On Blogs Versus Books

There is hardly any new content in the Hack & Slash Compendium: Blog Collection II, yet it took over a month and nearly 500$ to create.

It wouldn't be worth it, if I didn't need the compendium. I used the treasure pdf when designing dungeons. But over the years, I've made additions to it, and used Abulafia to automate it. The original document wasn't enough. I've added to my own personal copy.

I also put a lot of content up here on the blog, a 50 item series on interesting treasure, discussion of hoard types, etc. Blogs aren't the best format for reference. It's not only a collection for utility, but also prosperity. Although I don't think my blog will disappear or I'll suddenly be without electricity or internet access at some future date, it is even less likely someone will come into my house and destroy the books on my shelves and lulu will shut down, and my blog will be shut down, and all my digital devices die.

If that does happen, I'll probably have bigger worries than generating treasure.

But that's not enough. Tom's article on who you meet when leaving the dungeon is the best implementation of the baroque Gygaxian tax force that's ever been written. How could I publish a treatise on treasure and economies without including it? Arnold, who's the most creative writer in the OSR had just written the single best list of 100 minor magic items I've ever read (and I've read about a dozen of them since I started gaming). John wrote an article on an unspoken tradition that has been part of our history that I felt needed to be recorded.

I feel, and I could be wrong here, that each of them would have let me publish their work for free. That's not right. So I paid them. 5 cents a word. Apparently that's better then a lot of professional publishers pay (he said, stroking his own mane).

Arnold wrote a lot of words. c_c

Paying people when releasing pay what you want is a risk. I honestly don't know if I'll make any money on this project, but losing money is ok too because I don't mind so much come tax time. All the revenue generated will be going to future projects, because the point isn't profit. Objectivists and wall street accountants everywhere are losing their minds.

Picking the articles, contacting everyone, getting them paid, that all took some time. But that's not the whole of it.

This book goes down on my permanent record. I recently read a self-published book by a young author who died (at 33) that is filled with grammar errors. He was intelligent and college educated, yet anyone who reads his work will think—well, I'm concerned about my permanent record. In history.

So blog articles are editable. They are edited once after I write them and usually again shortly after they are posted. Then, I am lucky enough to have thousands of readers who point out obvious errors. But that's still not enough. There are a lot of extra words. I frequently mis-use then/than. Incorrect but correctly spelled words slip past the spell check. The the slips by the the editor, because brain error correction.

After selecting then editing the articles once again, that stuff has to be laid out.

I want to be clear here. I am doing nothing unusual or innovative with my layout. It is a book, organized into three sections. Still layout took 7 days. I have a full time job, but that's half a day of layout on each of my days off (the other half was spent writing blog posts) and then a few hours I could get in every morning.

This next part sounds crazy, but it went really fast this time because my wife was hospitalized. Because I had to work, Pawpaw (my wife's mother) took our daughter and my wife was alternately at the hospital or staying with her family for their assistance. I could provide little child-care assistance while at work or sleeping and she needed the help. So I had several days in a row where I didn't get have family time, or spend time with my daughter.

On the other hand, I got an awful lot of layout done.

Even the simplest layout takes time. Every page has to be gone through. Individual pieces and blocks of text need to be adjusted. You have to consider the final page count. I was shooting for 64. The final book is 100+.

At work, I used my spare time to do the art for the cover. Ink on bristol.

Once it was laid out, I printed it out again and gave it another edit. Came back and made more changes, and then set it up on lulu and ordered print proofs.

It was a good thing I did. On my print proofs, I forgot to texture the compendium II covers in the same way the compendium I covers were textured. I also made an error on the spine with the publisher logo and author name, putting it far enough down that it got cut off. It was my first time printing with spine text, so I wasn't surprised.

Once lulu printed and shipped me the books (paying for printing and shipping again), then I was able to check everything out. And like any good publisher, opening the book you just printed makes every error you've made stick out like a sore thumb. Another round of edits at my day job, and I was ready to spend the entire work-day yesterday fixing those errors and getting the copies put up on RPGnow and Lulu.

Throw some articles in a .pdf, I said. Do it once a month, I said.

