Friday, January 22, 2021

Tales from the Magician's Skull #5 - Review By SE



Tales from the Magician's Skull #5
by Howard Andrew Jones
S.E. rating: 5 of 5 stars

Heed me mortal dogs, Sword & Sorcery fans will devour these tales!:
Tales from the Magician's Skull #5 provides six new tales printed in superb format, with a bonus essay on Harold Lamb. And take in that beautiful cover by Manuel Pérez Clemente (better known as Sanjulián)!

As per the Tales from the Magician's Skull series, all are graced with RPG item/character statistics so readers can play out the stories, or play with key parts of them; the stats are in Dungeon Crawl Classics form which can readily be applied to other formats. The illustrations are wonderful too. Several more issues are in the queue.


Availability & Subscriptions
- General retailers like Amazon have some current issues, but some of the earlier ones are getting out of stock.
- Goodman Games (publisher of the magazine) has many for direct sale (PDF and print), as well as subscriptions.
- DriveThruRPG has PDFs of most.

#5 Table of Contents with official blurbs (and some of my own commentary)

(1) "Pool of Memory" by James Enge: A wondrously trippy Morlock Ambrosius tale, extending the serialization across issues.
The sword sang, with an almost human voice, and bright shards of crystal flew everywhere. The luminous, image-laden fog of memories billowed forth, around him and through him. He staggered like a drunk, intoxicated by the swift shocking burst of other lives, other hates, other loves. When the mists were gone, he was himself again—whoever that was.

(2) "The Guardian of Nalsir-Fel" by Adrian Simmons: Heroic Fantasy Quarterly editor contributes an adventurous-duo (characters Ahzlamin and Penkatel) tale reminiscent of Fritz Leiber's Lankhmar series:
“Do not look for help,” the messenger said. “Do not call out for the guards, they will not hear you! They will not see you! Such is the power of Cowlanati Palisani, the great and serene!”

(3) "In the Corridors of the Crow" by John C. Hocking. Classic Hocking here. A calculated buildup to explosive mayhem. This one really builds the strained relationship between Benhus (the King's Blade) and his master King.
It was a nest, a great nest made of bones. He saw the bones of men and animals wound and bound together, forming such a dense fabric that he could not tell where one ended and the other began. He could make out the weathered skulls of men and the antlers of a great stag, all crusted with layers of dust and cobweb, filthy with age and abandonment.

(4) "Road of Bones" by Violette Malan: Malan has had several Dhulyn & Parno adventures in TftMS, and this one was my favorite so far. They escort a deranged wizard on a perilous adventure into ruins.
We, we removed his power—it’s a complicated and painful procedure, for all parties. Then we cut him to pieces, and burned the pieces. But the bones you know, the bones don’t burn.

(5) "Dreams of a Sunken Realm" by Adrian Cole: Yes, another Kuttner's Elak of Atlantis pastiche! The climatic battle between ghosts and demons-of-sea was splendid.
Elak and his companions watched in horror as the first wave exploded and cascaded over the great buildings of the city. Palaces and temples erupted, smitten by the almighty power of the wave.

(6) "Demons of the Depths" by C. L. Werner: Shintaro Oba always offer demon killing with a refreshing non-European-centric milieu.
The waves turned red as the feeding frenzy drove the creatures to turn against one another, ripping away at their fellows in the crazed hunger. When this frenzy was at its height, the man on the tower calmly rose and stepped to the edge. Deliberately he dropped the jewel straight down into the midst of the ravenous sharks.

(7) "A Profile of Harold Lamb" by Howard Andrew Jones.
Any writer who encountered Adventure magazine between 1917 and the early 1930s would have had Harold Lamb’s work readily at hand, because he was one of the magazine’s most popular writers and appeared there with great frequency. Probably the most important of those who saw him, though, was a Texan named Robert E. Howard…

(8) "The Monster Pit" by Terry Olson.
Enter the monster pit! Down here in the pit, we provide tabletop RPG fans with playable DCC RPG game.


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Friday, January 1, 2021

Tales from the Magician's Skull - review by SE


Tales from the Magician's Skull #4
by Howard Andrew Jones
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Eight new engaging tales printed in superb format. As per the Tales from the Magician's Skull series, all are graced with RPG item/character statistics so readers can play out the stories, or play with key parts of them; the stats are in Dungeon Crawl Classics form which can readily be applied to other formats. Most have a King-sent-me-on-a-mission premise, but all are varied in tone and style. The illustrations are wonderful too. You can get TftMS from sellers like Amazon, or better... direct from Goodman Games (PDF's via DrivethruRPG).


All are stellar reads. I star my personal favorites (I'm a sucker for ghosts, dark blood magic, and tortured souls and the two with ties to Atlantis struck a cord).

