Didus Ineptus Avis Nobilis (OSR/almost system neutral)
This supplement clocks in at 28 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page pseudo-cover (mirroring a treatise), 4 pages of SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 20 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5), which means you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this. Let’s take a look!
So, first thing you have to know: While this does contain stats for OSRIC (making transition to other OSR games simple), this is pretty much an ecology-style book, and as such, is almost system neutral.
The central conceit of this supplement is that it represents a treatise of Andreas Bloviatus, of the Sagitas Orderum Ornithestes; a kind of coverage in the tradition of Prester John: Beyond many hostile lands inhabited by various traditionally evil humanoids, there lies the halfling realm of Mucklepuckle; a lush and feudal realm, it is set apart from traditional realms beyond the providence of halflings and the surprising dominance of…THE DODO!
Instead of horses and similar draft-animals, the hilarious birds are used for pretty much all roles that you’d usually use mounts of guard dogs for – a total of 6 different dodo breeds are included. From the domesticated dodo as a draft animal to the destrier and quicker riding dodos, the different dodo types have varying ACs and HD, with the guard dodos capable of emitting an alarming shriek. Similarly, fighting dodos are particularly vicious. Rather cool: The supplement does comment on the taste of dodo meat, on the prices fetched by specific plumes and their behavior…but they also get a unique mechanic component. Dodos, you see, are pretty stupid and hard to scare – but once one dodo is scared, its panic will spread like wildfire among nearby dodos. This is a pretty cool way of handling them and making them mechanically distinct from other pack animals.
The roles of the various dodo-types are explained in detail and the pdf does feature some nice, hand-drawn b/w-artworks of them, in the style you could expect in such a treatise. The supplement manages to be genuinely amusing more than once in its elaborations, but there is one thing I did not like about it: The second page of dodo-stats cuts off the statblocks, omitting the XP-line for half of the dodo-types.
Editing and formatting are good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a 1-column b/w-standard, and while the flavor-section (the treatise) is written in the same font you can see on the cover, the actual rules are written in a font that’s easier to read. The b/w-artworks are funny, nice and a bit awkward – much like the dodos they depict. See the cover? The interior art is the same, and the picture of jousting dodos really got a chuckle out of me. The pdf, alas, has no bookmarks, which constitutes a comfort-detriment.
Stephen Andrew McCavour’s dodo-supplement is flavorful, funny, and a great little gem among the more obscure OSR-supplements. While formally not perfect, this humble booklet really entertained me well, and while its glitches make it impossible for me to rate this the full 5 stars, there is the fact to be contemplated that this fun little offering is actually PWYW! Thus, regardless of your system, if you think that your game needs dodos (Hint: All games do!), you should definitely check this out and leave a tip! This is one of those unpretentious little DIY-gems, and it deserves being rewarded for its material. As such, my final verdict will clock in at 4 stars, and this does get my seal of approval, since I really enjoyed this pdf, in spite of its minor snafus.
You can get this cool treatise on the noble dodo here on OBS for PWYW!