Based on editor Peter Regan's editorial, producing a fanzine sounds a lot like writing a blog in that there's an expectation that every article in every issue has to be brilliant, as opposed to the much lower standard of merely "thought provoking." That's why I'm reluctant to judge the June/July 2010 issue of Oubliette too harshly, despite the fact that it's my least favorite of the three issues currently available. That's not meant as a serious knock against it, as issue 3 is packed with thought provoking and inspirational material, written and presented in the wonderfully quirky style that makes Oubliette one of the most remarkable products of the old school renaissance in many a moon.
But I can't deny that I was hoping, given the ramp up in excellence between issues 1 and 2, that issue 3 would continue the trend, at least by my idiosyncratic standards. At 47 pages, issue 3 is definitely beefy, nearly as long as issue 2 and significantly longer than issue 1. Included is a new installment of "Monster Club," one of my favorite features, this time dealing with skeletons. More significant is the optional Barbarian class for use with Labyrinth Lord, either in its standard or Advanced Edition Companion version. Oubliette's version of the class is excellent, being a tough, lightly armored warriors with a suspicion of all kinds of magic. Also included are a plethora of additional minor abilities, such as berserker rage, wilderness survival, and surprise-related bonuses, that the referee might allow for his own interpretation of the class or to distinguish between different barbarian tribes/clans. It's really an excellent approach, reminding me of a less complex version of the class from Unearthed Arcana (and without any concerns about being overpowered).
There's also a 9-page adventure called "The Sacred Heart," which, as you might expect, is dedicated to the memory of Ronnie James Dio. It's written for a party consisting entirely of barbarians (either the 9 pregenerated characters included with this issue or entirely new ones). "Present Arms!" is a further installment in rules for firearms in Labyrinth Lord, this time with a focus on morale, misfires, and grenades. There are also reviews and comics, in addition to Part III of "The Song of Sithakk" fictional serial. Issue 3 is rounded out with a sheet of stand-up barbarian characters, background sheets for use with "The Sacred Heart," and character sheets for the aforementioned pregenerated characters.
As you can see, issue 3 contains much of interest. The barbarian class and adventure alone would have made it more than worth the $2 cover price. Still, I couldn't shake the feeling that this issue was missing something, although, honestly, I'm hard pressed to say what. The writing and artwork were as good as ever and while those features that interest me least -- the comics and fiction -- took up more pages than they have in the past, it's not as if issue 3 was lacking in quality material. It might simply be that first two issues have spoiled me and set my expectations higher than could reasonably be met. Even so, issue 3 is a good one and another example of the spirit of inventiveness that the old school renaissance hopes to encourage. I look forward to the August issue with great anticipation.
Presentation: 6 out of 10
Creativity: 6 out of 10
Utility: 6 out of 10
Buy This If: You're looking for more ideas and resources for use in your old school fantasy campaign.
Don't Buy This If: You'd prefer to come up with your own ideas rather than using those of others.