Saturday, July 2, 2016

Review & Commentary On Black Box Books -- Tome Seven: Goetics and Gnostics From Ivanhoe Unbound For Your Old School Campaigns

There was a time back n '08 when I first got into OSR titles that DYI Dungeons & Dragons was the main reason. Basically it means being selective about what parts & pieces your going to use at your table & as a part of the system that your going to be running. For many this is OD&D or Swords & Wizardry. Black Box Books has produced some very interesting pdfs for old school style retroclones and now we've got another offering from them. Tome Seven: Goetics and Gnostics offers up some very dangerous bits of NPC or player classes culled from the warped mind of Kirt Dankmyer.
There is plenty of off beat stuff in here for ninety five sense, you get the GOETIC MAGE which is basically a mage able to cast spells, wear armor, & cast spells. How does this PC class do this? Well he or she sort of takes a very dangerous infernal or Lovecraftian short cut;"A Goetic Mage uses a dangerous shortcut to arcane power. By invoking various gods and spirits in a very particular way, a Goetic Mage uses divine and demonic power to achieve personal ends. A Goetic Mage is exactly the same as a Cleric, except in seven respects. First, a Goetic Mage is not dedicated to any faith, instead “praying” to a variety of entities, often to force other entities (like Qlippothic demons) to provide them with spells.Second, instead of using the Cleric spell list, a Goetic Mage uses the Magic User spell list and can only use Magic User scrolls. Third, the Prime Attribute for a Goetic Mage is Intelligence. Fourth, a Goetic Mage cannot establish a temple. Fifth, only a Chaotic Goetic Mage can turn undead, using the alternate rule for Chaotic clerics. Sixth, Goetic Magi can never return from death by  any means, not even the most divine magic. Finally, whenever the Goetic Mage prepares spells, casts a spell, or turns the undead, there is a chance that something goes wrong and a Qlippothic Demon worms its way into reality, materializing next to and attacking the Mage. The demon appears 1d6 combat rounds after the action that accidentally summoned it."
They remind me of some hedge wizard/priest types I've seen over the years in a number of games and they can work very well if the campaign calls for it. These mages might be perfect additions into a game of Lamentations of the Flame Princess or as minor cult priest for The Astonishing Swordsmen and Sorcerers of Hyperborea rpg.


But the really interesting priest class is the GNOSTIC PRIEST,who is able to do a few very interesting wrinkles  & crazy tricks up their robed sleeves;"A Gnostic Priest uses mundane ritual (arcane magic) to
divine ends. It is a more difficult path than being a Cleric, but it is another way to directly experience the divine.
A Gnostic Priest is exactly the same as a Magic User, except in eight respects. First, instead of using the Magic User spell list, a Gnostic Priest uses the Cleric spell list, though spells are still recorded in a spellbook, a sort of formulaic prayer-book. Second, they may copy clerical scrolls (only) into their book, but can use both Cleric and Magic User scrolls. Third, every time a Gnostic Priest gains a level, they may add a spell to their book of a level they can currently cast. Fourth, a Gnostic Priest cannot progress past 10th level.Fifth, the Prime Attribute for a Gnostic Priest is Wisdom. Sixth, a Gnostic Priest has a percentage chance to resist any hostile divine magic equal -- 3 -- to 3% times their current level. Seventh, a Gnostic Priest may found a temple, exactly like a Cleric. Finally, Lawful Gnostic Priests (only) can turn a Qlippothic Demon like a Cleric would turn an undead being of equivalent hit dice"
Both of these classes can be used for OD&D and this product really does meet the criteria that it sets forth in the blurb. The work here is clever, condensed, and very interesting as well as entertaining. Can I see that the author knows what makes some clever bits and pieces that can easily be used with any number of retroclone systems. But the real heart & soul here is the "RANDOM TABLES TO PRODUCE OVER 288,000 DIFFERENT QLIPPOTHIC DEMONS" What exactly are these entities? Well, according to wiki;"The Qliphoth/Qlippoth/Qelippot or Kelipot (Heb. קְלִיפּוֹת, the different English spellings are used in the alternative Cabalistic traditions[1] of Hermetic Qabalah and Jewish Kabbalah respectively), literally "Peels", "Shells" or "Husks" (from singular: קְלִיפָה Qliphah/Kelipah "Husk"),[2] are the representation of evil or impure spiritual forces in Jewish mysticism, the polar opposites of the holy Sephirot.[3] The realm of evil is also termed "Sitra Achra/Ahra" (Aramaic סטרא אחרא, the "Other Side" opposite holiness) in Kabbalah texts."  These unclean and weird spirits are tied intimiately with both character classes and these tables could be used to churn out some pretty horrorific unclean spirits which is perfect for any weird or horror themed OSR game? But are they worth it? I think so and best of all the material here in  Goetics and Gnostics is open game content; "This product uses the OPEN GAME LICENSE Version 1.0a (see attached document and/or )
DESIGNATION OF PRODUCT IDENTITY: The names Black Box BookTM and Ivanhoe UnboundTM, including the Ivanhoe Unbound logo, when used in any
context, are product identity, copyright 2015 by Kirt A. Dankmyer. All other artwork is in the public domain. All text that does not directly affect the game rules
for the creatures and classes contained in this document are product identity.
DESIGNATION OF OPEN GAME CONTENT: All game rule text and tables, with the exception of material specifically excluded in the declaration of
product identity, is open game content. Please give up-front credit where it is due, including conforming to the Swords & Wizardry Compatibility-Statement
License ("
This is really important to me as an OSR hobby author & designer, because I actually like & will be using this material in the future for an upcoming publication. However could  Goetics and Gnostics be used with a product or setting such as Dark Albion? Yes it could be used as a fill gap until Cults & Chaos hits the wild in July or it could be used to represent a foreign wizard or mage if the DM is using OD&D or Swords &Wizardry for a gritty game such as Dark Albion. Basically  Goetics and Gnostics is a set of tools with a very wide range of applications. If you want demons and unclean spirits fast for a game tonight or something different for that class guy whose always got to play something weird or different this might be the pdf for you. Much of the material here is short & too the point but that's fine because it allows the dungeon master & the players to fill in the background as needed.
All I want to see is from  Ivanhoe Unbound   is a collected best of  Black Box Books with a print option so I don't have to keep flipping through pdf after pdf.
Four out of five.

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