More Whispering Homunculus (almost system neutral)
This massive booklet clocks in at 146 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page ToC, 1 page introduction, 1 page SRD, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 140 pages of content, though it should be noted that they’re laid out for digest-size (6’’ by 9’’/A5), which means that you can fit up to 4 pages on a given sheet of paper when printing this out, provided your eyes are good enough, obviously.
Okay, so if you’re new to the Whispering Homunculus – it’s basically a semi-regular column of the Kobold Press site, penned by none other than Richard Pett. While nominally associated with Pathfinder, for the most part, the material is system-agnostic and should prove to be useful for your game system of choice – whether that’s one of the OSR-rules-systems, DCC, 5e or something else.
The book, as a whole, is basically one of the extremely useful books that I internally refer to as “GM miscellanea” – tables and dressing that help get the creative juices flowing, that add a dash of excitement to the game, or that act as a catalyst for adventures…or that get the creative juices flowing. Basically, if your adventures are the proper dish, then this would act as exotic seasoning.
Each of the respective entries features often delightful introductory text pertaining the homunculus and interaction with the master, improving the overall reading experience and flow of the book.
All right, so, we begin with 50 different treasures of the Pharaoh – basically, treasure suitable for any Egyptian-style campaign; one entry refers to rules-relevant components, while others contain e.g. a papyrus showing a disemboweling rite, figurines of fish-tailed goats, human-headed mummified owls with alligator teeth in the beak…as you can see, we have a nice blend of the more mundane and fantastical aspects here.
The next entry presents the concept of least guardian angels – with 12 benefits, 12 forms and 12 durations. If you’re particularly strict regarding the rules, fret not, for the pdf does mention how to define these entities in the context of a game that sports diverse means to influence different types of outsiders, invisibility and the like – things you obviously can use or ignore at your leisure.
After this, we take a look at 100 peculiar relationships. Think of these as basically quirks to add character to the master/servant-dichotomy that is implicit in e.g. familiars, companions, etc. Perhaps the creature stands beside sleeping characters, watching them..and not necessarily just the master. Perhaps the creature can’t help but gawk at redheads or collects spoons, of all things. Being terrified of thunder, lurking in rafters, referring to itself by the third person….or what about a creatures that belches whenever the master has eaten? Perhaps the being has its own pet spider named Horatio or is obsessively clean? Some companions may collect shells, depositing excess parts of the collection in pockets, backpacks, etc. – the quirks are delightful and pretty damn neat.
The next section contains no less than 12 d12 tables and deals with gear – to be precise, it deals with details regarding gear; the armor table, for example, mentions battered armor, armor decorated with crow feathers, decorative notches for enemies defeated, etc. The baggage/holder table features belts made from old prayer flags, a pouch made out of an elephant’s ear, a choker-face pouch – hilarious, weird, cool! And yes, lower clothing, body art can be found…and I am partial to the grotesque-entry, which featured, for example, rings made of pig tails wrapped in wire – here, we can see Pett’s delightfully wicked mind at work. The whole section is inspiring and cool in the best sense and most assuredly is something I’d hand to my players as well. Have I mentioned the “Just Plain Weird” table here? It features a false nose of troll-flesh, a gnoll-bone corset…fun! On the super nitpicky formal side – we have troll flesh and trollflesh in the same table, but minimum hassle hiccups like this do not influence my final verdict.
The next table continues the inspiring trend of the former section, presenting for your edification no less than 100 strange pets, beginning with aardvark and continuing to rag owls, string mice, a barking pig…or what about a hand-sized pygmygator? Or an owlferret? An arm-sized furry caterpillar? Or tackler’s wronganimals – like the wrongmouse, which is very fat, hat six legs and the most cuddly of tentacles. Oh, and two words: Zombie toucan. IF you’re like me, you’re celebrating the glorious weirdness of this table, big time.
After this, we get 100 spots for wilderness overnight sleeping – 50 for succeeded checks, 50 for failed checks; the successes include ruined churches, molding gypsy caravans, sheep pens, caves, cairns – quite a few of these could make for pretty neat locales to further develop. The failures are also interesting: Particularly windy hillocks; a glade that runs with spring water at night, an old hay barn infested with spiders, a loch infamous for midges…yeah, the PCs won’t have a pleasant stay there.
Now, as you all know, I enjoy murderhobo-ing througha dungeon as much as the next fellow, but I am also one of the guys who needs regular changes of pace to not be bored. As such, investigations, particularly complex ones, are a favorite of mine and something I usually have to design myself. There is an issue inherent there, and that would be that capable players will want to do their legwork, gather all information possible, etc. Well, the next section contains no less than 100 gloriously-paranoia-inducing conversation snippets that the PCs may pick up – whether by chance, as a red herring, or as an actual plot point, these make for a cool and fun form of additionatal information – I’d be really surprised if a player’s intrigue wasn’t piqued by an account of a purple worm exploding, for example.
Now, there is something inherently cool and creepy about timepieces; perhaps its their inevitability; perhaps it’s the visualization of our own finite existence, but the blend of memento mori and inevitable march of time is something I consider to be intriguing per definition. Thus, the 50 strange timepieces depicted in the next section have an inherent appeal to me and once more run a gamut of interesting tricks: Take e.g. a 33 ft. tower with a water clock powered by elementals. A chamber that has elephants as a meansof powering a bell. A fey-bone and elf-tooth-based sundial; a zombie cockerel that crows at dusk and dawn. An animated object tat screams every hour. With precious few words, the author manages to generate a sense of delight and wonder, often suffused with the trademark blend of macabre and funny.
