Monday, March 2, 2020

Old-School Essentials Gems #1

         There is a growing number of materials that are being produced with the Old-School Essentials label upon them. Many in fact are slipping by the wayside and people are not aware of their existence, which is the point of this series. I am going to try and let the growing Old-School Essentials crowd know about products that were released, or are going to be released soon. These reviews will hearken back to the preview articles I wrote a few months ago previewing the OSE material while still in the production end of the Kickstarter. For those that do not know, OSE is my go to system, because it is both amazing in its depth, but easy in in application. If you have not checked out the core product, you cannot get a better game for the money. This fact has become more evident in the amount of game producers that are now choosing to make products for the system. 

Appendix N Entertainment  

This publisher is made up of Ryan Thompson and his products. You might recognize his name in that my first review on my blog was for you Hidden Hand of the Horla. I was very positive on the product and since then he has had two other Kickstarters that were both Old-School Essentials based. The first, which we will go into more depth today, was Lost Classes and Cannibal Corpses. This was a combination of a zine full of classes to use with OSE, and another zine for an adventure. I will go into much more depth about these products, but I wanted to mention them here. Next, Appendix N Entertainment created a Kickstarter to revamp Hidden Hand of the Horla for OSE and revamp the presentation at the same time. I have seen some of the preview art for the new version and I think it looks wonderful. All of this is to say that this is a publisher worth watching and he has delivered on promised content with each project he has undertaken. 

Hidden Hand of the Horla preview art

The Lost Classes: The Arnesonian Classes

The theory behind this supplement is that back in the day there was a large zine culture and many creations were lost because of time. This supplement is an attempt to revive some of the lost classes that were created back then specifically ones created by Dave Arneson. For years we have heard about classes that were created for the original game that Dave ran, but never made it into any edition of D&D. Thompson admits up front that there are sparse details on these classes that exist in the world, but he attempted to piece together what he found, and fill in the blank spot with compatible mechanics. This is sort of like making dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, we have some of the DNA, we have to fill in the gaps were they appear. Overall he did a wonderful job, the classes appear to be both fun and on par with the other classes in the OSE/BX sphere of influence. 

The first two classes are the Merchant and Sage. Hit up the blogosphere or old message boards to see that the mystery around these two classes are great. The Merchant’s closest relative is the Thief, but they are much more social characters. They have a large amount of social and knowledge based skills, but also are not the absolute worst in a fight. While lacking the stealth abilities of the thief they still have great amounts of use in a campaign that values social interaction. You could say that the Sage is a variant of the Magic-User, but that really isn’t the best fit. The Sage really stands alone as something completely different. The Sage, as the name would suggest, is the master of knowing information. The Sage has areas of expertise and this allows them, with money, to research topics and glean information that would be useful to a party. Sages have little in the way of offensive ability, but can use magical items and scrolls. In the game I currently run there is no Magic-User, but if it came down to them getting a Magic-User or a Sage, they would pick a Sage hands-down. Knowledge is often a better commodity in OSR games than magic.

The next two classes do have their roots in the early games as well, but are even more mysterious than the Merchant and Sage. These next two race-as-class characters are the Chimpanzee Folk and Duck Folk. The Chimpanzee folk is a lot like the Sage and share several of their knowledge based abilities. These guys are much more Dr. Zaius and less King Kong. They do have some abilities that you would associate with a chimp like climbing and movement based abilities. They look like they would be a great variant for people wanting to play a Sage, but also not play a human. Next are the Duck Folk, and I must admit that I am a bit of a duck fan. I am actually purchasing a new house at the moment and a strong factor in my purchase was the duck pond in the back. These Duck Folk are heroes of the people are known for their martial prowess and ability to combat the undead. They remind me of a Paladin in many ways, but also a Cleric in many ways too. They basically split the difference with some duck-like attributes sprinkled in and by the way they worship the god of death. Their holy anger and wrath is fun and can make some neat characters. I know that beast folk might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but there is no reason you cannot file the fluff off these characters and make a new race or class out of the creation. The duck and a more classic Minotaur could be a cool switch with some minor modifications. It could even be a dwarven paladin, which would be cool.

If you would like to find this product please click HERE

Solar Sanctuary of the Cannibal Corpse

This adventure is a solid entry into the world of OSE, especially if you are looking for something a bit more grounded. The story revolves around a mysterious plague that is infecting the land and an ancient temple to the god of the sun. The adventure is for characters between 1st – 3rd levels, but does warn that encounters are not balanced for these level characters and cautious PCs will avoid unnecessary fights. This product is extremely plug-n-play and can be put into any campaign with ease. The module provides a base of operations city, St. Clara’s Bridges, which provides enough detail to be useful, while allowing the DM to work other plot threads and information into it. The town though is completely optional and can be ignored, if your players are already operating in a sandbox locale, you can just add in a plague and rumors of the temple and you are off. 

The adventure, like Hidden Hand of the Horla, has some decent replay ability due to the amount of random charts provided. These can change the adventure in interesting ways and make for different experiences. This adventure is a bit longer than Hidden Hand and it might be possible to run this as a one shot at a convention, but you might be pushing it. To me, to let this adventure and the plot breathe a little is the best option. This screams to me for two or three sessions, ramping up the tension each session and emphasizing the spreading of the disease. The adventure contains a full listing of monsters, new magic items, interesting information of plague doctors, and an Appendix N for further inspiration. It is a great product and if you have not checked it out, you should.

If you would like to find this product please click HERE.

Currently Appendix N Entertainment is running an OSE based Kickstarter. Please check my sidebar for the link.

Do you have an Old-School Essentials product you would like me to review? Let me know which ones in the comments or send me a direct message. I am always on the lookout for new material to plug into my games. 

Want to read my review of Hidden Hand of the Horla? Click HERE.

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