I volunteered to review some of Lloyd Metcalf’s work (CEO of Fail Squad Games) as part of working working with and also being a fan of the First Edition of AD&D, this was also spurred by having some interest in needing to learn more about the 5th edition of Advanced Dungeons & Dragons when he offered his stuff for the classic swag of reviewers copies. Biting on that like someone playing a greedy Dwarf checking the quality of a suspicious gold coin, I am now going to review the generously shared products with those who read the rest of the post.
The supplements reviewed are shown below with direct links to the DriveThruRPG webpage. They can also be found at https://www.failsquadgames.com/ Which probably helps him more.
Well, having seen some of his work before I have course have a fair idea of the general thrust of Fail Squad Games. FSG is not a big Powerhouse in gaming (yet?) it is a talented small-size organization building a portfolio of excellent utility items and Adventure ideas for players of many editions of Advanced Dungeons and Dragons as well as other Concepts.
For any review I follow the standard reviewing practice of Good-Bad-Ugly-Utility-Summation for product reviews. Meaning using at least a paragraph: I point out what I like, dislike, what is potentially problematic and what seems highly useful followed by an overall picture of the results of ingesting the products. Plus of course my own spin on reviewing products.
Having known that Lloyd Metcalf is a quality artist as well as layout provider the layout and artwork isn’t stunningly better or worse than any of his previous projects. They are all examples of fine design and keenly well matched and executed artwork. This may sound like low or no praise but that is the wrong impression, I am merely trying to keep from being envious. For example the illustration of the character casting a spell (presumably a wizard) his stance says “frolicing” while his serious look and clutching a book while reading says intense concentration. Exactly capturing what a caster should be doing: intense focus even if doing supposedly frivolous things! Nailed it far better than I can.
I would also like to see future products that have effects without damaging the characters in an unusual way. either in a short-term or long-term basis in part because insanity drain is a new mechanic that can of course be problematic for certain players while not all of the other members of the group may have a problem with it. Of course Law in and of itself would seem to oppose Chaos in this form. Therefore there should be kind of balancing effect by Lawful Mages and Priests to increase spells of a defensive nature against the cosmic vagaries of Chaos. Many others would also end up having an interest in at least protecting themselves while allowing others to choose as they wish. Reinforcing that Law, not just the Prime Material plane should be opposed to too much Chaos. although perhaps in the case of individuals protecting areas around themselves or simply small counter projections of the elements formed by Law itself as opposed to the Prime Material Plane. The Prime Plane being a neutral or balancing concept itself. This could generate some interesting spells perhaps due to expensive researches.
One of the problems I’ve had with the writing is that there are occasions on which a swift reading or a rereading through may give a different impression than the first careful reading, this especially applies to items such as keeping limitations separate from each reference point. For example The Drexel having a limitation of twice a day on their Mana burst ability. That restriction on the ability should be noted to have the twice-a-day limitation in the actual power description on the monster in order to prevent confusion. A GM may feel it’s okay to use the power every other round four or five times in a combat because the monster description does not state the twice per day limitation on it. Therefore in that particular section the previous paragraph context not being read and they have the problem of being excessive with the monsters power. Probably more of a quibble than a legitimate concern but something that can happen.
As far as potentially problematic thoughts, I didn’t see any notations about various spells possibly affecting the Sanity drain mechanic (Mind Bar for example) as well certain devices in original AD&D (Helm of Telepathy, the Ring of the Mind or Ioun Stones perhaps?) that could have had an impact on the Sanity issues. There’s also possibly which is exemplified in your sample Adventure items from the Prime Material that are based upon Law they may also act curiously. Yet interestingly there is no mention of ideas for dealing with if an aware magical item of a sort dedicated to Law may itself become insane, go quiet until off the plane, or have its power diminished by being exposed to these forces. It is also possible, of course, that I have not seen the writing on the subject so take these questions and notes with a large grain of salt, as well as not ignoring that golden rule of “DM may have to rule on a case by case basis”.
