Sunday, June 30, 2013

Theorems & Thaumaturgy (Review-ish)

Like the previous review-ish thing, this one has been in the pipe for a while. Again, apologies for the long delay!

Review-ish Thing #2: Theorems & Thaumaturgy

Theorems & Thaumaturgy is Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion supplement by Gavin Norman, available for free as a PDF, a softcover book, or hardcover book via Lulu. Theorems & Thaumaturgy is a collection of new magic-using classes, variant classes, new magic tomes, new magic items, new monsters, and optional rules for magic in your Labyrinth Lord game. Despite the book being only 65 pages long, it's crammed with a whole lot of content. Also, it's worth noting that, despite being billed as a Labyrinth Lord supplement, most of the content is usable with pretty much any old school clone system without the need for complex conversion (indeed, depending upon your alternate clone of choice, much of it can be used as-is). So, what exactly does the book contain?

The first section of Theorems & Thaumaturgy is dedicated to new magic-using classes for use with the Labyrinth Lord Advanced Edition Companion. The new magic-using classes are: Elementalist, Necromancer, and Vivimancer. The primary things that differentiates these classes from the base Magic-User are their custom spell lists, that only members of their respective class have access to. For example, a Necromancer has exclusive access to spells like Bind Spirit, Skeletal Army, and Steal Life Force. Elementalists and Vicimancers have exclusive access to similarly thematic spells related to their class. All too often I'm used to seeing different magic-using classes drawing from the exact same spell list, with the primary differences being class abilities, instead. I much prefer the approach that Theorems & Thaumaturgy has taken, as I think it produces more dynamic characters.

The second section of the book is dedicated to variant classes. These are, specifically, classes that already exist in Labyrinth Lord, but that have been adjusted in some way. The two variant classes are the Fey Elf and the Expanded Illusionist. The former is a dimensional shifting elf that is native to the "Fey Dimension" and makes extensive use of magic spells. Some new spells are offered for the Fey Elf, but the primary spell list is basically that of a re-worked Magic-User dubbed the "Sorcerer" that borrows spells primarily from the already existent spell lists in Labyrinth Lord. The latter variant class is just what it says on the tin - an expanded variant of the standard Labyrinth Lord Illusionist. This variant class consists wholly of new spells that can be used to compliment the existing spell list for Illusionists in Labyrinth Lord.

The third section of Theorems & Thaumaturgy is dedicated to specific magic tomes, each of which adds new spells to the game. This chapter is kind of a mixed bag, in my opinion. It has some perfectly serviceable tomes and corresponding spells, such as The Book of Deception, but it also has at least one tome and corresponding spell list that seem as though it can only be used to inflict grief on your fellow players and GM: The Book of Pranks. It reads like some kind of Kender spell collection and there is absolutely no way I would ever allow it into my game. On the other hand, if you're a fan of Kender-style absurdity, it might be right up your alley.

The final section of the book is a collection of appendices that contains.... well, everything else that I mention in the first paragraph of this review (as well as example lists of memorized spells for the new classes and a really kick-ass, all-encompassing, index). This material isn't especially remarkable, but is a nice way to round out the book. I particularly like the optional rules for magic-using classes, such as allowing them to detect magic at will (the reasoning being that it will still give low-level casters something "arcane" to do when their small selection of daily spells has been cast). I'm totally swiping that for my own games.

In conclusion, despite its slim page count, I feel that Theorems & Thaumaturgy offers a pretty good selection of exciting, new, rules that can be used to spice up pretty much any old school clone. I don't play Labyrinth Lord, as I mentioned in a previous review, but I'm still pretty jazzed about Gavin Norman's book and can't wait to use some Necromancers and Vivimancers in Darker Dungeons and Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Ruins of the Undercity (Review-ish)

This has been a while in the making. I've been really slow about getting these review-ish things posted. Part of this is because I'm a Bi-Polar loon. Well, no, that's all of it, really. So, without further ado....

Review-ish Thing #1: Ruins of the Undercity

Ruins of the Undercity is a small form factor Labyrinth Lord supplement by Kabuki Kaiser available both as a PDF from RPGNow for $5.00 (US) or as a printed softcover book from Lulu for $9.90 (US). Ruins of the Undercity is essentially a love letter to Appendix A of the original AD&D Dungeon Master's Guide (Random Dungeon Generation). It provides all of the tools that you will need to randomly generate the titular ruins of the Undercity, treasure tables (including rules for campaign-specific artifacts), and a healthy series of random encounter tables that heavily reference the Labyrinth Lord monster catalog (listing page numbers therein for reference). Now for my sole (and petty) criticism....

This latter thing makes using Ruins with systems other than Labyrinth Lord a little inconvenient but, to be fair, it is billed as a Labyrinth Lord accessory. This said, I wouldn't mind seeing a future printing of Ruins that includes basic stats for all of the creatures inline (things like HD and AC, which can easily be converted between the various old school clones with a bare minimum of mental math). Sure, this would boost the page count quite a bit, but it would also make Ruins a much more useful supplement for those of us using clones other than Labyrinth Lord. Worth noting is that some monsters specific to the Undercity setting are detailed in Ruins itself.

Rounding out Ruins are some basic rules and tables for wandering into the city of Cryptopolis that sits atop the Undercity (e.g., a shopping list, detailed rules for interacting with merchants, random city encounter tables). These aids taken with the Undercity generation tools do provide a basic framework for a solo dungeon-crawling campaign or can be used to randomly generate dungeons for use in a multi-player game (for the former, you'll want to roll up things on the fly to preserve suspense but, for the latter, I highly recommend generating a sizable chunk of your dungeon beforehand).

In conclusion, I feel that Ruins of the Undercity packs a lot of play potential into a relatively slim package. I don't personally play Labyrinth Lord (I currently plan on using it with Darker Dungeons and Basic Fantasy Role-Playing Game), so I've had to put a little bit of extra work in to get the most out of Ruins of the Undercity, but it has been worth it. Ruins of the Undercity is a worthy successor to Appendix A and a fine product made available at reasonable prices.