Monday, April 18, 2011

O for Oubliette Fanzine

[Note: Any non-gamers tuning in to this series of posts are invited to consult my New Reader Introduction for some RPG-specific definitions and a general introduction to the Lands of Ara blog.]

As regular readers know, I am a big fan of Peter Regan's Oubliette Old-School Fantasy Roleplaying Magazine -- see my previous review here. Oubliette Issue Number 5, released last month, does nothing to diminish my enthusiasm for this superb publication.

As usual, Oubliette #5 is chock full of inventive and usable gaming material. Let me give you a brief rundown of some (NOT all) of its key features:

Monster Club #8 - "The Monstermark System." This method for determining how challenging a given monster is to kill is a bit too number-crunchy for my tastes, but I can absolutely see its use-value for DMs who want a more accurate benchmark than Hit Dice. Adapted from an original concept found in White Dwarf #s 1-3, the Monstermark system accounts for monster toughness by estimating how long a monster can survive in direct combat with a 5th Level fighter, and how much damage that monster can deal per round. Regan explains the system very well and provides charts and many relevant examples to clarify how the system may be used.

The Vampire.  My favorite offering of Issue #5, this substantive article about how to create PC vampires is really a long-overdue concept IMO.  We all know that D&D vampires can create other vampires, but how exactly does one stat up a PC-turned-vampire?  Moreover, how does one make one's vampires, PC or no, unique?  This article provides answers, outlining a thoroughgoing system for generating unique vampires.  Attribute adjustments, special abilities, a sanity mechanic -- it's all here.  This article alone is worth the cover price of the mag. 

Good Shop /Bad Shop and Dungeon in a Box.  These two pieces are interrelated: the first (which is part of an ongoing series) presents another unique magic shop, "Mad Varto's," while the second expands upon one of the devious magical items found therein.  While I am not typically a big fan of "tournament-y" or "gimmicky" one-off adventure scenarios, I must tip my hat to Regan for the "Dungeon in a Box" concept.  I don't want to give too much away here, just suffice to say that the "Dungeon in a Box" would fit in to practically any campaign and, with slight adaptation / modification, could be used to test the PCs in a wide variety of ways.  It is s simple but highly expandable idea. 

Paladin Persecution by Lam McGra.  This article, which could (and probably should) be taken somewhat tongue-in-cheek, nevertheless delivers a very usable set of suggestions for how to DM paladins in your D&D game.  It offers many ideas for how to keep paladins "in line," adhering to their strict moral code and discussing how to penalize them if they stray too far from Lawful Goodness.  I do not even allow paladins in my own Labyrinth Lord game, but I am in agreement with the thrust of this article and can imagine it being delightfully deployable by DMs who allow paladin PCs.

The Art.  As usual, The Marg's artwork in Oubliette #5 is just terrific, my favorite pieces in this issue being the cover image (see above) and the awesome vampire pic on p. 9.  Her smaller illustrations throughout the "Alternative Vampires" article are also spot-on -- shades of Eddie Munster!

Anyway, if you haven't already, I strongly urge you to check out Issue #5 of Oubliette (available in pdf for $2.50 or print for $4.52).  Regan & Co. continue to publish a proportionately high volume of usable game content each issue, in a very appealing and well-designed format.  Long live Oubliette

Creativity and inspiration-value: 5 out of 5, Peter Regan is still delivering the goods, and Oubliette is a model for concise, user-friendly fanzine presentation.

Use-value to DM's: 3 out of 5 to 5 out of 5, depending upon the type of campaign you are running. High Fantasy or pulp fantasy = 5 out of 5. Weird fantasy, post-apocalyptic, or sci-fi = 3 out of 5 at best.  Oubliette is ostensibly geared toward the Labyrinth Lord ruleset, though its content would be easily adaptable to other similar systems.

Playability: Not yet tested, though given the "nuts and bolts" nature of most of the ideas here, and their having been playtested by Peter's own Labyrinth Lord group, I assume that most of Oubliette's content would run very well.


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  2. It sounds really informative and cool.

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  3. Hi Carter, Thanks for another great review. I spent a bit of time yesterday planning articles for the next issue, which should be out in the summer.

  4. I'm blushing most becomingly and drawing decapitated adventurers as I type - I believe in multi-tasking. Many thanks for your continued support.