Honestly there was some difficulty in initially writing this. Most of the difficulties stem from the prevalence of retirement mechanics in the Advanced Dungeons & Dragons books. Insanity is not typically a Force Retirement mechanic in the DMG, but it can make a character less loveable until they either become villains through no choice of their own or merely unplayable. Though still not presented as such, I feel that adding events to make insanity a common mechanic is problematic in this area. So when the first thing I run across is a mechanic I just dislike, even though there is caveats of course for player input to these issues and for people to disregard these choices I also understand there’s a great deal of thought and design put into these Concepts. I don’t want to just disregard them because my own personal feelings are “I don’t really need another source of enforced character problems”.
It took me a little while to write this because of those issues this is obviously a person who’s working hard at their goals but personally I don’t view some of these items as either necessary or very lovable, YMMV. So there is some issues with utility reliability also as far as my personal concern thusly stopping progress on an analysis of Lloyd’s contributions he shared with me. Until I tied in the concept of names of the Lands of Lunacy tables being usable as an expansion on ideas for curses affecting characters. Essentially increasing the utility of a spell already in the Player’s Handbook that inspires me, because now I have a hook to put the whole review upon.
In summation these fine products are a good choice for expanding the options a DM has when dealing with groups. In addition I have had a few questions that provoked interesting thoughts and that is actually high praise.
Below are some spells inspired by Reading the Lands of Lunacy….
Lands of Lunacy Curse (Abjuration)
Duration: 1d12 Rounds per Level
Area of Effect: Special
Components: V, S
Casting Time: 6 segments
Saving Throw: Special
This spell warps into the target a short lived fragment of either pure Chaos or the marginal attention of a Drexol, no one is sure which. The results are if the targeted creature is a spellcaster they must obey by the results of either table 1-2 or 1-3 depending upon if they are casting of Divine or Arcane magics. If not a spellcaster the target is Afflicted with a result from table 1-1, and if no effect result happens the table is checked again the next turn. all tables are found on pages 4&5 of the Lands of Lunacy setting guide by Lloyd Metcalf.
Notably, this spells parameters exactly duplicates the Spell Remove Curse (CF: PHB) in its cause curse form except the randomized duration if the curse is laid, Protection from Chaos spells always function against this spell. Alternately the notes above may be simply added to the options for cursing opponents.
The Field of Bursting Curses (Abjuration) reversible
Duration: 1d12 rounds per level of the caster
Area of Effect: 6 1″x1″x1″ cubes strung in a contiguous path.
Components: V, S, M
Casting Time: 1 round
Saving Throw: Special
This spell is much like the 3rd level spell Remove Curse (cf: PHB) but instead it enables a Caster to either attempt to remove multiple curses with a lower chance of success or as the original creator intended to inflict curses upon their opponents. As a field of bursting curses this spell enables the Caster to inflict one curse per three levels they have attained at this point in the spell is cast. in addition the saving throw benefit or penalties are adjusted by how close the alignment of the Caster is to their opponents on the 9 point alignment chart: if they are diametrically opposed there’s a -2 penalty applied to the save, if they are neither opposed nor aligned towards the caster there is no save modifier and if they are aligned with there’s a +1 to their save. Should the Lands of Lunacy supplement by Fail Squad Games be available, those alternate forms of curses may be inflicted by the spell.
If there are no or not enough current targets for the spell in the defined area the caster may leave the curses (or curse indiction points) randomly sown in the area for the limits of the random duration as if they were invisible mines (and detectable as such by sensitive or powerful characters).
Because of the indirect nature of the spell there is only a 75% chance a cursed individual will be uncursed or have the curse abated enough to rid themselves of a cursed item. again if there are not enough current targets for the spell the spell generates invisible minelike items that must be found to try to remove the curse either on accident or by chasing the cursed individual into them.
The material component for this spell is a small horn or music pipes that must be winded as the spell is cast. Part of the enchantment requires these to be blessed by another priest of the same religion as the caster and inscribed with no less than 12 runes dedicated to their God. 6 of the runes should be unforgiving and 6 should be forgiving to utilize this spell in its intended and reversible forms, for some deities it may be difficult to find the set of 6 for each form the spell may take if so the runes may be repeated, but the component is only usable for removing curses (forgiving) or laying curses (unforgiving).
I think it would be interesting to see what any readers think about this, to offer their insight on or about certain things I have asked but I know your mileage may vary. Just things I’ve noted, that may be of benefit from a different thoughts.