Saturday, July 13, 2013

Retro Review And Commentary - The Delian Book of the Dead by Ben & Mary Ezzell For Your Old School Games

An old friend came to see me this weekend and brought me a present. A copy of this little gem 
The Delian Book of the Deadby Ben & Mary Ezzell .The book is geared for doing exactly as it says. Running dead characters and such through the after life in an OD&D or AD&D first edition game.  According to intro from the Dragon Tree Website: 
In addition to the far traveller's vade mecum of the Planes of the Abyss and the multitudinous realms of the Neather Worlds, The Delian Book of the Dead includes a dastardly miscellany of new traps, poisons, artifacts, devious Delian spiders, character class Archeologist, Master Thracian's Apologia of Grave Robbing, character class Deceased and much more ...

Absolutely essential... the one volume which no Ghost (or Mortal) should be without ... A. Bierce -- Stygian Review

 Tongue is planted firmly in cheek like many of the Delian products. But this one is slightly different. There's an assortment of NPC classes and then the real roundabout of the Delian version of the Abyss again from the Dragon Tree Website : 

In Fantasy Role-Play, death is real and important but, as in life, it is also much ignored.  When a Player Character dies, the event is treated with only slightly more importance than the death of an NPC or a monster.  However, this need not be the case and, in Delos at least, death can sometimes simply be the beginning.
The Delian Book of the Dead introduces the Character Class: Deceased (Phantom) along with an examination of the role of the departed spirit as a Player Character.  Other topics include funeral rites, phantom magicks and other spirit-related magicks as well as the nature of the afterlife and the Planes of the Abyss and other matters of importance to those recently deceased.
 The Delian material is a true mixed bag of stuff. It comes from a time when the hobby wasn't so clearly defined and OD&D players were looking for something different. The world of Delian is similar to Dave Hargrave's Arduin that there's some real similarities.
Check out the table of contents from the website for exactly what I mean: 
Table of Contents (abbreviated)
Character Class: Deceased (Phantom)
While not all who die are capable of returning as phantoms, for those who do, a life after death can be a rewarding existence.
Phantom Class Abilities & Limitations
Just as death brings an end to old abilities, life as a phantom -- if you'll pardon the expression -- brings new skills and fresh possibilities.
Phantom Magicks
While mortal magicks are of little use to those of the phantasmal persuasions, life after death does not mean that there are no magicks to be mastered. 
New Spells & Spirit-Related Magicks
While little attention is paid elsewhere to magicks used by mortals in connection with spirits, those adventuring with phantoms may well find these new spells useful in their endeavors.
Character Class: Archaeologist
Long before Indiana Jones appeared, archaeological adventurers were wandering the paths and byways of Delos.  Sharing some of the abilities of the Thieves class, Archaeologist have their own skills, interests and abilities.
Notable Tombs of Delos
Excerpted from The Complete Cracksman by Professor R. J. Raffles, Prof. Emeritus of the University School of the Delian Thieves Guild, Professor Raffles was well noted for her personal investigations of many of the more remote areas of the Delian Commonwealth.
Funeral Rites of the Commonwealth
Quite aside from possible personal participation, the wise adventurer may well find a knowledge of both guild and regional funeral rites an advantage in remaining among the living.
Gem Stones & Other Jewels
It's all very well to scoop up a chance handful of gems in the hopes of finding them profitable ... but how well do you know your gemstones ... and not just which ones are profitable but which ones are safe to handle at all?
Natural Hazards & Other Dangers
In Delos, the adventurer not only must contend with monsters and wildlife but should also be wary of less obvious dangers ... because some are not obvious at all.
And Doors On New Vistas Opening
Most are accustomed to using doors without a second thought ... but, occasionally, doors are more than they appear ...
Arms and Armour
... of course, weapons are not always the answer ... but they are, sometimes, the question ...
A Gentle Cup of Poison From the Hand of a Friend
Accomplishing the transition from the world of the living to the Planes Beyond may be undertaken in many ways ... and one such route might be ...
Mirrors and Other Windows
As we all are aware, ghosts and other specters, like vampires, can not be seen in mirrors ... or can they ...?
And, For Light Reading,...
Notes on books, scrolls and other writings which may be encountered while adventuring ... but not always safely ...
A Matter of Menagerie
On the care, seeking and acquisition of strange pets ... (and the consequences of living with them later...)
The Book of the Planes
Just as the Delian Commonwealth encompasses many diverse peoples, so too does the Delian afterlife present a diversity of places, planes and regions which are commonly referred to as the Neather Planes, the Abyss or the Great Beyond.  In some cases, these regions are even accessible to mortals (via the Well of the Worlds) and a number of the more popular regions and their inhabitants are described here.

The Horn of Hern is an adventure designed for the recently deceased but is not limited to those who have passed beyond. As a mission offered by Amazon Mutual Life Assurance, this is a challenge for the living and the dead alike ... and may lead to a most singular conclusion 


                        Where the Material shines 

If you like the Arduin books of Dave Hargrave. The Delian stuff might be where its at for you. I personally loved both the Archaeologist class and the Phantoms NPC class. The material on the Abyss was from another time period. The Book of the Planes was a different if somewhat nice change of pace from the usual Dragon Magazine fare of the time. On the whole its got its usefulness if your into something different for a game. The material might even be used within a science fantasy setting  if the DM is inclined. A DM might also convert some of this material for use with a dimension jumping campaign.
 All of the Delian Book of the Dead material is pretty Rpg system generic with a slant toward OD&D and the like.If your looking for something odd, off beat, and plane different this book might be up your alley.
 The two adventures are pretty much in the spirit of the other 'Amazon Mutual' things I've read. They're interesting and a bit piffy if your into your early Delos material.
I'd give this one a three stars if you know what to expect and are not afraid of doing some adapting. About ninety percent of this book is usable with any of the retroclones on the market. Swords and Wizardry especially as well as many of the others. 

You can still get this book from Dragon Tree Press right over HERE

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