Lost in the Wilderness (NGR/almost system neutral)
This toolkit for Neoclassical geek revival (NGR) clocks in at 25 pages, 1 page front cover, 1 page editorial, 1 page back cover, leaving us with 22 pages of content, so let’s take a look!
Before you skip ahead: While this has been written for NGR, its generators per se are useful for any fantasy game, particularly ones that tend to gravitate to the side of gritty realism.
This review was moved up in my reviewing queue because it’s the only one of the NGR toolkits that I haven’t yet covered, and that triggers my OCD.
So, what is this? Well, if you’re familiar with Zzarchov Kowolski’s often absolutely amazing wilderness modules, such as the classic Gnomes of Levnec, you’ll recall the cool random encounter engine they use: One rolls a d8, a d6 and a d4, and the results let you check on tables that, together, make for an encounter that is more interesting. The cool thing, though, particularly for longer treks, would be the additions: If you roll doubles, called “dubs” (say, a 5 on both the d6 and d8), or triples, called “Trips” (say, a 1 on all three dice), then you get a rarer, often more fantastic encounter. If you have a run (say, 1, 2, and 3 on the dice), you also get special things, and when you roll the maximum (so, 8, 6, and 4), you get the special “Max” encounter, often dealing with high risks and rewards. The cool thing about this engine is that its very design lets you maintain and control the degree of the fantastic/weird rather well. It works.
The generators herein also use the Σ-sign, which denotes the sum of all dice rolled.
After a brief one-page explanation of the engine, we get one of these generators per page, with the region also noting a travel speed and the health of the environment. The d8 denotes “Where” the encounter happens; the d6 “What” and the d4 something “Weird”.
To give you an example, I rolled 3,4,4 on the farm country generator. This yields: Where? Rotten remnants of huts or other outbuildings overgrown with shrubs. Hat? Wild game. This has an additional roll to determine the type of game—I rolled pheasants. And the weird aspect would be a small pond. If I had rolled 3,4,5 instead, I’d have gotten a special “Runs”-encounter: “Charcoal burners are heading to the nearest town. They carry backpacks of charcoal and hatchets.” A maximum result might see the outlaw king holding court in a commandeered farmhouse!
As you can see, these generators are rather useful and handy. The regions covered in addition to aforementioned farm country would be the royal woods, the river, the scrublands, hill country, olde woodes (druid, fey county; Margreve-ish), haunted forests, the barrens, the swamp, the coastline, the foothills, the mountains, the undermountain, the caves, the plains, the desert, the sand-swallowed civilization, the dust choked lands, the jungle, the endless savannah, and last but not least, the land that time forgot (dino country). So yeah, apart from proper oceans or tropical isles, this does cover quite a wide breadth of biomes/regions.
Editing and formatting are very good on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a no-frills 2-column b/w-standard, with a few b/w-artworks thrown in. The pdf, alas, has no bookmarks, which is really annoying when using the generators. I suggest printing the relevant pages when using the booklet.
I really enjoy Zzarchov Kowolski’s wilderness-encounter generators, and I maintain that they are useful far beyond the confines of the NGR-system; if you enjoy your fantasy on the gritty side of things, then these encounter-generators provide compelling dressing with just the right degree of strange sometimes just…happening. The fact that the special encounters are automatically rarer is also neat.
So, is there something to complain about? Well, the island/tropical angle and oceans are missing, and there is the lack of bookmarks; the latter is particularly egregious for a book that you want to use time and again. As such, I feel I can’t round up from my final verdict of 4.5 stars.
You can get this pdf here on OBS!
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