Tabletop Review: Oubliette Issue 6

Oubliette Issue 6
Publisher: Gold Piece Publications
Page Count: 47
Release Date: 7/28/11
Cost: $2.50
Get it Here: DriveThruRPG.com

When it comes to gaming, my tastes tend to skew old school. I collect pre-Hasbro Avalon Hill board games. I love the gold box SSI AD&D computer games and I adore RPGs from the ’80s. Top Secret S.I and Marvel Superheroes are among my favorites, but 1st & 2nd Edition Advanced Dungeons and Dragons still holds a very special place for me. It was my first exposure to RPGs at the ripe old age of 12, and brought me many of hours of enjoyment. But as times passed, the RPG systems changed and the style of game they brought evolved. The games became more balanced, min maxing was brought to a whole new level, and it brought a different type of game experience to the table. While that can be enjoyable, to me nothing beats the experience you get from playing an old school game. But to some gamers, the fact those games are out of print is a turn off. They have some mental roadblock that prevents them from playing a “dead game”. Well never fear, thanks to Old School Renaissance movement, we’ve seen a slew of new games that attempt to capture that old school gaming experience: Castles & Crusades, Swords & Wizardy, and Labyrinth Lord, among many others. This movement has also spawned online magazines trying to capture the feel of the original Dragon Magazines. One of these magazines is Oubliette.

Oubliette is a quarterly magazine released by Gold Piece Publications, and it offers a surprising amount of content for $2.50. Issue 6 contains a short adventure, a campaign setting, a new monster, a preview of an upcoming OSR release, and much more. So you’re getting a lot of content, but is it quality? Let’s find out as we delve into the contents of Oubliette.

First thing to note about Oubliette is that it is Labyrinth Lord focused. So the mechanical aspects of the the articles are written with Labyrinth Lord in mind. So if you’re an AD&D player or play another retro-clone you may notice minor differences, but nothing so major that the content couldn’t be easily ported into your game of choice.

We’ll start off talking about the The Monster Club #9 article, where we are introduced to a new monster called a Skeleton Lord. At first glance, I thought it was going to be a ripoff of the Death Knights from the Fiend Folio, but it’s not. The Skeleton Lord isn’t that powerful. It fills the area between your standard skeleton with a sword and Lord Soth’s companions. They are the animated corpse of 9th level or higher fighters that retain much of the fighting ability they possessed in life. They lack the magical resistance and abilities of the original Death Knights, but their high combat abilities should give most parties a challenge. You’re also given details on the creation process as well. That involves first researching the history of the fighter you are trying to animate, exhuming the skeletal remains (This part is important. The remains must be skeletal. If any flesh is left on the bone, the ritual fails and you’re left with a normal zombie.), and finally casting animate dead on the remains. Since Skeletal Lords are deceased 9th level or higher characters, you will not be fighting hordes of them. And they should be a specific character in your game world. I could even see using the creation of a Skeletal Lord as an adventure. The heroes get wind of an evil cult trying to reanimate the corpses of long fallen heroes, and the heroes must stop them. So basically your heroes would be fighting a medieval version of Hydra from the Marvel Universe. Needless to say, I like this monster and see lots of potential uses.

Then we have a preview of Petty Gods, an upcoming supplement about the lesser known gods. It’s intended to pay homage to the Judges Guild’s “Unknown Gods” from 1980. You won’t find a god of thunder in this book, but you will find Qurgan Quagnar, god of the three legged toads, St Vineria of the Eyes, Patron Saint of Eyes, and my personal favorite Mespilus, god of the medlar tree who resembles a fez wearing chimpanzee. Yes, I said a fez wearing chimpanzee. He’s also a surly fellow. I’m envisioning some humorous encounters as my inspecting players come across a cranky fez wearing chimpanzee, not realizing they are dealing with a minor god. You are given a Labyrinth Lord stat block for each the three previewed gods and a description of their worshipers and demeanor. I enjoyed this preview and am looking forward to the release of the full book, which will be released as a free PDF on RPGNow. So there is no reason not to check out the full book once it’s released.

Now we’ll take a look at the campaign setting and adventure in Oubliette. With this setting and the included adventure, they were drawing inspiration from the G1-G3 Against the Giants modules. When looking at the setting and adventure, you definitely can see the influence. It’s set in Newland, an area that consist of several towns and keeps, as well as a mountainous area and large forest. Did I mention in the mountains is a dormant volcano that is rumored to house a dragon? A history of the region is provided as well as some notes on the economy and government. Enough detail is provided that you get a good feel for the area without being bogged down with 50 pages of backstory. It’s also generic enough that you could fit it into most fantasy worlds, in a mountainous area, without much fuss. The setting does capture the flavor of Against the Giants. I could easily see this being the area being harassed the giants, but at the same time nothing really stands out and catches my attention as being unique. It comes across as your typical fantasy town. There is nothing wrong with it but it’s lacking that something that really sucks me in. It says that more setting information will be released in the future issues. Maybe the additional details will help it stand out from all the other fantasy settings. If you’re looking for a fleshed out area to adventure in, Newland is an acceptable area, just a little uninspiring.

