Wormskin #8 (OSR)
#8 of my Top Ten of 2018
The eight installment of the Wormskin-zine depicting the strange Ur-forests of Dolmenwood clocks in at 36 pages of pure content (laid out in 6’’ by 9’’/A5), not counting editorial, etc. As always, my review is both based on the print and pdf iterations of the ‘zine.
The OSR-ruleset employed within this book would be B/X (or Labyrinth Lord), but the rules can be pretty easily tweaked to work for other systems.
All right, so the first thing you’ll notice, is that the ‘zine, in its slumber has obviously received an aesthetic upgrade: Leafing through the pages, I was surprised to see full-color, original artworks for all of the monsters featured within, which this time around, would be 5 different fungus-themed foes, particularly suited for the lower end of the level-range. Artist Emma Lazauski did a pretty fantastic job here – you see, fungi creep me out. Seriously. And the fungi herein manage to both be creepy (at least to me) AND actually look…cute? This juxtaposition is hard to achieve, and it elevated that section for me rather significantly. The monster-entries, as before, do come with sample traits that help the referee to differentiate between different individuals of the species and make them feel less run-of-the-mill. As since number #7, we no longer get the encounter and lair-sections for monsters in Wormskin, but in contrast to #7, I found I minded less here, courtesy of the installment focusing on unique creatures as opposed to NPCs.
That, and the artworks are a great replacement. Anyhow, what kind of fungi do we get? Well, there would be brainconks, semi-sentient bracket fungi that may be mewing and enjoy dropping on targets…to eat their BRAINS!! Beyond these, we have ambulatory fungi that can emit strobing pulses of light, and small pook morels that can emit horrific psychic impressions as a defensive measure. Massive ochre slime-moldy hulks can also be found, but my favorite would be the wronguncle. These fungi have grown from the dead, fusing a psychic remnant with the fungus: This makes them think that they are the deceased person, and they just look for home, won’t you help? Well, you think twice, for they will slaughter everyone, going completely bonkers upon returning. These are thoroughly horrific, and with the sample home table to supplement this one, the wronguncle is one of my all-time favorite Dolmenwood critters. Strange, potentially funny and at the same time, horrific. Two thumbs up!
The installment also includes campaign rules. Yes, seriously. And oh boy, these are smart. They are a great example of Gavin Norman’s precise and refined writing, which marries the simplicity we expect from OSR-rules with pinpoint precision. Finding a camp site, the influence of weather and characters, setting the camp, fetching water, getting the fire going (yes/no?) and concisely codified evening abilities that can be resolved super-quickly: The camp rules have it all; they have mechanically-relevant rules for sleeping, watch (including rules for falling asleep), etc. – and there even are 30 different campsites with potentially mechanically relevant features.
These rules are brilliant: They allow for the resolution of the setting up camp section in mere minutes of playing time, facilitate adventure hooks insertion, reward capable PCs, etc. – in short, they are amazing. They are so elegant, I frankly will adapt them for more complex games as well. A capable referee could even slot them into games like 5e, Pathfinder, etc. This is easily my favorite rules-centric offering in the whole run of Wormskin so far!! It is seriously worth getting the ‘zine all on its own.
Beyond that, we also once more have a massive table that deals with the strange, magical waters that may be found within Dolmenwood’s glades and clearings. This table is a classic d30-table, covers 3.5 pages, and nets quite an array of different, intriguing effects – and yeah, there obviously is synergy with the camp rules, right.
For the fans of Dolmenwood, there is also another massive section that unveils another grand mystery of Dolmenwood, namely the “Sisters of the Chalice and the Moon”, the sisterhood of witches that pretty much represents the second massive cabal of magic-users you can find in Dolmenwood. And yes, this is a take on witches; it, at first glance, uses all the tropes you’d associate with a variety of witch tropes, does twist them in a genuinely interesting way that renders them, and dealing with them, rather…STRANGE. As it should be in Dolmenwood!
The massive article does contain notes on the occult symbolism of these witches, and the write-up does note schemes and goals, their relationships with other mighty factions of Dolmenwood. Beyond rumors, symbolism and the like, becoming a member of the sisterhood is covered – and yes, there is some intriguing material herein, and how the gender-theme is depicted, is rather cool. If you liked the write-up of the Drunes, you’ll also adore this one – and yes, I do love it. I will not spoil the truths of the sisterhood, as these are denoted as deep lore – secrets to be unearthed by the players while enjoying the game.
Editing and formatting are top-notch on a formal and rules-language level. Layout adheres to a one-column b/w-standard that uses neat touches of color to make the book more aesthetically-pleasing. Artworks are a blend of b/w-pieces in the pdf, and the supplement features amazing full-color artworks for the monsters. The pdf comes fully bookmarked for your convenience, and the PoD, while briefer than previous Wormskin installments, is the version I’d recommend getting.
Gavin Norman penned everything herein, and he really upped his game. Meticulously precise, inspired and varied, the content herein is literally all-killer, no filler, making this installment not only my benchmark for the Wormskin magazine, but for all kinds of OSR-‘zines. This is a brilliant booklet that is inspiring in all the right ways. 5 stars + seal of approval, and this is a candidate for my Top Ten of 2018.
You can get this brilliant little ‘zine here on OBS!
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