Monday 30 September 2019

[Review] Wee Warriors Reprints, Part III: The Misty Isles

The original cover dug up from the depths
of Pinterest, because you deserve it.
Well crap, it took more than two months, but here we go again: the final part of my Wee Warriors reviews has arrived! The Misty Isles is not only the last of the Wee Warriors modules, but also happens to be my favorite from the trilogy. Unlike its predecessors, Palace of the Vampire Queen and Dwarven Glory, the third and final DM's Toolkit is not a dungeon crawl, but a collection of nine small islands complete with hex maps and keyed entries.

Lacking better option I have to go with the Pacesetter release again, which thankfully has no bland AD&D conversion this time. This doesn't mean the Pacesetter version is an exact reproduction of the originals: the maps were revamped, there are some reused illustrations, and a new cover nobody asked for. My mind boggles why we get is a cheap ass homage instead of the real deal - again. Heck, Bill Barsh even praises the original cover in the introduction! At least it could have been included in the book, but alas instead of preserving this historical piece of rpg art it was more important to waste an entire page for an orc, and for the fucking Vampire Queen again, who isn't even in the module. Give her a rest, please.

The Misty Isles wastes no time on bullshit. After a short guide about using the maps and an introduction we get a summary the nine islands, which then the book describes in more details one after another (frequently on a different name, to make things confusing). Each isle comes with a map of 21 hexes, and a few pages of entries explaining what each hex contains. There are only a few empty spots, which are usually areas covered by the sea anyway. The regions are full of encounters and adventure sites described in very dense, but straightforward manner. Monster and NPC stat blocks are embedded in the text, and aren't highlighted in any way, so good luck looking them up on the fly. Not that they would help much, at best you get hit points and armor type (not class!), other times just class and level. Most entries are related to the main conflict or theme of the land, and frequently the hexes are connected to each other, even if it isn't spelled out outright. Yeah, they weren't big on cross referencing back in the day either (although there are some examples).

If the overpowered local ruler wasn't enough, there are hexes
of carnivorous unicorns and transforming wild cats.
But why should you care about a bunch of small hex maps with messy entries? Besides being historical curiosities from the dawn of our hobby, they are also surprisingly good. The themes and tone of the isles range from mundane through fantastic to gonzo. While the most remarkable happening on the Island of Baylor might be a plot against its king or a royal hunt, on the ruined Island of Dwarven Outcasts one of the warring clans discovered an arsenal of modern weapons, on the magically fucked up Island of Warring Wizards an order of lawful kung-fu wizards have been fighting chaotic magic-users lead by a beautiful sorceress for fifty years now, and on the Island of Tripids invasive shapechanging space plants are waiting for a way to spread out. My absolute favorite would be the Island of Nonhumans, which was conquered by merciless aliens who are now living in harmony with nature. Would be, if it wasn't left for the GM to work it out...

Well fuck you too.
The empty half page under the "NOTES" subtitle is just furter insult to the injury. There is one intriguing tidbit in the text though: the "if the game is played without a Game Master" part. GM-less roleplaying games seemed to be a relatively new invention for me - with the exception of solo adventures and gamebooks, which are a different kind of animal. For some reason the author felt an urge to mention how to handle the island for GM-less play, which suggests it must have been a ting even back in the day. Gentle reader, if you have any stories, house rules, or anything about GM-less sessions from the seventies or eighties, please share it in the comment section below. Thank you!

The way The Misty Isles approaches its regions is quite different from how the contemporary giant Wilderlands of High Fantasy does it with its dry charts and lists. It's also pretty deceptive. The entries in The Misty Isles might be wordier, but usually they don't carry more net valuable information than what you can decipher from the average Wilderlands of High Fantasy entry, and it's also harder to find relevant information in a chunk of text than in a table row. While far from perfect, I consider Wilderlands of High Fantasy to be a far more useful tool in running a hexcrawl with its technical style. One thing that The Misty Isles does better though, is being focused. While its regions are smaller, they all have an obvious overarching theme, which makes them easier to grasp for both Players and Referees.

The Misty Isles is a curious relic of the past. It's rough, it won't blow your mind, and there is a product from the same era that did at better job at what The Misty Isles attempted, but still, it's an interesting and entertaining snapshot from the era of low production values and high creativity. It has a heart and a vivid imagination behind it, and for that alone I recommend having it on your shelf, be it physical or virtual. Still, fuck you for the Island of Nonhumans...

Onward to Cha'alt...

Tl;dr: A forgotten attempt at sandbox campaigns that falters in presentation, but has some really good ideas.

Where to find it: You can find the module in print and pdf in the Pacesetter Games & Simulations webshop. Some of their modules are alse available on DriveThruRPG in pdf, so I wouldn't be surprised if the above mentioned three would surface there in the near future.

Other parts of the series:
Part I: Palace of the Vampire Queen
Part II: Dwarven Glory

Disclaimer: The DriveThruRPG links on this site are affiliate links. If you buy something through the link we'll get some credit for your purchase too.

Sunday 29 September 2019

Beasts of Chaos!! Kickstarter Launched

Why buy a regular minotaur when you can get one
with a fucking drill arm?!
In July I had an interview with Paul Smith of Creative Sculpt Studio about his second Kickstarter campaign called The Bigger Hordes of Chaos!!!, where he was gathering money to expand his line of Oldhammer chaos warrior miniatures. The campaign not only succeeded, but the rewards arrived in time. I love them all, they are characterful sculpts that are fun to work with, so it's needless to say, even with my ever growing backlog of unpainted figurines I was eagerly waiting for the next line.

The third Kickstarter campaign called the Beasts of Chaos!! just launched this week. I'm not sure why there is one less exclamation mark in the title - heck, there should be at least four, because it's a more ambitious project than the earlier ones. This time Paul wants to introduce a bunch of misshapen monsters into the hordes of Chaos - hounds, beastmen, minotaurs, slugs, and even a Jabberwocky. Some of these are pretty big, and thus only available in resin, unless we cough up enough money to cover the cost of metal moulds.

If you are looking for quality, hand-sculpted, old-school miniatures for your Warhammer FRP or Zweihänder sessions, I recommend checking out the campaign.

My humble attempt at painting the Cavalier from
The Bigger Hordes of Chaos!!! in the colours of Tzeentch.