Zine Quest 2 was a few months ago and many of the products are starting to reach the public. This week I received The Adventure’s Guide to the Yol’Najj Forest by Zeshio. I was not familiar with Zeshio before this project, but I was pulled in by the evocative art that many have mentioned has a Mike Mignola feel. I also knew going in that it would be a micro-setting that would be system agnostic. Other than that, I was just taking a $10 chance on a product. I am happy that I took that chance, because dollar for dollar, this was one of the best products I have purchased in a while.
What You Get In The Book
- 37 pages including the interior of the back cover
- 3 maps (1 valley, 1 city, 1 fortress)
- 10 new pieces of gear/magic items
- 9 factions
- 15 NPC character descriptions
- Lots of new creatures and plants
- Plenty of lovely art
- A ton of random charts
- More stuff I did not mention
As you can see quite a bit is crammed into 37 pages of content. The one thing you cannot blame Zeshio for is not giving you plenty for the price of admission.
The setting for the book is about a magical forest and the surrounding areas. Besides the forrest itself there is the Cutting Fields, the Mycon Swamp, the Yol’Najj Jungle, the Votari Vertical Caverns, the Oldwood, Volax – The Crystal City, and the Crystal Crevice. Each location has a section in the book and gets a few pages of description, factions, monsters, and interesting inhabitants. The magic forest also sits on an ancient ley line that gives it power. The ley line is corrupted and causes an explosion in the mountain nearby raining magical crystals all over the area. These crystals are influencing the local flora and fauna in various ways. There are several factions in the area, and each are reacting to the magical crystals and the disease it creates, in different ways. As time goes on you can form relationships with different factions and completing missions for the factions will help in shaping the world around them.
Stuff I Like
I have other articles that I talk about my love of “plug and play” mini-settings and this is just that. I could easily plug in all or part of this book into a larger campaign like Barrowmaze. If you are a reader of mine, you might have seen me compliment Thunder Rift as a product, and this is a smaller version of that. I also like that the art truly gives you a feel for the setting. Zeshio seems to have on their website different art projects and seems to be quite proficient in their craft. It would be easy to snip pictures from the PDF to create an art book for the players to look at during game or make tokens for Roll20 and the like.
The game is completely system agnostic and I do mean completely. There is not a stat in the entire book, just suggestions on powers or effects that should happen. I find myself automatically figuring out how I would make this magic item in Old School Essentials, 5e, or even Savage Worlds. This can literally be used with any system and is like Rocketship Empires in that respect if you are familiar with that game. Here is an example of a magic effect from an item in the book.
“Those hit with the bow are stunned briefly and take decay damage. Shadowy, ethereal tendrils cover the bow.”
In OSE, because OSR rules are a bit brutal, I would have it be a +1-bow doing d6 damage, plus a save vs paralysis or suffer an additional d6 damage from dark energies. If I were running it in 5e, I would have the have the bow be a +2 and do D8+2 damage plus a Constitution saving throw. On a fail, the victim is slowed the next turn and takes an additional 2d8 necrotic damage. As you can see it is completely flexible with whatever system you are planning to use and since I run a host of different games it is useful in my entire collection.
What You Might Not Like About It
I can see that some people might not like the fact that the game is completely game agnostic. There are suggestions on how monsters and items should be, but if you really want stats, this is not the supplement for you. I have been playing RPGs and especially D&D for 30 years and coming up with things on the fly are not difficult for me, but I know some people do not want to put work into a product for which they are paying money. I understand that feeling.
The game has a subsystem in it that needs to be tracked if the setting is to be used fully. There is a mechanic that tracks Order, Health, Chaos, and Death. The actions that players take need to be tracked and they effect how the forest and the area react. Over time the meters will build, and the forest changes and different factions will take different actions. It is a bit of a clock mechanic that allows actions to happen in the background and make the world feel more alive. To be completely fair and honest, the mechanic is not that difficult to track, but I know some people do not want to have anything extra to do when running a game.
Where Can You Get It
I do not think that it is currently available in print format, outside of the people who backed the Kickstarter. It is available in PDF format for $7.99 from here. For the price I do not think you can beat it. Possibly if there is enough demand another run of the physical product can be done.
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