Thursday, July 16, 2015

Review Of The Hercynian Grimoire #1 From James Mishler Games For Your Old School Campaigns


Grab It Right Over

The Hercynian Grimoire #1  is a 'pay what you like.' title from James Mishler Games for the Castles and Crusades rpg systems and the Labyrinth Lord rpg system. James Mishler Games has been quietly pumping out games for a long time now, The Hercynian Grimoire #1 is by James Mishler and Jodi Morgan Mishler. There's a real sense of the energy and creativity from this issue of the Grimoire especially when you crack open the Glowing Words where the writer introduces this OSR magazine.  The Hercynian Grimoire is for both the Castles and Crusades rpg systems and the Labyrinth Lord rpg system. For me this makes this an especially useful magazine and its packed with wall to wall OSR style articles. Right out of the gate we get “Gnolls – The Hyena Men", an article that makes the humble gnoll race one of the most dangerous and flexible old school monsters, this article reminds me of the old Dragaon magazine ecology of articles. Fast, dangerous, flexible and terrible are the gnolls as a race.There's references peppered through out this article about the Olden Lands, the house campaign setting of James Mishler Games. I'd love to know more. This article is followed on its heels with the nipping article  “Gnoles, the Mannish-Beasts” which gets into Gnoll/human hybrids. I've seen this article described as ick but with material like something that describes a monster that could be from the Islands of Dr. Moreau by HG Wells. “D66 Ferocious Fighters”is a random encounter  tables of NPC fighters for your players to encounter! Three damn pages of high energy fighting men to make your PC's lives a misery. Yahh! “Spells Arcane and Occult" goes into one spell “Alasadree’s Empowerment of the Ultranic Orb.”. this is one spell that perfectly fits what it does a healing version of Tasha’s Uncontrollable Hideous Laughter” but you dance instead of laugh for the spells effects to take place. I've seen this described as unbalanced and of course its unbalanced as a first level spell but that's really the point. We've seen the effects of magick run wild and the horror that they can cause in games such as Lamentations of the Flame Princess, please leave the six versions of this spell alone and let the PC's cast it and then find themselves in the deep end of the magic pond with adventure hooks around their ears. Same with “Spell Songs of Salamacine” which really goes into the deep end of the witches spell books with some terrifically terrible spells with some Disney style consequences just waiting to happen! 
"D66 Fairies and Nymphs”gives some solid bang for the buck style Fey encounters that you can slip into your old school Peusdo European adventures. Again a solid random encounter table that can lead to a whole host of side adventures if used right. “Gnoll Encounter Table” this dovetails right in with the previous article's on the author's gnolls and it does so with style. Here's a random adventure chart to really draw the adventurers into the previous articles circles of adventure mythology and monster wisdom with an entirely different take from this issue. “Magical Miscellanea” well these are ten flavorful and interesting magic items that will not break a campaign but have at least four or five adventure hooks waiting in the background.
“Monstrous Menagerie” has some very interesting and nicely put together monsters especially the hyena ones. There's a sense of a pseudo African campaign piece  waiting to tear out from the veldt about this issue. Something I want to see fleshed out further.  “D666 Demonic and Devilish Traits”now this is a damn useful chart, I'm a Fantastic Heroes and Witchery rpg system fanatic and one of the races that is included in the game is Tieflings. So these are very welcome because players want more randomized charts to role on to really make their PC's distinct. This chart also brings me much glee because of one of my favorite cockroach style monsters to use. Demons! I love demons they're really nasty dangerous and can cause all kinds of hassles for PC's of all levels. Again this is a welcome charts for my games! Dungeons should be odd, memorable, and set dressing can stress a DM out well we get a chart that comes in very handy to do exactly that. A chart for that last cheery on top of that dungeon you've been itching to unleash on your players in the “D66 Underworld Oddities”.
Many rpg companies will give you a bit of a preview of their upcoming campaign setting products but instead of one, we get three and their actually useful. Right out of the box you can use these as hooks within your games today. So that down the road if you choose to use the 'Olden Lands.' your ready to go with your PC's.  “Olden Lands Preview: Alspadia”is interesting, sets up the lurer for the campaign setting and does a great job of fleshing out a region of the Olden Lands and not only makes you want to read more but to send your PC's there. There are some nasty bits hinted throughout this preview and its well done enough for the DM to push the right buttons with their PC's. 'The Olden Lands Preview : The Olden Wood.' is a solid one page preview of material that goes into a forested location of epic proportions: "The Oldenwood covers more than 18,000 square miles ofold growth forest amidst rolling and craggy hills and valleys,dingles and dales. Here and there a tall, sharp peak rises above the sea of green leaves. Other than the treants, it is a virtual paradise for natural and giant animals, for no man or  even goblin is so foolish as to hunt in the Oldenwood"  And you the DM get a whole range of this material to play with and flesh out. Rounding out this issue is a vile and nasty piece of work known as The Blood God, this is a distinctly dangerous and repugnant piece of work whose cult is outlined along with beliefs and sacrifices, etc. Perfectly heinous material for a vile NPC villain of the deepest dye.
   To wrap this up this review up, I don't own a single Castle and Crusades rpg system book, but I know my OSR material and this issue of the Grimoire reminded me of some of the very best of the older Judge's Guild stuff in a good way, a solid way, optional old school material that can easily be shunted or back written into your campaigns in such a way as to make it useful and rewarding. Because of the 'Pay What You Like Price' Tag this is a no brainer. Grab this issue now and get cracking with an exciting issue of what will I hope will be a regular publication!

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