, a place where PCs can return to "after their adventures to savor their victories, replace dead hirelings, and find new adventures."
Personally I suspect that if you're not particularly inconspicuous when replacing those dead hirelings you might justly spark the fantasy equivalent of our own ongoing 'Great Resignation', but, fantasy labour relations aside, that's by the by.
Anyway five booklets, each one stretching to between 24 & 48 pages and with such evocative titles as The Temple of the Dead Ram, The Stink That Bit Hardcider and Hubbard's Experimental Deathtrap and packed full of maps, mazes, monsters and magic to murdder or otherwise make off with, that's a lot of bang for your buck, or 45 bucks to be precise.
The last time we saw Brooklet Games' Jim Hall on these pages it was when he was crowdfunding his piratical point-crawl, The Vortex Isles. Well, it appears that Jim has put the swashbuckling life behind him as he's back with something much cosier in the shape of Worldlings - Tales of Tiny Gods, a bestiary of small spirits with which to populate your world.
What we're dealign with here aren't the capricious and mighty deities of Olympus rather more animistic emanations of the natural world, Seedlets coaxing plants to grow, Mosslings tending to the pebble beds of streams, that kind of thing.
Aside from the wee wonders themselves Worldlings also a series of pre-written adventure hooks and mystery generators so you can easily incorporate them into games such as Cairn and Into The Odd.
I feel like a title like Wizard War deserves an exclamation mark at the end of it, but that small detail aside what we have here is a standalone game of duelling mages, designed be played with just a deck of cards and four D6.
With those in hand the gamer can be played in three ways, as a straight 1vs 1 card game, an in-universe Gwent style game nestled within your regular RPG or as its own comedic one-shot about two wizards locked in a magic tower planning dispute, what does remain constant though is the charismatic pixel art by one of the game's designers, Ross Holmes.
And yes, alongside the zine that contains the game's rules and setting, all but the lowest tiers of Wizard War do come complete with either a digital or physical 54 card deck that have been divided up into 4 'Houses of Power', the Nefarious Necromantic Militia (♠), the Witch Doctors of Medicine (♥), the Faerie Princes of Pranks (♣) and the Mad Money Mages (♦), and feature Ross's pixel art on the face cards.
THE SCOURGE OF NORTHLAND
One of the most expansive zines currently funding, and unsurprisingly the highest backed we've seen so far, The Scourge of Northland is a complete 60 page setting and sandbox campaign for Old School Essentials by artist and writer Jacob Fleming.
The Northland itself, apparently an area the size of Delaware (is Delaware a standard unit of measurement now?) that stands on the edge of ruin as villainous forces mass on the borders and increasingly threaten even the land's capital, the fortified city of Obanhold.
Laid out on a sprawling hex mapped landscape filled grassy plains, dark forests and ruins, catacombs, dungeons, towns and villages, there's plenty to explore here whether you're just sniffing around the areas many underworlds in search of loot or engaging in the over arching plot and getting involved in the politics and defence of the realm.
Complete with some gorgeously evocative, and suitably old school, art, The Scourge of Northland looks like a great addition to any OSE GM's arsenal.