Tag Archives: Fantasy Gaming

Dwarves of the Hell Forge

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews Dwarves of the Hell Forge: Deluxe Campaign Guide [Amazon, Bookshop, DriveThruRPG] by Noah Patterson, with illustrations by Dean Spencer, Patrick E Pullen, J M Woiak, Heather Shinn, Daniel F Walthall, and B Design.

Patterson Dwarves of the Hell Forge

This booklet is an expansion of Noah Patterson’s Micro Chapbook RPG system, with additional character generation details and ability mechanisms for dwarf player characters, along with a full multi-scenario campaign. There are some functional omissions: the details for the monsters in the Ironwell Countryside Encounters chart are not among the others in the bestiary appendix, or anywhere else in the book. (I have searched!) The dwarf characters are cool, and the skill system looks like it has real potential for other applications in this growing system. There seems to be a little “power creep” with the addition of the new character features, but it’s welcome as long as it doesn’t go much further. The characters generated from the basic rules can be pretty hapless!

The Art of Arkham Horror

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Art of Arkham Horror [Amazon, Bookshop, Publisher, Local Library] ed. Ian Tucker.

Tucker The Art of Arkham Horror

The Art of Arkham Horror is essentially a 2021 successor volume to the 2006 Art of H. P. Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos. Both are lavish showcases for illustrations produced originally for a range of tabletop games set in the world of pulp-era Yog-Sothothery. Where the earlier book drew on work for games from both Chaosium and Fantasy Flight publishers, this more recent one is all from the further fifteen years of Fantasy Flight “Arkham Files” games. The art has previously appeared on box exteriors, rule books, cards, playmats, and other game components.

The books are structured in the same manner, with the art organized into seven or eight topically-defined chapters. Other than the artist credits and occasional subject-matter captions, there is little text, and it is all basically ornamental. In many instances, the text in the new book consists of quotations from the Arkham Horror novellas published by Fantasy Flight from 2017 through 2020. The earlier book had what appeared to be artists’ titles for the individual pieces, and those are lacking in The Art of Arkham Horror. As before, art is often shown at a greater size and less cropped than it had been in its game appearances.

Landscapes and untenanted interiors account for a considerable number of the images here, owing in part to the production of art for the location cards in Arkham Horror: The Card Game. At the same time, with the development of the canonical stable of Arkham Files investigators, there is a large bank of individual character portraits which also feature quite prominently. On the whole, the illustration quality does seem to have improved from the earlier collection to the later one. The new book includes a greater number of illustrations overall: there is far less blank page space and the pages are slightly larger than the already-generous size of the predecessor volume.

Standout artists in this collection include Anders Finer, Magali Villeneuve, Tomasz Jedruszek, Jacob Murray, Ethan Patrick Harris, and Cristi Balanescu. But there are dozens of different artists represented, and the quality of illustration is very high throughout. The supernatural horror subject matter allows for surreal vistas, strange mutations, and other striking expressions of visual imagination. And yet much of this art shows real subtlety as well.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

Hermetic Library Fellow T Polyphilus reviews The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen: A Game of Tall Tales and Playing Roles as told by James Wallis [DriveThruRPG, Amazon, Publisher, Local Library], art by Gustav Doré and calligraphy by Paul Antonio.

Wallis Dore Antonio The Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen

This Extraordinary Adventures of Baron Munchausen is a rule book for a game I haven’t played. In fact, I might never get around to playing it, but I don’t regret for a moment reading the full 130 pages, which are hilarious all the way through. It is not necessary to have familiarity with Rudolph Raspe’s original Munchausen stories from the 18th century in order to appreciate this book; even a secondhand acquaintance through the Terry Gilliam feature film will be sufficient.

The game described is one of competitive yarn-spinning, sort of like a table-top roleplaying game with a minimum of rules constraint and a retrospective rhetorical style. A frame-story relates author James Wallis’ ancestor’s encounter and collaboration with the original Baron, as well as his own rediscovery and continuation of the work of publishing the Baron’s game. The rules are digressive and somewhat confusing, but helpfully summarized “in brief” in a two-page appendix. Another appendix lists hundreds of play prompts or story challenges.

This third edition includes two expansions with a host of variants, including adaptation for younger players (“My Uncle the Baron”), thematic inflections (Arabian Nights, science fiction, occult horror, prehistory, 007-type espionage, cats, and others), and suggestions for online play, “whilst one has a sky-fish hooked on the line … using the vibrations of the fishing line to resonate with one another at a distance” (124).