Yes, technically this makes me a liar to my Patreons. I am clearly not doing a Compendium every month. But then again, I've messaged them telling them about this, and the general response was themed blog collections that are nicer and take longer are more appreciated. Also, I always try to do something extra for them, from bonus backgrounds in the first one to offering a coil bound version at cost for the second one. They always get them at cost.

It's not like I have seven unfullfilled kickstarters and am spending all my free time attacking people online. I'm ok with me.

It's a lot of work, but there's something really nice about seeing books on a shelf that are yours. I look at Fire on the Velvet Horizon, Yoon-Suin, Strange Stars, Slumbering Ursine Dunes, A Red and Pleasant Land, and The Mad Monks of Kwantoom, and I know that other people are having that same sense of satisfaction. (Also it doesn't hurt that this is my second release to reach #1 on hottest titles on rpg.now).

So, I hope this explains some things. I hope you find the compendium useful or inspiring. I certainly get a lot of use out of it. I'm going to write articles for a week or two, figure out what I want to compendium next and get in touch with some artists and writers over the next several days to start work on Ecology.

Hope everyone checks it out!

Print Copy, Perfect Bound at Lulu
.pdf Copy, at RPG.now
Print Copy, Coil Bound at Lulu (Patreon Only)

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On the Hack and Slash Compendium 2

Guys, I want to show you something:

Yeah. That's the second blog compendium.

It's basically a complete reworking of Treasure. Oh, you should see this->

It's thick. 100 pages thick. Treasure was 13 pages.

Oh! Oh! You know what? John Bell, Arnold Kemp and Tom Fitzgerald wrote for it! I paid them, actual real world money for their articles. Well, I paid everyone but John, only because Canadian banks apparently only accept moose as payment, so there have been some delays. But he has money coming to him. So if you like Retired Adventurer, Goblin Punch, or Middenmurk (and who doesn't?!), you should get it!

Oh, right, you're broke. It's tight this month. I understand.

That's why it's FREE. I mean Pay What You Want. But you can pay $0. So effectively free.

Only for 7 days though.

What if you pay me though?

I'm going to use the money to pay artists for ecology. BIG FAMOUS ARTISTS. People who's names you have heard. Also, hopefully, I won't lose money. Also, just like patronage, 10% will be donated to Cancer research. Because my wife has cancer. And cancer can die in a fire.

If you are a patron, you can even get a coil bound edition for cost, to be even more helpful when you're rolling up that key treasure hoard.

There's a lot in there:

  • Things players can spend money on!
  • Hotlinked/Bookmarked .pdf!
  • Weights and capacities for the transportation of valuable goods!
  • Public domain illustrations!
  • Hundreds of unique and interesting items!
  • The secret to creating interesting treasure!
  • Essays by John Bell of the Retired Adventurer, Arnold Kemp of Goblin Punch, and Tom Fitzgerald of Middenmurk!
  • Random generation of treasure, including books, magical books, and book traps!
  • Expanded gemstone descriptions!
  • Perfect Bound (Coil Bound for Patreons)
  • Costs 0$ for a limited time! Affordable print copy available. 

The .pdf is A5, perfect for tablets, and is hotlinked to the table of contents for lightning fast navigation.

So you should get it, because all the cool people are getting it. And you really really should share this as widely as possible so no one misses the pay what you want window! It's only 7 days before it becomes its regular price! The print version will increase in price in 7 days also!

It is, as they say, hot. That is the best time for getting things.

Print Copy, Perfect Bound at Lulu
.pdf Copy, at RPG.now
Print Copy, Coil Bound at Lulu (Patreon Only)

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On 5th Edition Backgrounds: Calligrapher

Another Patreon Request!

You had a history of making copies of books the hard way.

Skill Proficiency: You are proficient in Intelligence (History)
Tool Proficiency: You have proficiency with Calligrapher's Supplies and Cartographer's Tools.
Languages: Pick one additional language
Equipment: Book, Case, map or scroll x5, Chalk x10, Common Clothes, Ink x 2, Ink Pen, magnifying glass. Paper x50, pouch


You can scribe scrolls into spellbooks in one-half the usual time.

