Tuesday, June 22, 2010

REVIEW: Oubliette #1

I find myself in the unusual circumstance of having read and reviewed issue 2 of the old school fanzine Oubliette before having read issue 1. Unlike a novel or movie series, reading a periodical out of order won't spoil any surprises or make it harder to enjoy earlier issues, but it does give one a slightly different perspective. In this case, what's most evident is how much Oubliette has improved in the span of a single issue. Make no mistake: issue 1 is very good indeed, well worth the $2 cost for this PDF. Nevertheless, I did feel a certain sense "regression" as I read the first issue, as if I were going back in time to see a tall building before it had gotten very far off the ground.

Issue 1 is shorter than its successor (only 35 pages instead of 50) and its content "rougher," feeling a bit more like a first draft than the content of issue 2. Even so, there's a palpable energy to the content; it's clear that everyone involved in Oubliette is enjoying himself and wants to share that enjoyment with others. A good example of this is the 9-page "Halfling Proof Fence," which, while described as a "tournament-style adventure" is more like a competitive miniatures game using the Labyrinth Lord rules to simulate goblins pursuing escaped halfling slaves, with the player whose goblin achieves the most points in this endeavor being proclaimed champion of the tribe by the goblin chieftain. The adventure cleverly employs wandering monster tables and other random elements, along with geomorphic maps, to represent the varied challenges of chasing down escaped halflings through a subterranean environment. There are also two pages of counters for use with "Halfling Proof Fence."

Like issue 2, there are installments of "Monster Club," providing inventive ways to use standard monsters, in this case trolls and (as you might expect) goblins. A 3-page overview of the "Inheritance" campaign setting is provided and, while it's probably not to everyone's taste, it's well done and contains some interesting ideas. Also included is a partial map of the campaign area on which I was delighted to see Michael Curtis's Stonehell as a location. There's also a short article providing common sense advice on "Designing House Rules for Labyrinth Lord," along with some examples of its principles in action. In a similar vein there's a treatment "Alternative Subdual Rules for Labyrinth Lord," which I quite liked. "Improvised Traps" offers an elegant system for characters who wish to create traps on the fly. The "Good Shop/Bad Shop" feature details "The Rentalist," a business where one can rent specialized magical items for a fee. Rounding out the issue are reviews and the first installment of "The Song of Sithakk" fiction serial.

Issue 1 is, as I said, a bit more rough around the edges than issue 2, but it nevertheless possesses most of its successor's best qualities, such as the aforementioned infectious energy and delightfully quirky illustration style. At $2, one can't really complain about its price, even if, after the excellence of issue 2, issue 1 pales looks a little less impressive by comparison. Taken in its own right, though, issue 1 of Oubliette is a good value, with lots of inspiring material. It's definitely a first effort, with all that that entails. Still, I'm happy to recommend it to anyone looking for new ideas to add to their Labyrinth Lord campaigns, or indeed any old school fantasy game.

Presentation: 6 out of 10
Creativity: 7 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.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for another great, detailed review. I'm currently burning the midnight oil, proofing Issue 3, which will be out later this week.