What do you need to know?
Vacant Ritual Assembly is a fairly new OSR fanzine by Red Moon Medicine Show. Aesthetically, it takes inspiration from Lamentations of the Flame Princess (LotFP), so it tends towards the weird/gothic/horror tone. The first issue was a pleasant surprise for me as it was choke-full with interesting material.
So, what's in it?
- a d66 name table
- a d12 birth sign table
- a weird village/mini-setting, Dretcher's Bay, with a one-page-dungeon (The Secrets of Acray)
- an article about mystical oarsmen
- a d66 table of woes
- a cyclops adventure
- an interview with Greg Gorgonmilk about his project Dolmenwood
When I read that issue, I felt the need to put on some Metal sounds. Somehow that fits, you can't skim through a zine like this listening to radio tracks. It is full of strange stuff which makes it a great read for me.
There are some utility items like the tables. I especially like the birth sign random generator. Every sign gives a stat bonus and has some suggested personality traits. Therefore, it's a neat way to flesh out a character.
Dretcher's Bay is a top-notch broad-strokes setting/adventure kit. It's a fishing village which is governed by three entities called "the Captains". One of them is a mancrow! There are a new giant lobster-like species called Nephroids, archaic diving suits and a dolphin sorceress (in The Secrets of Acray).
The Oarsmen teleport you anywhere for a price. The article by guest author Anxious P is well-written and the idea of the Oarsmen is a nice one for sure. They are a bit creepy but can be used by the GM if he wants to help to get the party anywhere else (like teleportation).
The adventure With Thine Eye Beheld is a short dungeon crawl with a cyclops theme and with a little twist. The author describes it as: "The Hills Have Eyes + the Westboro Baptists + a cyclops cargo cult + a cool magic gem".
Last, you have the interview about Dolmenwood.
The Dolmenwood project is comprised of several books that describe an out-of-the-way tract of wilderness where pagan and prehuman powers lurk.
It's 22 pages of material + cover. The artwork is pretty cool. While not everything is on a professional level (it's a zine I don't expect that) it nevertheless is very flavorful. I just love the village illustration and the drawings of the Nephroids.
The cover also conveys the tone of the zine very well.
Layout, typography and maps are nicely done, good production value. Unlike other fanzines, VRA doesn't use a cardstock cover which makes it feel a bit flimsy. I don't think it's an issue, especially for the considerably low price of 4 bucks worldwide, but it had to be said.
Like issue #1 I appreciate this zine for its weird and interesting shit. I'm not sure if I ever use anything of it, but I had much fun reading it. Especially Dretcher's Bay, "the Captains" and Nephroids are great. Additionally, much of the content is very useful, especially if you like the surreal vibe of LotfP. Definitely worth a look!