Suggested Characteristics

Usually quiet and reserved, Calligraphers and scribes are actually very difficult jobs. It is a technical profession, and the differences between a copyist, scribe, and sofer are more than trivial.

d8 Personality

  1. You would have stayed forever, if the temple hadn't been burnt to the ground. Doing anything other than your work is anxiety inducing.
  2. Tired of writing about it, now you live for adventure!
  3. Actually, you are quite wise and constantly have to correct everyone.
  4. You have your own ideas, and changing texts as a copyist is what got you in trouble in the first place.
  5. It was a boring job and you were bored in it, and you're bored by most things. Everyone should be thankful you have such a vested interest in making things exciting.
  6. Everyone is dumb, better to keep your mouth closed and not prove it to anyone.
  7. You need to find new sources of knowledge instead of copying the old ones.
  8. You like the taste of paper. That doesn't mean your strange. The voices mean that you are strange.

d6 Ideal

  1. Preservation: Knowledge must be recovered and preserved at all costs. (Lawful)
  2. Edification: People can be helped by knowledge and it's your job to help them. (Good)
  3. Greed: Secrets lie in hidden works, and they are yours for the taking. (Chaotic)
  4. Nihilism: Knowledge should be consumed and then destroyed. (Evil)
  5. Discovery: Secrets of ancient gods and power lie on texts. (Neutral)
  6. Exploration: Have your own experiences to be worthy of writing about them. (Chaotic)

d6 Bond
  1. You have a sister that wants to kill you.
  2. You wish to prove yourself to a paramore.
  3. Your faithful pet companion is your truest friend.
  4. You seek revenge against those who have been burning your works.
  5. You have a secret word that must be spread to your unknowing followers.
  6. You have a large tome, which there is only one copy of, and being magical, it requires certain reagents in order to copy it successfully without destroying it. 

d6 Flaw
  1. You are so much better than all the people around you.
  2. Educated, erudite, and beautiful? It's only narcissism if it's not true.
  3. You c-c-can't help but s-s-st-st-stutter.
  4. Magic-immune Leprosy
  5. Now we would say you are "on-spectrum", then, you just smell bad and have trouble with people liking you.
  6. WHO TOUCHED MY THINGS? You're not paranoid if people are actually out to get you.

OSR Package
Running a B/X game? Give these advantages instead of proficiency and features. You can also give these bonuses if running a 5e game using 3d6 for character generation.
  • +1 Intelligence 

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On a 5th Edition Deathmaster

More old 1st edition classes as Class variants for fifth edition.

5th Edition Deathmaster Sorcerer

Sorcerous Origin

Choose a sorcerous origin, which describes the source of your innate magical power: Draconic Bloodline, Psionic Power, Deathmaster or Wild Magic, detailed at the end of the class description.
Your choice grants you features when you choose it at 1st level and again at 6th, 14th, and 18th level.


Your innate magic comes from the plane of negative material energy. That which animates the unliving is the source of your magic. Most often, sorcerers with this origin trace their lineage to evil undead, Necromancers or Death Priests. Either way, your power comes from the manipulation of the forces of negative energy.

Vessel of the Dead

At 1st level, the sign of death is on your features. Your skin becomes gaunt, and your eyes hollow, and your visage pale. You can speak with and understand any undead creature capable of speech. You have expertise on any social interaction roles with the undead.

You gain access to a selection of bonus spells, not usually available on the sorcerer spell list, noted below. You must choose one of these spells as your first spell gained when able to cast spells of the appropriate level. Note that some of these spells may be available later, in general, or sorcerers. Spells marked with ^ are already in the sorcerer spell list, but count as lower level spells for Deathmasters or they are spells from another class spell list. Spells marked with *'s are new spells. Spells marked with a + are already on the sorcerer list, but count as one of the first spells that must be taken.

(Note: This explicitly breaks the rule of 5th edition having a spell always be the level the spell is listed as. If you wish, you can ignore the following adjustments and just grant the Deathmaster the special ability to prepare Animate Dead only at first level.) 

You gain the following spells added to the Sorcerer spell list.
1stAnimate Dead, Inflict Wounds, Ray of Sickness+
2ndDeath Armor*, Stinking Cloud^, Attract Undead*, Gentle Repose
3rdFeign Death, Conjure Undead*, Fear+, Ray of Enfeeblement
4thConjure Monster*, Charm Undead*, Death Ward, Bestow Curse
5thCreate Undead, Contagion, Move Earth^, Vampiric Touch
6thForbiddance, Harm, Circle of Death+
7thRegenerate, Finger of Death+

Necromantic Affinity

Starting at 6th level you gain a necromantic affinity. You have advantage on all death saves (including death checks), and you can Speak with the Dead as the spell once for every point of your Charisma bonus per short rest. You have resistance to both sleep and charm effects.