-Expect returning authors to continue their serials: (a) John C Hocking's has his King's blade Benhus tracking down a magical ring in a den of thieves; deliciously dark magic explodes there; (b) also, Enge's Morlock Ambrosius appears again; this episode is a somewhat comedic and psychedelic experience as he seeks out a pair of hands he lost previously.
-Sword & Soul champion, Milton Davis, delivers a tale with the livestock loving warrior Garang being toyed with elder gods in Africa's Kush (reminiscent of Saunder's Imaro).
-Warhammer/Black Library author C.L. Werner offers a blood-soaked samurai tale that will encourage you to take care of your pets better.
*-Veteran writer Adrian Cole offers up an 'Elak of Atlantis' pastiche that echoes Henry Kuttner's voice really well (splendid conflict on a cursed island rife with elder god-things).
*-Speaking of Atlantis, Tom Doyle sends us into subterranean ruins with an Atlantean. This was the first time I read his work.
-Ryan Harvey offers us a touch of Steampunk gods plaguing Sorrow-ridden freedom fighters struggling to rebuild a city.
-James Stoddard offers the most varied tale, arguable not classic S&S. It's post-apocalyptic, curse-breaking adventure with cameo's from fairy tales.

Table of Contents (with the official teaser blurbs):
(1) Guardian of the Broken Gem by John C. Hocking
Benhus wondered what he could expect if they took him alive. Torture and interrogation, probably. They’d pry the fact that he worked for the King from him and that would seal his death warrant. He squeezed the hilt of the white dagger and wondered how many of them he could kill before they took him down.

(2) On Death Seed Island>/i>- by Adrian Cole
The cloud writhed gently, as if shifting in a breeze, though the air in the grove was very still. In a moment it had formed itself into a distinctive shape and the men drew back in alarm. It was a human figure, hunched, its face a blur, save for the eyes and mouth.

(3) Masks of Silence - by James Enge
The glass cages were full of… things. Not people, but parts of people. They were moving—they were alive: meaty throbbing hearts, shiny pulsating strips of liver, fingers crawling like inchworms, feet flopping like fish.
“There is a part of hell that’s supposed to be like this,” Deor remarked.

(4)Cage of Honor - by James Stoddard
Without hesitation, he sent his knife whistling through the air, striking the witch full in the throat. Ignoring her, he caught the woman in his arms, and she was everything to him all at once, everything he ever wanted.

(5) The Witch’s Hound - by C. L. Werner
In a burst of supernatural speed, the dog-ape lunged at Oba. It drove its hairy body beneath the sweep of his sword and drove its shoulder into his midriff in a maneuver that was more tackle than pounce. The samurai was knocked back, sent sprawling on the ground

(6) The Dead Queen’s Triumph - by Ryan Harvey
“You—don’t yet believe—that I am your queen.” The tongue moved freer as the abomination became used to speaking. “For long, I forgot that I was as well. But I am royal blood still. See?” One of the manipulated arms placed its hand over a flap on the chest cylinder. Fingers gripped the sides and pulled it open.

(7) Thieves of the Fallen World - by Tom Doyle
We’d taken these unearthly glowing gems and blades of cold flame from beings who (at best) weren’t quite human. These trophies were still puissant for ill, and a captured battle lance twitched at me like a living bug impaled on a pin. You shouldn’t be keeping such things, sire.

(8) Apedamak’s Army - by Milton Davis
Garang had made a mistake. He crouched as he walked backwards to the hut, hoping the beasts did not see him. He was halfway to the hut when the last beast spotted him and changed directions, shrieking at him as it attacked.

(X) Appendix: Game Statistics by Terry Olson
We present this appendix of game statistics for the various creatures, spells, and items described herein.



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Dark Rituals Malleus Maleficarum - Preparing the Game


Dark Rituals Malleus Maleficarum 

This recently fulfilled 2020 Kickstarter arrived right before the 2020 Holidays. It's one-versus-many game (witch vs. 1-4 heroes).  Before jumping in, I did some prework that other backers (and future buyers) may appreciate. This post clarifies some steps to make the already-great game more enjoyable. 

Watch Tutorial Videos on Youtube:

  1. Tutorial #4 / Gameplay -1
  2. Learn to Play (based on proto-type) 

Download PDF's and Instructions (ie for Solo mode):

Check out the FAQ on Board Game Geek : 

This is a fan-based FAQ, living-document that captures feedback from DGG to key questions like: 

Q. What does the ✸ symbol mean?

A. A Hit (added to the Attack Value). ("gain 1 ✸" is equivalent to adding an extra Single Hit roll roll to Attack Value... it is NOT an extra wound)

Preparing The Miniatures, Reference Guide, and Chests:

These miniatures are great... but they are all born gray! Tough to play a game of fantasy chess with all the pieces looking the same. And the size of the mini's vary even with a type, so you cannot rely on size to help. So, let's clear that up:

  1. Label each miniature with a Sharpie on its underside
  2. Color by creature type/class (based off of colors in the rule book)
    • Witch's team primed in BLACK, Hero & Villagers with WHITE
    • Witch's subclasses dry-brushed to bring out detail:
      • Witches are red (even the burning ones)
      • Minions are cyan/blue
      • Creatures to be summoned are lime-green
      • Demons are purple
      • Possessed Serfs (just black with white highlights)
  3. As per the FAQ, added an "" on the icon reference sheet (backside of manual) for a "hit"
  4. For chests, placed colored tokens to enhance contrast (otherwise they are too difficult to see"