One of the things that EVERY GM is sooner or later likely to run afoul of would be the issue of talking to animals via magic; per definition, animals don’t suddenly become intelligent when subjected to such magics…and as such, it is somewhat baffling that I know of no other table that actually deals with the singleminded and, potentially quite literally, pigheaded responses of the creatures of the animal kingdom. From hunger to “How do I know that you’re talking?” or “Darktime bad” to others, this table is really helpful, cool and once more, a welcome addition to my arsenal.
After these tables, we get a brief essay on the fine art of the recurring villain – something significantly harder in pen & paper RPGs than in computer games or movies: After all, our players aren’t dumb. They’ll chop the head off, burn the remains and scatter the ashes to the 4 winds. Okay, well, at least my players are wont to do that. While the article obvious refers to several specific spells etc., the advice per se is sound regardless of system. A nice article.
Speaking of villains? If you’re like me, you may consider it to be weird that all those villains dealing with demons, devils, forces from beyond space and time…you know, the fellows that sell their soul…get such “pleasant” ends, that PCs get to console themselves that their foe gets their due in the afterlife? Well, we get no less than 20 entries of descriptive texts that describe truly horrific ends for all those evildoers, ends that should make the PCs very much contemplate whether going darkside is such a good idea..
…you know, whenever I contemplate how diverse we human beings are, I feel a sense of awe. Each one of us has skills and trades that others may consider obscure, strange or utterly baffling. Now picture what would happen if we applied that type of diversity to a magical fantasy world. We’d get specialists for the most obscure of tasks, right? Well, the next table sports no less than 100 utterly obscure professions, ranging from carriage lamp-fitters to gelatinous cube merchants, hippogriff trainers, paste gem makers, leech collectors…okay, there are a couple of less uncommon professions here, but these, ultimately, are required to maintain a sense of grounding amidst all this weird. Noseflute carver extraordinaire. Just sayin’.
More detailed than regular entries would be the 12 osessive and weird collectors of strangeness. What do I mena by this? Well, can you imagine a gorgeous, but demented lady, capable of smothering statues in admiration? What about a butterfly collector that has even gloomwings and a mothman as part of the collection? Yeah, these are really neat as well. 8 seasonal scares with delightful twists on holiday classics are presented next (did anyone say poisoned glaze and twisted snowmen?) and in such an instance, it’s also time to think of the less fortunate, read: Kobolds.
We get a rules-relevant representation of kobolds throwing exploding fire snowballs, death throes and several interesting and fun ideas that can be developed into full-blown adventures; nice section. The book also contains 20 new village idiots (referring to proper class-combos, but otherwise being system-neutral fluff-entries. In the table, there are ghoul rogues, paladins in covert OP-mode or the gnomish chicken woman – inspired entries that can add a cool dimension to a settlement, add a complication or, well, just some cool ideas. A total of 6 low-cost augmentations for homunculi can be grafted to the creatures…like Trebb’s discreet extended poison bladder. Yeah, neat. As you probably know by now, I enjoy notes on coinage – 3 distinct and weird coinages are provided in detail here; including e.g. the crudely cut, triangular Line of Fharr. Is your bard a bit of a poser? Well a total of 6 named and detailed tasks separate the wheat from the chaff: Hard to get right and only something for true masters in their field.
But know what? Kobold-in-chief Wolfgang Baur also contributes to this book: The master of of the kobolds provides “The Joy of Explosions”, an article that begins with 3 apprentices and then moves on to present a total of 23 strange jars, glassware, etc., including fireprood crucible capable of storing phlogiston, etc., distillation equipment, etc. Oh, and there are 12 variant explosions! Blue flames! Dragonfire! Sick burn! Completely silent blasts – yes, some of these have rules-relevant modifications. Yes, I really enjoyed this article.
Miranda Horner proves that she can deliver as well: Big time, in fact: her article is pretty occult in theme, providing 12 dreadful sites and the things that haunt them. Wisp killers…and a man cursed for having had the perfect day. 12 areas of spiritual activity and 12 possessed items can also be found.
After this one, we get an assortment of d12-charts: For heroes named Thedge, for improbably NPC deaths, NPC moments, obscure pantomime costumes, one-eyed gamekeepers, quirky tavern names…or what about rare and obscure owlbear variants, strange opening lines of dark tales…and much, much more.
The undiscovered bestiary: Ochre jelly, presents a variety of easy to implement variations of the slime, with CR-modifications provided for your convenience.
The final section of the pdf is taken up by “Situation Vacant”, an adventure for 4 1st level characters. An adventure unlike any you have ever played. You see, the PCs are all homunculi, each with unique abilities, each pretty ugly and capable of causing some telepathic static to the others. Oh, and there can be only one. The rather sadistic master wants his monocle retrieved and thus, the PCs have to brave the dread UNDERPLUMBING beneath the master’s lab. This is perhaps one of the most hilarious modules I have ever read. Seriously. The master observes and comments the PCs, allowing the GM to add meta-commentary. The challenges, heck, even some of the area names are hilarious. While we don’t get player-friendly versions of the b/w-maps, that does nothing to detract seriously from this glorious end of the supplement.
Editing and formatting are very good, I noticed no undue accumulation of typos or glitches. Layout adheres to a printer-friendly one-column b/w-standard and the pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience. Interior art is b/w and stock and the b/w-cartography for the module is neat, though the lack of player-friendly versions is a bit of a detriment.
Richard Pett, with support from Wolfgang Baur and Miranda Horner, delivers a truly superb collection of details and miscellanea. This book breathes his signature, dark humor, his vast, unbridled imagination. More so than the first book even, this contains so many inspirational components, it’s baffling. The tables are inspiring and delightful and more than one made me grin savagely, made me chuckle and got those creative juices flowing. The absolutely hilarious module is just the icing on the cake of one awesome little book. This is great, inspiring and very much worth owning. My final verdict will clock in at 5 stars + seal of approval.
You can get this inspired booklet here on OBS!