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This week in The Gazetteer we welcome Adam Vass to our little Wyrd Scene, find fun in folklore and recommend you buy a box.
I won’t keep you long as we’ve got lots of cool stuff to share with you. Still, for those interested here’s a quick what’s what in our world. Issue 4 is -of course- out now, it should be appearing at various retailers over the next couple of weeks but you can still buy direct from us here, or indeed take out a subscription and get up to 20% off.
Issue 5’s well under way and, thankfully, the flat-plan pictured above is almost filled out now. As you can see the issue’s working title’s ‘Future Imperfect’ and a good chunk of the magazine will be devoted to those dystopian sci-fi settings we so love to play in. Expect that later this summer.
Alongside that we’re also launching a new title, The Augean Stable. A smaller A5 zine (much like WS was originally conceived as) this will have a much greater focus on game theory and design. Early stages still but expect a call for contributors soon.
Then finally we’re going to expand our operations here on Substack with a couple of new newsletters, each devoted to a more specific topic. More on this once we figure out how to pay for it but rest assured The Gazetteer will remain free.
Right, I think that’s enough about us, let’s see what more interesting people are up to… This week we chat to Adam Vass, a game designer pushing at the boundaries of what RPGs can both be and look like, we cast an eye over The Merry Mushmen’s A Folklore Bestiary, recommend you buy a cardboard box and some cool little miniatures and as ever we have some ‘stuff’ at the end for you to chew over.
Till next week…
P.S. For those who care the great Wyrd Science essay on reviews is still being worked on, we’re getting there… just slowly.
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Adam Vass (World Champ Game Co.)
This week we welcome to Wyrd Scene World Champ Game Co’s Adam Vass. One of the more inventive game designers out there, Adam’s experiments with the form, format and function of tabletop games have resulted in titles released on postcards, posters, scratch off cards, foil wrapped trading cards and even the occasional book (though when an RPG is as deeply strange as Necronautilus is probably doesn’t really need any extra bells & whistles).
Alongside that interest in pushing the boundaries of RPG product/graphic design another thread that runs through Adam’s work is an interest in horror with games like Campfire (see Wyrd Science 3 for more on that), Babes In The Wood and Cobwebs exploring its many forms, from the psychological to the visceral.
The latest in this bloody vein is 1978, an RPG that draws its inspiration from classic horror films like Halloween with one player taking on the role of the Survivor and the other the Slasher, a primeval force of machete/pitchfork/chainsaw/etc wielding malevolence rampaging through a small midwestern town. As ever it looks great, with both players using a mixture of customised cards, tokens and a ‘haunted’ playmat to build the scene during the day before night falls and the deadly game begins.
With the game on Kickstarter now we caught up with Adam to see what’s been keeping them entertained when they’ve not been dreaming up new ways to put the heebie-jeebies into the gaming public…
What are you currently… Playing?
I’ve been playing on my switch a lot while I travel, so I just finished the cosmic horror fishing game Dredge and started Citizen Sleeper and both of them occupy my brain while I’m trying to sleep (in good ways).
… Listening to?
I’m loving the final season of Barry that’s airing now and traumatizing me each weekend, plus the series adaptation of Dead Ringers which I didn’t expect to love but was hooked right away by Rachel Weisz’s performance.
… Working on?
Anyone who knows me well knows the work-in-progress list is never ending and ever warping, but besides my current game, 1978, I’ve got a folk horror and found footage horror game In the queue for my patrons as well as a solo sword and sorcery game called FLAIL going into testing soon.
My band La Dispute is also tinkering with some new songs for the first time since covid hit, so my brain is firing on all cylinders lately. Here’s to staving off that burnout and keeping the party alive!
A Folklore Bestiary [The Merry Mushmen]
Whilst most of the fantasy creatures we face across the table have their roots in folklore, decades of monstrous manuals and fiendish folios have divorced them from their source material, often stripping them of much of their weirdness in the process.
A Folklore Bestiary, from the publishers of KNOCK! is something of a restorative then, introducing around 40 monsters that have been culled from folk tales around the world and statted up for the ever reliable Old School Essentials (a 5E version is also available if you’re that way inclined).
From Basque giants to French faeries, Chinese fox spirits to the utterly bizarre Mapinguari of Brazil with its metaphysical guts, The Merry Mushmen have scoured the world for bizarre behemoths and extraordinary entities alike, recruiting local writers, such as Diogo Nogueira, to develop and flesh out each entry alongside Letty Wilson’s evocative art.
It’s often said that a good monster is an adventure in of itself and that’s certainly the case here. Alongside their stats every entry comes complete with the stories, myths and legends that surround them plus plot hooks, wondrous treasures, motivations and everything you might need to create a strange and unsettling encounter.
And it’s almost certain that the encounters this book will inspire will be both very strange and quite unsettling, in the way that unpasteurised folk tales often are.
So if you’ve grown tired of throwing orcs and skeletons at your players this charming bestiary could be just what you need to reintroduce a touch of high weirdness to your games and problems that more often than not must be solved by cunning and guile rather than just hitting things with swords.
Philip Reed’s Tomb of Zines
It would be impossible to try and keep up with everything that Philip Reed publishes, the man is a machine rarely without a Kickstarter on the go. Still, if you’re into old school style games it’s also impossible to go far wrong taking a punt on any of the myriad brochures, pamphlets or zines he produces.
