Monstrous Lair: Cultist’s Hidden Fane (system neutral)
This installment of the Monstrous Lairs-pdfs clocks in at 8 pages, 1 page front cover, 2 pages of advertisement, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, 1 page editorial/ToC, leaving us with 2 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Sometimes, you just need a bit of dressing for a wayside encounter – or something specific to a monster type. Finding appropriate entries can be rough, and so, this series attempts to remedy this shortcoming on 2 pages, with a total of 7 d10-tables.
Outside of a cultist’s lair, one may see rain-soaked steps leading into decrepit buildings; they may be hidden behind a pane in a boudoir, or behind the smiles of a shopkeep – when handed the right token. Soul-deadening smoke may conceal what’s going on – and while I like this section, it is a bit stair-centric, but that’s probably in the nature of the subject matter. As for what’s currently happening when the PCs happen upon the cult’s fane, the PCs can witness horror, like cultists slicing off flesh from bones, engaging in haruspex, or sharpening saws, clearly meant for dismembering bodies. Or, they could be painting demonic masks for the next ceremony. This slice of mundanity, or normalcy, was something that made me smile, when the entry that features reading from a skin-bound grimoires elicited a less enthused reaction.
Major lair features may include sound-muffling curtains, braziers burning strange incense, obscene murals and more, while minor lair features include the stink of rotten meat, weaponry designed to inflict maximum pain, coffins or grave mould, etc. – as a minor complaint, a blood-stained table seemed less like a major feature to me, and as a whole, these two tables featured pretty much what I expected to see – no surprises there. As for cultist appearances, we have the obligatory robes (with or without stuff underneath), masks, bare-chested dances, bone-covered armor, etc. Sample treasures suggested once more, thankfully, elicit more excitement: A lyre made from skull and sinew and golden teeth, fanged gloves of black leather, a stone for an instant bonfire – this section is truly inspired! The table of less valuable things to be found includes old boots, documents that implicate folks in crime (badly prepared…but that doesn’t have to stop the PCs from trying their hands…), a neat statue that may crumble when moved. Solid.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no serious hiccups. Layout adheres to Raging Swan Press’ elegant two-column b/w-standard, and we get a nice piece of b/w-artwork. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, in spite of its brevity (kudos!) and is included in two versions – one optimized for screen-use, and one for the printer.
Steve Hood’s take on cultists is interesting – while there are a few entries that are a bit bland, that most GMs will probably be familiar with (or immediately think of when hearing “cultists”), there also are a couple of entries that are frankly inspired – particularly the treasure-table deserves applause. That being said, this still leaves the pdf not as strong as e.g. the installment on bandits or pirates. My final verdict will clock in at 3.5 stars, rounded down.
You can get this dressing file here on OBS!
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