Necromantic Mastery

Starting at 14th level, you begin to master necromantic energies. Undead must succeed at a Will saving throw with a DC equal to 8 + your proficiency bonus + your Charisma bonus in order to attack the Deathmaster. Once they succeed at this roll, they do not have to make it again for a week.

You gain resistance to paralysis effects.

You may use the Animate Dead spell to animate the corpse of a Large or Huge creature instead of just medium and small creatures. Each large creature counts as 2 and each huge creature counts as 4 creatures for the purpose of the number of creatures you can reanimate.

You may use the Create Undead spell to reanimate Large creatures. Each large creature counts as 2 for the purpose of the number of creatures you can reanimate.

You can control 1 additional creature from each spell for each point of Charisma Bonus you possess.

Death Master

Beginning at 18th level, your connection to the Negative material plane strengthens. You no longer require air, food, drink, or sleep. You gain Undead Fortitude (If damage reduces you to 0 hit points you must make a Constitution saving throw with a DC of 5+the damage taken, unless the damage is radiant or from a critical hit. On a success, you drop to 1 hit point instead).
You are immune to poison, sleep, charm, paralysis, and the hit point draining effects of necrotic undead.
You have resistance to necrotic damage and non-magical weapons.

You may expend one sorcery point after any successful melee attack to deal 3d6 necrotic damage and regain hit points equal to one-half that amount.

New Spells

Attract Undead
2nd-level necromancy (ritual)
Casting Time: 1 Hour
Range: 10 Feet
Components: V, S, M (100 gp moonstone and fresh grave dirt)
Duration: Instantaneous
You gain the service of an Undead creature. It appears in an unoccupied space within range, with the standard statistics for your type. The type of the servant is chosen by the caster, but it must not have a CR of higher than 1/4th the casters level. (A 1st level caster can have a CR 1/4 undead, a second level caster could have a 1/2 CR undead, a 4th level caster could have a CR 1 undead, and an 8th level caster could have a CR 2 undead servant, and so on.)
Your undead servant acts independently of you, but it always obeys your commands. In combat it rolls its own initiative and acts on its own turn. When the Undead drops to 0 hit points, it collapses, disintegrating into dust. A new undead may be summoned when the spell is cast again.
Your undead servant cannot be dismissed, without it turning into dust. You can't have more than one undead servant at a time.
Your servant cannot deliver touch spells, nor can you see through their eyes. It can attack in combat.

Charm Undead
4th-level necromancy
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 30 feet
Components: V, S
Duration: 1 hour

You attempt to charm an undead you can see within range. It must make a Wisdom saving throw, and does so with advantage if you or your companions are fighting it. If it fails the saving throw, it is charmed by you until the spell ends or until you or your companions do anything harmful to it, even if it immune to charm effects. The charmed creature regards you as a friendly. When the spell ends, the creature reverts back to its previous orders. While the creature considers you friendly, it will follow any instructions you give that do not contradict any other orders it may be under. 
This spell will work against unintelligent undead.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 5th level or higher, you can target one additional undead for each slot level above 4th. The undead must be within 30 feet of each other when you target them.

Conjure Undead
3rd-level necromancy
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: 60 Feet
Components: V, S
Duration: Concentration, up to 1 hour

You summon souls that take the form of undead and appear in unoccupied spaces that you can see within range. Choose one of the following options for what appears.
  • One undead creature of challenge rating 2 or lower
  • Two undead creatures of challenge rating 1 or lower
  • Four undead creatures of challenge rating 1/2 or lower
  • Eight undead creatures  of challenge rating 1/4 or lower
Each creature is considered undead and turns into dust when it drops to 0 hit points or when the spell ends. 
The summoned creatures are friendly to you and your companions. Roll initiative for the summoned creatures as a group, which has its own turns. They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don’t issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions.
The DM has the creatures’ statistics.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using certain higher-level spell slots, you choose one o f the summoning options above, and more creatures appear: twice as many with a 5th-level slot, three times as many with a 7th-level slot, and four times as many with a 9th-level slot.