Next we’ll get into the adventure, Shame of the Shaman. It reminds me of G1 Steading of the Hill Giant Chief, but with orcs. The orcs have become aggressive trying to organize the goblinoids in the area into attacking the human outposts. Most recently the orcs raided a human tower of its supplies. This causes Lord Trago, the ruler of Newland, and his men to go into the Great Forest to fight the orcs. Lord Trago and his men have yet to return. This is where the adventurers come in. It’s their job to go into the woods and find Trago and his men as well as deal with the orc menace. It’s a pretty standard go into the enemy lair, kill the monsters and rescue the captives. I do like the level of detail provided about the ruined temple the orcs are using as a lair. A top down map is provided as well as a side view, so you have an idea of the elevation of the different levels. You have multiple ways to enter the ruins, some much easier than others. I also like that different details are provided if the players are in the ruins during the day or at night. One will be much easier for the players than the other – hint, hint. There is nothing wrong with the adventure. It’s a good adventure for groups that like to kill lots of orcs. If you’re looking for lots of deep roleplaying, you won’t be finding it here. This one is hack n’ slash to the core. It’s also the first in a series of adventures for the Newland setting so we’ll see if the adventures become more involved as the series progresses.

After the adventure, there is a one page article on whips in Labyrinth Lord. It goes into the problem whips present in most RPGs: they are a nonlethal weapon. They are meant for dealing pain and crowd control, not killing foes. So this article presents some alternative rules for whip use. It gives rules for entangling a foe, inflicting pain that stuns a foe, and cracking the whip to intimidate a foe. The mechanics are simple enough and really captures how a whip is used in the real world. If you’re using a whip in your game, this is definitely worth a look.

Now we have another Monster Club article, Monster Club #10. This time, instead of getting a monster, we get a Random Monster Encounter tables for levels 1-3. These tables are based on the Monstermark system described in Issue 5 of Oubliette. Apparently, the Monstermark system is a way to rate the power level of a party or group of monsters and these tables are used to generate random encounters of a specific power level. It’s an interesting concept, but for me I kinda enjoyed the unbalanced nature of the random encounter tables of old. The chance your character could die due to a chance encounter with a group of Carrion Crawlers they had no business ever engaging was one of the charms of older systems. But then again, not every group likes that level of lethality in their game. So a more balanced random encounter chart might not be a bad thing.

We are now presented with another equipment based article but this time it’s about plate mail. You get a nice write up describing plate mail and the difficulties in creating it. It gives you a step by step break down of the creation process and associated cost. It also addresses something I like: armor damage. It gives you a table to roll on to determine how much damage your armor has taken from combat and how costly the repair will be. If your armor is absorbing all these potentially fatal blows, it makes sense it would require repairs after a while. This is just another little thing that can add some more realism to your game.

The next article is one for the magic-users as it covers a raven as a familiar. You get the Labyrinth Lord stat block for a raven as well as a nice write up on the capabilities of a raven when using it as a familiar. It adds some more depth to those that want to use a raven as familiar.

Next is a review section that goes outside the RPG realm. The CD, Back Through Time, by Scottish Pirate Metal band Alestorm is reviewed, as well as Quickshade, a varnish for miniatures painting. Two very random items when compared to the rest of the magazine. I could easily do without this section. It feels out of place when compared to the rest of the magazine.

Now we hit the creative writing portion of Oubliette. There is an “abridged” season one script for Game of Throne that went over my head since I’ve never seen the show or read the book. I know, I’m a bad geek. It would probably be a lot funnier to someone that actually understood the source material.

Next is part four of The Song of Sithrakk. The problem I have with this is it’s lacking a brief synopsis of the first three parts. So if this is your first issue of Oubliette, like it is for me, it’s hard to get into the fiction when you are dropped in the middle of a story. A brief couple paragraphs explaining the major characters and their situation would do wonders for new readers.

Intermingled throughout the magazine, between the articles, are comics in the vein of Snarfquest and the other Dragon Magazine comics of yore. This is yet another nice touch that recreates the Dragon Magazine feel.

This issue of Oubliette also includes some supplemental material too. There is a sheet of business card sized Labyrinth Lord character sheets provided and a version of the Random Monster Encounter sheets that let you fill in your own number ranges for the encounters.

There is one last thing about Oubliette of technical nature that is worth noting. You are unable to copy and paste is in the PDF. So if you want to pull sections of text out and paste them into your campaign notes, it’s not happening. You must type everything by hand. This is odd since I checked the security settings in Acrobat and copying content is allowed. It must be due to the way the PDF is generated, because I notice the text is slow to render on my desktop machine. We won’t even mention how my poor Nook chokes when trying to display this PDF. I’ve been able to read PDFs three times the size of this one with no problems on my Nook. But for whatever reason it does not like Oubliette. So just a little warning: you may experience some issues when reading on your e-reader.

For the price you are getting a lot of content. And while everything in it may not be awe-inspiring, it’s still quality material. The presentation and layout is excellent. It really does remind me of the early issues of Dragon Magazine with the comics, adventures, monsters, and setting material. There are some technical issues that are annoying but not game breaking. You’ll find there is a little something for everyone here, making this worth the $2.50. So if you’re a Labyrinth Lord player or a player of AD&D or its retro-clones, Oubliette is definitely worth checking out.

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