GM’s Miscellany: The Thingonomicon (system neutral)
This massive compilation clocks in at 188 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page editorial, 2 pages of ToC, 1 page foreword, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 179 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
This review was requested as a prioritized review by my patreon supporters and moved up in my reviewing queue accordingly
First of all, this supplement has got to have one of the coolest names ever – kudos there! In case you did not notice, this one represents a compilation of Raging Swan Press’ first 25 installments of the #20 Things-series of dressing files.
This means it covers ancient necropolises, bustling marketplaces, creepy graveyards, cultist lairs, curio shops &pawnbrokers, dark caverns, fallen dwarven holds, forts in borderlands, goblin lairs, haunted houses, hill giant steadings, kobold warrens, looting bodies of various professions, necromancers lairs, noisome sewers, ocean voyages, seedy taverns, slaver compounds, smuggler lairs, subterranean mines, sun-scorched deserts, townfolk and villagers, troublesome treasures, war-ravaged lands, wilderness camping and wizard towers. Coincidentally, I have reviewed all of these individual dressing files, which means that, should you require a detailed breakdown of the files, you can just click on the “#20-things-series”-tag on my homepage and have the reviews listed in a convenient manner.
I’m not particularly fond of repeating myself, so I will refrain from discussing all of these aspects in detail once more, instead focusing on how this works as a compilation.
Well, the first thing you’ll notice would pertain organization of the material – the respective entries have been organized alphabetically, which is one way to do it. We thus begin with “Ancient Necropolises” and move through the list above in the sequence I presented it.
This means that you won’t e.g. have one section for dungeons, one for urban environments. One for NPCs/corpses, instead, focusing, well, on an alphabetic presentation. While usually, I’d consider that to be a detriment on a comfort level, closer examination of the book led me to a different conclusion: Since the topics covered are rather diverse and disparate, there is not a single properly suitable organization paradigm I could come up with that would have been more efficient that a simple alphabetical presentation. If one would have e.g. grouped necropolis and crypts together, what’d one do with necromancer stuff? Put it there, or adjacent to the wizard’s tower? Closer examination of the book yielded a lot of these conundrums – so yeah, organization in an alphabetical sequence is pretty much the one feasible way to go here, and it makes sense that the book went that route.
Slightly less amusing – there is some overlap among a few of the respective #20 Things-entries. This, for example, affects the entries for the necromancer’s lair and wizard’s towers. Both of these have a duplicate of the same “20 Things to find in a Necromancer’s Sanctum” page, including the same 6 pickled and preserved things. It’s certainly nothing that sinks the supplement, and considering the quality, this duplicate doesn’t hurt the book in the slightest, but it still remains a minor blemish in my book. Then again, it thus *is* a faithful compilation of the material. Heck, you know me by now – I always have to find something to complain about. 😉
Kidding aside, the Thingonomicon’s dressing, as a whole, is ridiculously useful, and having the book in proper print is a huge boon – much like the phenomenal Dungeon/Wilderness-dressing books (still among my most-used books EVER), this is used much more when you just have it lying there, within reach, at the table. Flip it open, and viola! Need a blasphemous tome? The Rat’s Nest was written into the very fabric of the world, and cannot be unwritten, showing up as glyphs and symbols in filth, mold and rat’s nests. Now that is one damn amazing angle, right? What about a tome that may only ever be tattooed, vanishing if written otherwise? Got a kobold warren? 10 trap suggestions, right there. PCs wandered into a seedy tavern? 10 strange things behind the bar will certainly piqued their curiosity. This is one of those books that are just…useful, that allow you to focus more on things that matter.
Editing and formatting re very good on a formal level, and being system neutral, rules-wise, tehre’s nothing to complain about either. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and the pdf sports nice b/w-artworks. The pdf comes fully bookmarked with nested bookmarks, though, oddly, the Wizard’s Tower-section does not list its bookmarks as nested. They’re still here, but yeah. One of the bookmarks has a superfluous “s”, and I noticed a few not linking to the correct page: Dead adventurer bookmark links to the subchapter header, while dead bard erroneously links to dead adventurer. These only ever are a single page off, and if you display two pages at a time on your reader, this is a non-issue. The pdf comes in two different versions, one optimized for screen-use and one optimized for the printer. Kudos!
Alexander Augunas, Aaron Bailey, John Bennett, Creighton Broadhurst, Ronald Calbick, Seamus Conneely, Kalyna Conrad, Jeff Gomez, Eric Hindley, Cole Kronewitter, Jacob W. Michaels, David Posener, Paul Quarles, Alex Riggs, David N. Ross, Liz Smith, Amber Underwood, Mike Welham – if you know anything about the authors currently working in the 3pp-circuit for Pathfinder, you’ll be familiar with most, if not all of them – the cadre of talented authors has crafted a wide array of useful dressing articles, which are enhanced even more by being compiled in a concise tome. Much like Dungeon Dressing back in the day, I wholly expect this book to be significantly more useful in print that in its electronic iteration, and indeed, I plan on purchasing the hardcover at my earliest convenience. While I can’t comment on the merits of the print version of this book, I do own plenty of Raging Swan Press print books – many of which are crucial tools in my game prepping and running. This book, while system-immanently less focused than previous Dressing compilations, nonetheless serves an important role, in that it really helps you bring to life complexes and adventuring locations, particularly those that are depicted in a more sketch-like manner – a perfect example of a book that can really use the details provided here will hit sites next week. For books like that, spontaneous adventures, mini-dungeons and locales, etc. in particular, this must be considered to be an all but invaluable resource, and as such, in spite of its minor flaws, which pale in view of what it brings to the table, this book gets 5 stars + seal of approval, as well as a nomination for my Top Ten of 2018.
You can get this inspired tome here on OBS!
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