Uncertain Worlds (system neutral)
This pdf clocks in at 96 pages, 2.5 pages of ToC, leaving us with 93.5 pages of content, laid out in 6’’ by 9’’ (A5). I own both the electronic and print version of this booklet, and my review is based on both of them.
So, what is this? This is basically a collection of fragments, of odds and ends, of what I’d call a GM’s Miscellanea, a toolbox if you will; more detailed and specific than dressing, less detailed than finished supplements, this is a book to open when you’re looking for some inspiration to get your design-engines going. The content was curated from author Patrick Stuart’s blog, but the super low asking price for the convenience to have this all collected makes sense.
Now, this is system neutral, yes, but it is not genre-neutral; it also should be noted that it gravitates towards darker subject matters and the weird, but in an inspiring way. And I mean “inspiring” in the truest sense of the word. This particularly pertains the locations that kick off this book, which would fit perfectly in dark fantasy or horror games…or post apocalyptic ones. Or planar ones…
The first of these is the “Caliphate of Holes”, and after I got this book on a whim, it was the one that hooked me. The Plains of the Sifir, or Plains of Nothing, are bereft of life. Now, I spoke about this being inspiring, right? So instead of blathering about, instead of rambling, take a look at this:
“Only in the shadowed micro-climates of the black, broken kaiju temple shards, bigger than buildings, will life appear, and then only the clenched octopoid charcoal-vermilion corn that grows in tangled bezoars.”
Kaiju temple shards. Octopoid corn growing in bezoars. I can *see* that messed up landscape in my mind’s eye! Why were temples erected for kaiju? Were they erected *from* them? What destroyed them? I love this. Limestone pyramid reflections carved into the earth provide shelter for a civilization that insists on marrying for love, that values poetry, and that is spread out and connected by the caravans treading the blasted plains…and that is but an excerpt of the wonders held within this one singular entry.
There is an in-character report from an island, and there are cities within. Oh, are there cities! Like Lanthanum Chromate, a city exemplifying a last desperate kindling of life at both ends, a Sentenced-song personified (kudos if you still remember one of my favorite bands…), a city slowly falling, crumbling into the edge of a city, loathed by the kings of hell, maintained by the stubbornness of dwarves to withstand the nightly apocalypses unleashed upon it.
There is Pluvial, on the plains of Ennui, fed by Lethe’s flooding, where flensed bodies are animated by poetic backwash and where the ruler of the city, the Prince of Carcasses must be disparaged in any conversation. Decadent in a ridiculously, blackly-humorous way, this place is gothic in the extreme, in the old sense of the word, a place so suffused with ancient madness, it touches everything and makes life conform – basically the notion of romantics, condensed into a city-wide metaphor. Tuesdays are banned fyi – the Prince considers them gauche.
What about a city of spies, playing a planar level of espionage as a collective that, in scope, exceeds anything I’ve read to this point? There are also three rivers provided here, each more detailed and inspiring than many full-blown settlement books; we learn about the Navigating Houses of Nox that traverse oceans by nightmare and a mariner’s song of the nightmare sea is fully provided – and, much to my joy, annotated with further, often hilarious, commentary and inspiring tidbits!
And encounter with aforementioned Prince of Carcasses is sketched out, and there is a 6d6 based quest generator to alleviate the manifold sorrows of the Thane of Coates. 7d7 doppelgängers, a snail-knight generator (didn’t mention them before – they are part and parcel of the Caliphate of Holes…),,,this is a treasure trove of ideas.
Do you prefer science fiction? What about the concept of the Omnistructure of Decay? Or perhaps, you want some unique ideas for science fiction fortifications? What about write-ups for three ancestral mechas and 4 songs/poems that tie in with the whole sword & planet vibe? Cryogenic Rats? A 2d10 exo-suit of hot girls generator (fans of Alpha Blue, take note…) a massive HackShip generator (3d6, rolled 6 times)…or what about a 10-entry “Masks of the Creatures from Before Time” generator?
Do you prefer super hero games? 6 sample heroes and 10 villains are included, and a d30 signs of trouble dressing table alongside a d20 list of villain means of destroying PCs is provided. To give you an example: “Politicise ratling codeboys with engram induction techniques hidden in fast-delivery cheesewheels, aim them like a gun at the mirrorcogs of liverpools moneycore, bring it all down in debt.” Come on, that is far out and neat!
In the miscellanea section, we get a bunny world generator. (Names like Pontifex Thumps…) a system of time with names added to all hours, and a d10 generator that is simply titled “She Is” – this one made me remember a whole array of of my favorite songs, from Diary of Dreams to more experimental materials…another favorite of mine. The pdf closes with an “achingly portentous prophecy” that spans multiple pages and should make for great poaching grounds.
Editing and formatting are the one aspect where this is not particularly good – there are a couple of hiccups here and there that made wish there had been tighter editing. Layout adheres to a no-frills 1-column b/w-standard. There are no artworks inside. This is all content. The softcover PoD version has nice stock art on the cover and the pdf comes with detailed bookmarks, making navigation easy.
Okay, to spell this out loud and clearly: For the editing glitches, I should penalize this pdf.
I can’t bring myself to doing this. I just can’t. This humble little collection has more inspiration oozing from its pages than 99% of frickin’ campaign settings and regional sourcebooks I have ever read. This oozes an inspiring sense of jamais-vu; it presents dark visions that are tantalizing, different and strange, suffused with an irreverent, unobtrusive sens of dry and midnight-black humor. These tidbits represent one of the most inspiring GM’s miscellanea books I have ever read. If you even remotely are drawn to darker and outré concepts, if you want to add a dash of the creative and weird to your game, then this delivers by the boatload. The softcover costs a measly $6.32, the pdf just $1.50. Seriously, you will find that this Patrick Stuart’s work is worth every single cent a hundred times over.
After reading this, I frankly wished the author had penned a whole cosmology, a vast array of massive campaign settings for me to read whenever I get bored. This is a truly phenomenal offering, more than worth the super fair asking price. Get it, read it, be inspired. My final verdict will be 5 stars + my seal of approval. Truly amazing!
You can get this great booklet for a ridiculously low price here on OBS!