Into the Undercroft

I’ve got this sneaky fondness for the OSR, or as I know it, the way I played back in the day. Some of it makes me chuckle, some of it raises a wry grin, while other bits make me slowly shake my head. Occasionally I come across something that makes me simultaneously reminisce about the past and be excited for the future. The Undercroft does that.

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It’s a zine. Remember them? Home made publications full of scratchy drawings and enthusiastic articles and house rules, usually never made it into double figures? Well, they’re back, and they’ve been back for a while. The ubiquity and relative cheapness of home publishing makes these a newly viable project, and one that works on a different level to that of a blog or a pure pdf. You can scrawl notes in the margins if nothing else.

Dan Sell is an old mucker of mine. We hadn’t bumped into each other in years despite having mutual friends, and as it turns out, a mutual love of fantasy RPGs. A chance reunion online led to him sending me review copies of his labour of love and I’m so glad he did.

Issue 1 kicks off with syphilis. Did I mention this is FRPGs through the lens of Lamentations of the Flame Princess? Yeah. It’s all creepy and grim and fungal. Having disease as your opening salvo tells you all you need to know really. Halflings+athletes foot=eeeww.

Ever read an article about Lawyers in FRPGs? Not like this you haven’t. Dan serves up the bastard love child of Plunkett & Macleane and Rumpole of the Bailey, but set in the world of Locke Lamora. It’s finished off with a d30 table with 90 entries to get you an answer when you get to make your one call.

Finally, a short scenario that showcases a custom monster, the corpse lion. It’s full of eye widening details, that you can sprinkle all over your usual GM patter. Example? “Three corpse lions dragging a polar bear towards #25. It’s almost dead and can’t do much more than growl”. The adventure doesn’t really have a structure, and certainly no defined plot. Instead, it’s built out of sensations, and ones that will stick in players minds for a long time. Gleeful in its insouciance.

Look, the whole issue is designed to make your players hate you, while all the time grinning and mock bemoaning their precious PCs fates. If you like Lamentations… then I’m pretty sure this will tickle in the same horrogenous zones.

This stuff smacks of the sort of thing we used to get in magazines back in the day, and fanzines even backer in the day. Yeah, you see blogs that purport to cover this sort of thing, but they’re more ephemeral and often more interested in quantity than quality. If you want a decent read, that will give you ideas to use or delete as appropriate, and something to have on your actual physical shelf, then look no further. Well actually look here on Dan’s blog, and Dan will sort you out. Tell him I sent you.

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