Conjure Monster
4th-level necromancy
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: Touch/30 feet/120 Feet
Components: V, S, M (component)

You summon spirits from higher realms that take the form of monsters and appear in unoccupied spaces that you can see within range. Choose one of the following options for what appears:
• One Monstrosity of challenge rating 2 or lower
• Two Monstrosities of challenge rating 1 or lower
• Four Monstrosities of challenge rating 1/2 or lower
• Eight Monstrosities of challenge rating 1/4 or lower
Each monstrosity disappears when it drops to 0 hit points or when the spell ends. The summoned creatures are friendly to you and your companions. Roll initiative for the summoned creatures as a group, which has its own turns. They obey any verbal commands that you issue to them (no action required by you). If you don’t issue any commands to them, they defend themselves from hostile creatures, but otherwise take no actions.
The DM has the creatures’ statistics.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using certain higher-level spell slots, you choose one o f the summoning options above, and more creatures appear: twice as many with a 6th-level slot, three times as many with an 8th-level slot.

Death Armor
2nd-level necromancy
Casting Time: 1 Action
Range: Self
Components: V, S, M (a vial of powdered bone cream)
Duration: 1 hour

You rub the bone cream upon your skin, coating it in the vengeance of the dead. Anyone who successfully attacks the deathmaster with a melee attack takes 2d6 (7) points of necrotic damage.
At Higher Levels. When you cast this spell using a spell slot of 3rd level or higher, the damage increases by 1d6 (3).

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On 5e Backgrounds: Dock Worker

A background, per a Patreon request!

Dock Worker
You load an unload ship's cargo. Anyone asks you about anything else, you don't know nothing. Though you've seen a sight or two in your time.
Skill Proficiency: Gain proficiency in Strength (Athletics) and Intelligence (History)
Languages: Gain two additional languages.
Equipment: Crowbar, Overalls, Hat, Knife, Beer Bottle, Longshoreman's hook. Swole Muscles.

You prefer to be called:
  1. A Stevedore
  2. Longshoreman
  3. Docker
  4. Dock Laborer
  5. Wharfie
  6. Wharf Rat

People think loading and unloading ships is easy? It aint! You got to know how to operate loading equipment, techniques for how to lift and stow the goods, working with dangerous arcane mechanisms, and have to be strong and able to follow orders to boot!

You are able to supervise any team of laborers to reduce the amount of time a task of physical labor (digging ditches, setting up camp) by 10%, or can load a vehicle in such a way that it can hold 10% more cargo/weight safely.

You are also proficient in rope use and knotwork.

Suggested Characteristics

Dockworkers make the world go round.
What are you like?

d6 Personality
  1. You like to be busy, keep your hands busy, have something to do. Don't like waiting much.
  2. You need the money, but the best days were when you showed up standing on the shores waiting for work, and you didn't find none. Adventuring and the pursuit of avoiding labor suits you just fine.
  3. You're strong. Not much call for that. 'Cept in loading ships and bashing heads.
  4. It's like a puzzle, loading a ship. Adventuring is full of puzzles like that, only more exciting.
  5. Just a simple country boy, who one day got on a ship and when from longshoreman to adventurer
  6. You're not much of a leader, you like working as part of a well-oiled team

d4 Ideal
  1. Hard Working: Doing more than your fair share is fair. (Lawful)
  2. Greed: Working at the docs grants the opportunity for personal advancement. (Chaotic)
  3. Adventure: You loved hearing the stories of the sailors, now you live them. (Neutral)
  4. Self-Reliance: The team depends on you, you don't make the team support you. (Lawful)
d6 Bond
  1. You have a wife and six daughters at home. Longshoremen have good hours.
  2. Your best friend was a longshoreman and you worked with him for years.
  3. You might have made allies with more than one dog/rat/weasel that works down at the docks.
  4. You've got a secret or two about ship captains that nobody knows you know, you think.
  5. You've been sending letters back and forth over the ocean for years now, you think it's probably time to finish.
  6. You've taken the occasional job aboard a ship, and you have a girl in not quite every port.
d6 Flaw
  1. Your vocabulary is somewhat limited.
  2. Trick knee.
  3. Being in love with your muscles isn't a crime.
  4. You refer to yourself in the third person. (Trust me, it's a flaw).
  5. Look, it's only a problem if you're addicted, besides you can stop at any time. It's not like it's hard to get. (looks at ships on dock).
  6. Unfortunately the loan didn't quite work out. Now you owe the thieves guild some money. Well. A lot of money
OSR Package
Running a B/X game? Give these advantages instead of proficiency and features. You can alos give these bonuses if running a 5e game using 3d6 for character generation.