Of course once you have picked up a few zines you’re faced with the problem that all us people of culture eventually face, how do you store the bloody things. Comic longboxes are a workable if inelegant solution, but how about something a little more bespoke, a Tomb of Zines perhaps.
Yep, ok… this is a Kickstarter for a cardboard box but hold up it’s more than just that, for a start it has a fancy skeleton on the front which is a win any way you look at it. Beyond gnarly aesthetics though the box is the perfect receptacle for both a thick stack of zines and the kind of digest sized rule books so beloved of the OSR, perfect for keeping everything you need together in one place.
Like any old school tomb worth exploring cracking this bad boy open is just the start and inside you’ll find all manner of random encounter tables etched on its walls and 6 new brochures (& more being added as stretch goals) from the man himself to add to, or perhaps start, your collection.
Westfalia Miniatures - Dark Tides
Those not new to this parish will know that we’re big fans of miniature agnostic wargames. Whilst we’ve often pushed them as a good way to get more use out of your existing collection of, let’s be honest probably Citadel, miniatures they’re also a great excuse to pick up some, often even stranger, little plastic freaks from the many other model companies out there.
Montreal’s Westfalia Miniatures came to our attention last year when they ran a Kickstarter for a set of suitably horrible Mork Borg minis, and now they’re back with Dark Tides a collection of seven chaos champions (and their attendant mini-mes), ready to battle it out for the favour of the dark gods using the brutal rule set of your choosing.
Oh yes, you also get a bloody great big door, not sure why but as a fan of making little dioramas i’m not one to look a gift porte in the mouth. Anyway they’re some wonderfully evocative little sculpts, filled with character and morbid vitality so check them out.
Also whilst we’re on the subject check out Dead Gods, the new mini-agnostic skirmish game from RPG designer Scott Malthouse where you put together an esoteric warcult to battle through the rotting remains of deceased deities in search of unholy relics. Great family friendly stuff!
A collection of other things, both interesting and inspiring, gaming related and not, culled from around the web...
As someone who was obsessed with UFOs & their related conspiracies back in the 90s, and still has a book shelf groaning with books by the likes of Jacques Vallee, it’s been fascinating to see the topic pick up steam again. Anyway another ‘whistleblower’ has emerged this week claiming that the US ‘has possession of “intact and partially intact” alien vehicles’ with the story picked up by mainstream, vaguely sensible media.
I’ve always found the idea that these mad lads could build faster than light spaceships, navigate their way half way across the galaxy only to crash immediately upon entering earth’s atmosphere to be a strange one but anyway at least from a sociological point of view it’s interesting, if occasionally terrifying, to try and figure out why these stories are appearing again.
Speaking of Alien invaders this seems like a good time for a quick plug for Majestic 13, the new XCom style skirmish game from Adam Loper (see Wyrd Scene from a couple of weeks ago) & Vince Venturella.
Sticking with high weirdness, one of the last things we did before the pandemic struck was visit Carnac in North-West France, home to thousands of megaliths arranged in vast, let’s say geomantic, lines. Quite amazing, if you’re into that kind of thing.
Well, apparently there are now a few less of those ancient stones haunting the landscape as echoing the plot of many a folk horror story developers have destroyed 39 of them whilst building a DIY shop. Expect to hear tales of haunted hammers and cursed plumbing anon.
Whether you’re excited for Warhammer 40K’s imminent tenth edition or utterly uninterested you should still have a read of this excellent, lengthy, essay by Tim Colwill on how Games Workshop has handled the game’s inherent, often muddled politics, how real world groups have latched onto the game and whether the satire defence still stands up.
As I said it’s a long piece so get yourself a brew on and settle in. Personally I think I agree with the main thrust of it all, with a few caveats and minor objections which, as luck will have it, we’re already expanding upon in a feature for our next issue.
We absolutely love the hand crafted special editions that L.F. OSR produces of indie RPGs such as Azag, Cairn and DURF and right now they’re having a sale as they prepare to move location. There’s just two days left so check it out and pick up some of these rare treasures.
On heavy rotation this week in the Wyrd Science office is Zango, the remarkable, and remarkably unlikely, new album from Zambian psychedelic-rock-afrobeat band WITCH, who return after nearly 4 decades absence from the studio with one of our albums of the year so far.
If you read about Big Bad Con in our current issue and were intrigued then tickets are on sale now with the opportunity to also contribute towards their scholarship funds.
The excellent Swedish artist Niklas Wistedt, aka Paths Peculiar, has partnered with Loyal Familiar Arts to produce this ace glow-in-the-dark ‘Cottage Dungeon’ in badge. On sale this Friday and hopefully on our jacket a few days later.
A little follow up to last week’s Gazetteer where we mentioned Clayton Notestine’s Classic Explorer’s Template, a brilliant graphic design tool for budding RPG designers. From next week Clayton is going to be hosting a jam over on itch, a chance for people to experiment with the template, create some cool stuff and get feedback on their work from the community, find all the rules and info here.
I’ve been laughing at these Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle toys for a solid week now, just great stuff.
Sad as it is to see an era end it’s great to see the big man himself, John Blanche, enjoying his well earned retirement.