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I got a free review product from the author. This is a reading review of the PDF.
What Do You Need to Know?
Dice Roll Zine #1 is an old-school D&D fanzine by Hogtown Games. For $4.00 you get a 36 pages PDF. It features a no-fuss layout and excellent b/w artwork.
A print version is available on The Borderlands: $9 for Canada & USA, $10.50 everywhere else in the world.
What's in It?
I love the material about How to Resolve Anything that Comes Up. It's a simple 2d6 resolution system for games without skill systems. You use the character's ability scores and roll on a table when you don't know what should happen.
This system looks like a neat tiny solo role-playing oracle for old-school games.
There is the Barbarian, a B/X character class with Battle Rage. I like the abilities: Savage Lore (Feral Senses, tracking...), Flesh Like Steel (being unarmored), etc.
But I'm not sure if I want to have the Barbarian as a separate class. A question of game philosophy, I'm sure. For me, it would be enough to play a Fighter and fluff it up. Play the character like a Barbarian. Still, the zine's take on the class seems like a sensible one.
The author, Steve A. Cook, also came up with optional rules for throwing down enemies and turning undead. You can use these to brush up your game. The Throw Down rule sounds like a neat mechanic. It allows you a boost if successful, e.g., +1 bonus to attacks, damage, saves, and other checks. I can see myself using this rule in my games.
Most of the zine concerns itself with The Purple Mushroom Inn, a science fantasy adventure site for low and mid-level characters.
As a fan of random tables, I appreciate the rumor & adventure seed table. For example, entry #3:
Flumbledorp the wizard-druid tried building his own ‘lost world’ park. He failed miserably. Angry dinosaurs with death ray eyes are ravaging the Fungoid Forest.
The adventure comes off as "sand-boxy". There is no quest per se. But the adventure has hooks and interesting Non-Player Characters (NPCs). Still, either the Game Master (GM) or the players need to come up a motivation or an inciting incident.
The author also provides a menu and other tidbits for flavor. For example, the intoxicant Bravo Tab "increases bravery and morale (Charisma +1d4) along with its mild high for 1d6 hours, but lowers Intelligence 1d4 points".
The author gave the content organization some thought. You get a write-up on the inn's staff, a map with keys and then detailed info on every room with stats. Steve Cook does a splendid job of providing you with the main points, for example how security works. As the GM, you can skim the entries and distill the most critical aspects. The writing is terse but evocative.
I appreciate the entries for the main characters. You get information about personality, flaws, secrets, and motivations.
The science-fantasy adventure is quite hilarious. Depending on your humor or tolerance for silliness this might be a good or bad thing.
There is a holo-suite which you can use to slot in another adventure. I found that to be quite a smart idea.
All in all, you get a lot of tools in this zine: rules for flying an airship, a Chaos Mutants die drop table and a "Random Dungeon Stuff Die Drop Table". That one is useful, and it would also be cool for a solo role-player.
Roll 1d6 and consult the "Random Stuff?" table below whenever you think random stuff may happen in the dungeon. Whether it’s once per turn, once per hour, once per minute, when the players annoy you … the frequency doesn’t matter.
The tables have some funny items like “Chainmail bikini. Dwarf-sized.” or an egg which hatches a small dinosaur baby. They come with a nod towards 90s films like “Honey, I shrunk the PCs!” or “I ain’t afraid of no ghosts.”.
The zine concludes with some (unkeyed) mega-dungeon maps.
For $4 the zine is a steal. It offers terrific content for a gonzo sci-fi/fantasy old school game and thoughtful rules. Plus, as a solo gamer, I found a lot of practical tools.
I'm surprised about how much I like this zine. It provides a different take than the dark stuff that I prefer in Vacant Ritual Assembly or Wormskin.
I like that the author included extra downloads of the maps. And I value that the text is released as Open Content under the OGL.
The layout is friendly and straightforward. That is a feat in itself. Paired with the artwork and the maps, Dice Roll Zine #1 looks nifty. Digital bookmarks would have been lovely. But not having them is not a dealbreaker.
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