  • Stevedore: +2 Strength, -1 Charisma, Gain 2 extra languages

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    On Hack & Slash TV 3: Monte Cook Games and the American Indian

    Is Monte Cook Games exploiting the American Native for profit? We talk about it today in this weeks Hack & Slash TV.
    We also spend a bit talking about Yoon-Suin! Check it out.

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    On a Useful Review of Red and Pleasant Land

    Well, let's take a look.

    • This is the nicest, highest quality, rpg book I've ever seen or heard word of. Contenders include the leather bound Cthulhu editions with gold trim or the leather bound Encyclopedia Magicas. It's simply beautiful. An actual artifact.
    • The cover map+encounter table communicates enough setting information to be a complete supplement in itself. You could hand that map to someone along with a copy of your favorite OSR ruleset, and that's a campaign right there.
    • The interior is heavy stock cream pages. This book is like a dessert.
    • There is a little knight on a rocking horse on the how to use this book page, along with the suggestion that it can be used to kill small animals or choke large ones. The time spent on the product is evident.
      • This, I think, is the fundamental difference between corporate work and the aesthetic of the "OSR". Corporate work is deadlined content, sometimes good, sometimes bland, but needing to fill a page count with material. OSR work comes in two styles—labors of love that are worked on till they are finally complete, or things released because we are just tired of working on it for years. Sometimes both in the same product.
        • Clearly, I prefer the second. 
    • Zak Sabbath is obsessed^H^H^H^H^H^H quite fond of the letter V.
    • The logic in the book is fairy tale logic, which is both wonderful and challenging, considering keeping it all in mind is somewhat difficult. Using this book as a campaign setting requires a fair bit of preparation. This is different than Yoon-Suin which also requires preparation, in that you generate the situation ahead of time in Yoon-Suin, whereas Red and Pleasant Land works better if you can remember all the strange rules during play. I would not expect to need to reference Yoon-Suin frequently during a game; I would expect to reference Red and Pleasant Land.
      • There is in fact a note to this effect in the book, suggesting you don't worry about it too much and focus on the important stuff, without letting things degenerate into chaotic randomness.
    • There is a lot of concrete advice over how to run and use the book in actual play.
    • There is an illustrated bestiary running from pages 35 to 83. Also this book is A5, and there are 3-4 monsters a page (including a Jabberwok and Jub Jub)
    • The majority of the book is taken up with two adventure locations. These include strange gravities, tesseracts, puzzles, keys, nightmares and dreams. I would say more, but I don't wish to spoil any of the surprises.
    • There are a slew of optional rules, and all the tables in the book are reprinted for reference in the back. Of particular note are the growing and shrinking rules and the rules for warfare.
    • Though this doesn't detract from my enjoyment of the product, there are a few small graphical and layout errors, and I appear to be missing both players handout 6 and the chess puzzle from the back of the book.
    • The sampled locations, a maze, a battle frozen in time, and a forest containing two thieves are some top-tier one page style dungeons. 
    • The tables are very useful. There's a very good animal table, as well as a useful generate a random quest table.
    • That's the key feature of the majority of the dungeons in the book, They are interesting dream-logic type places to explore. which makes them perfect for weird, fantastic, adventures. Is that what you want? This delivers that, in spades. . . and hearts, and clubs, and diamonds. It's worth the cover price + shipping, even just to strip it for ideas. 
    The quality of material coming out lately keeps rising. It's really a new golden age.

    I suggest picking it up before it sells out. I missed the last book (Vornhiem) and my wife had to contact dozens of people to eventually get one sent to me from the other side of the world. This one will also sell out.

    Hack & Slash 
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