Thursday, February 20, 2020

A Review of Times That Fry Men’s Souls

               This was a long time in coming, I have wanted to review this product for a while, but never got around to doing it. I want to get this out right in the beginning, I love this book. I think Sean McAnally did a fantastic job and I find it useful on many levels. The concept is something a bit rarer and different to the OSR scene being a historical hexcrawl. What exactly do you get with this purchase? It is a Hexcrawl set in the Revolutionary War that provides a rich setting with all the horrid twists you would want with an old-school product. For those that are familiar with the Deadlands role-playing game, this setting would be akin to that but about 100 years before. The main setting is still the Revolutionary War, but it has all the supernatural stuff that make it more interesting. The book makes no strong claims to historical accuracy and the author admits that the situations have been simplified for playability. For your average knowledge player this will be accurate enough, if you happen to be a history major or serious history buff, you will find the occasional issue, but nothing over the top. The book has stats that are easily transferable to any old-school type game. The book tries to make allowances for differences in style instead of listing AC in ascending or descending form, it list things like AC “as chainmail” so that you can easily figure out what it is in your game. A typical stat block is provided below.

What Do You Get?

                 The back of the physical book is an 80 hex map of the area surrounding New York. Each hex is labeled and most hexes have on average two encounters listed in the books with description and each page is a single hex. Encounters include everything from the super mundane like hunting a pack of white-tail deer, to meeting deserters from the war, to fighting ancient Native American monsters. The mix is quite good and allows you to have different encounters if the players return to the hex, or decided to spend a prolong period of time encamped. The biggest encounters get a large paragraph with the smaller ones having only a sentence or two. This is perfect for running on the fly because the core information is available and described in brief.

A typical encounter with stat block

The beginning of the book has a lovely list of the various plot threads and the different hexes that they are located in, this just makes it easier to know where your players might head in a given day. The plot threads are not a necessity for the players to follow, but something for them to do if they desire. There is no real ticking clock and the world will end if the players do not act. The players are free to get involved with whatever they desire it is an extremely open sandbox. One of the few nitpicks I have is I wish there was a GM’s map that put out all the locations without the texture. You could even print that on a transparency and put it over the map. This is nothing that cannot be solved with a printer and a marker though.
The next section of the book is entitled “Weird Tales of the Supernatural”. This is an amazing asset for any GM. These are 10 two page min-plots that you can add to the game, or not as you desire. The author gives some ideas on how to implement them, and possible where to implement them, but the decision is yours. Many of these plot threads I have pulled from this book and put into my regular Old-School Essentials games, often with little to no change. One of my favorite involves a woman and a “Devil-Child” that are on the verge of lynching in a town and the PCs have to decide to interfere or not.

Lastly you get a third section that is absolutely full of random tables. This will not only fill your games with a lot of authentic flavor for the period, once again many of the tables would be useful for any old-school game. Examples include period appropriate names for several different nationalities and ethnicity, random encounters, typical meals, weird items, periodicals & books, personal items and many more. This section also has a table for appropriate weapons and armor for the period with listed damages and effects. Most of these conform to the weapons and armor that are commonly found in the old-school games that we are familiar with and use.


                You can get the PDF here for $5, or the print version here for $10. For this little investment you are getting a large amount of material coming in at 144 pages. This is an easy to use supplement that works well with Old-School Essentials, Swords & Wizardry, AD&D, and especially Lamentations of the Flame Princess due to it already having firearms. If you want to read a great supplement that is different than your standard Hexcrawl, give this one a chance. I think you will be quite happy with it.

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